When Nadeem Abbas Lonay Wala’s track ‘Gaddi Tu Manga Day – Tail Main Pawani Aan’ was echoing everywhere across Pakistan and even in neighboring India in 2016, perhaps hardly a few among millennials knew he was the son of famous Punjabi folk singer Allah Ditta Lonay Wala.
Ditta, who died on June 29, 2021, was among the last legends of the troika including Ustad Talib Hussain Dard and Ustad Mansoor Malangi.
Perfectly pitched, the songs of the three Ustads are expressive and steeped in folk musicality. Their sweet lilting voices warmed millions of hearts for decades in central and southern Punjab.
Their songs received massive admiration at melas (local folk festivals), parties, and weddings all over the province till the late 1990s. Ustads were the singers of Shahpuri, the Saraiki dialect of Punjabi. Talib and Malangi, however, did sing a few Urdu ghazals.
Gifted with a stunning high-pitched voice, Ustad Talib was famous for his dohra (four-liner genre of Punjabi poetry) and mahya (a couplet) and gaiki (singing). He earned the title of Shehanshah-e-Jog for singing jog (a sad style of Punjabi singing).
Dard was traditional and only sang at festivals, marriages, and other celebrations in Jhang, Sargodha, Chiniot, Mandi Bahauddin, Hafizabad, Khushab, Bhakar, Layyah, Khanewal, and other districts of Punjab. He sang more than 20,000 songs in his career which spanned over six decades. His singing volumes sold in thousands till the 1990s.
Ustad Ditta’s Sassi (a love tale of Baloch King Punnu and Princess Sassi) and Ustad Malangi’s ‘Khana Khan ghara day bund way – oh my beloved purchase a gold necklace for me’ and ‘Ek phul motye da mar kay jaga sohneye – wake me up by gently throwing a jasmine on me’ are the masterpieces among many of their other classy tracks.
Malangi and Lonay Wala gave voices to thousands of Punjabi lyrics on tabla and harmonium. Both made many appearances on national TV and radio.
Talib, Lonay Wala, and Malangi recited dhoras of central and southern Punjab’s famous poets including Ghulam Muhammad Dard, Hayat Bhatti, Altaf Tafu Bharwana, Riaz Hussain Sial, Malik Ghulam Yasin, Shahid Mehmood Aqib, Shah Muhammad Danish, Abid Tamimi, Imdadullah Taqveem, Riaz Kaifi, Mian Mustaf, Mazhar Bokhari, Abdur Rehman Sehrai, Nasir Taib, Rab Nawaz Hashmi, Samar Bharwana, Latif Shedai and many others.
“A chapter of Punjabi folk singing had been closed after the deaths of Mansoor Malangi, Ustad Talib and Allah Ditta Lonay Wala. They were most admired singers of our area,” says Aftab Khan Baloch, a resident of Jhang’s village 216/JB and friend of late Talib Dard.
Born in the small town of Khanowana, situated at Jhang-Chiniot Road, Talib Dard started singing at the age of 15 in 1967.
He died in March 2019. Ustad Malangi’s birthplace was Garh Maharaja, tehsil 18-Hazari of district Jhang and he died on December 10, 2014. Malangi started singing at the age of 18. His father was also a sarangi player.
Allah Ditta Lonay Wala was born in Lonay Wala village of district Chiniot in 1957 and passed away on June 29 after a long health battle.
“My father was also my teacher. Allah Ditta Lonay Wala and Haji Mansoor Malangi were like my uncles. I mostly follow my father’s style in singing but they all are my inspiration,” said Imran Talib Dard, the son of Ustad Talib, while talking to Minute Mirror.
He also established a music studio with the name D-Studio Pakistan in Jhang to train young music enthusiasts. Imran was invited to UAE, London, and other European countries by the Pakistani community for singing at different ceremonies.
Nadeem Abbas introduced innovation to central Punjab singing style and his tracks hit millions of likes on YouTube. Malangi’s famous student and relative Mujahid Mansoor Malangi is also a famous singer who copies the style of legend Malangi.
The ruling party’s only Sikh minister, Mahinder Paal Singh, while talking to Minute Mirror said, “There is a dire need to highlight our cultural and folk singers. They have served our nation with entertainment and kept our heritage and traditions alive.”