The Nooran Sisters with their father, Ustad Gulshan Mir toured the UK for the first time. DESIblitz met them to learn more about their unique style of Sufi music.
"We then sang the kalam. From then onwards Papa started to guide us"
Jyoti Nooran and Sultana Nooran are jointly known as the the Nooran Sisters.
The sister duo and their father, Ustad Gulshan Mir, who is their teacher too, all originate from Jalandhar, in Punjab, India.
They come from a family of very strong musical roots known for singing Sufi kalams.
Especially, their Nani Ji, Bibi Nooran, who was a popular singer in the 70s for her singing style and renditions of kalams.
Gulshan Mir’s father, Ustad Sohan Lal was also known for his musical prowess.
The family comes from the heritage of the Sham Chaurasi Gharana and their roots are of the ’Mirasi’ tradition of music.
The ‘Mirasi’ tradition is a well known caste and heritage from Punjab which represents the community of entertainers and singers.
Gulshan Mir turned to music as his long term profession after Bibi Nooran set him on his way.
Mir reveals to DESIblitz: “I was quite young when I lived close to them [Bibi Nooran]. Once I played harmonium with them, the little I knew.
“And it was their [Nooran Sisters] song ‘Kuli Vichon Ni Yaar Labh Leh’. I played the song with Nani Ji.
“Nani Ji said to my mother, he has ability and he will be very successful in music.”
This was enough inspiration for Mir to pursue his path in music and he went onto to teach it to students as an ustad in different places.
It was with a lot of hardship in the early days, where Gulshan had to earn a living from teaching music to feed the family.
Next it was the turn of the Nooran Sisters.
The girls too started to learn music from a tender age, when Jyoti was 5 and Sultana was 7.
After hearing that their daughters had an interest in singing from family members, they were summoned by their father.
They were both told to sing the same kalam that their Nani Ji sang, ‘Kuli Vichon Ni Yaar Labh Leh’.
Jyoti Nooran tells DESIblitz about the time: “When Papa Ji called us, he asked us if we could sing it.
“We said yes we will sing it. We then sang the kalam. From then onwards Papa started to guide us.”
Thereafter, the girls became students of their father, who worked very hard with them to transform them into impeccable singers, in the Sufi genre of music.
However, it was a tough and tender period for them. Long training sessions would take place day and night.
Frequently, into the early hours of the mornings, when the daughters would be forced to get phrases, notes and lyrics correct, repeatedly by their father.
Mir recollects: “When they started to sing, they use to cry a lot.”
As with most music teacher/student relationships in India, the teachings were not without the physical beating side.
Mir says: “There was no wooden board of a harmonium that was not broken on them.
“If a TV remote came into hand, I’d hit them with it. If a mobile phone came into hand, I’d hit them with it.”
So, the Nooran Sisters were taught very strictly by Ustad Gulshan Mir following the family tradition.
Mir confirms that learning music without an ustad (teacher) bears no fruit and he says: “If you are serious about doing this, find a guru [teacher].”
Sufi music is the main genre of music that the girls perform. Their live appearances have been predominantly at special remembrance melas and large sell-out shows in-front of many thousands of people.
Sultana Nooran acknowledges her roots and says:
“This singing is in our blood. They [family] were gifted and more talented than us. This singing style, for them and us has beautified our family’s musical heritage.”
They have very confidently performed to major Punjabi artists such as Gurdas Mann and Hans Raj Hans in the audience. Who adore their performances open heartedly.
They sing a lot of kalams by Bulleh Shah which is common for many Sufi singers.
The song which catapulted the girls into the Bollywood spotlight is ‘Tung Tung Baje’ which was released as part of the Singh Is Bliing Bollywood film in 2015, starring Akshay Kumar and Amy Jackson.
Both the sisters appeared in the visualisation of the song in the film performing with Akshay Kumar, on rooftops of a Punjabi village.
Another song which brought them great recognition is ‘Patakha Guddi’, musically produced by music maestro AR Rahman, for the Bollywood film, Highway, starring Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda.
The song got the sisters nominated for Filmfare, Star Guild, Stardust and IIFA Awards in 2015/2014. They won the Screen Awards Best Female Playback Singer award in 2015 for the track.
In addition, the girls performed on the popular Coke Studio @MTV India singing on a complete set with musicians.
They have released many popular songs such as ‘Jugni Kehndi Aa’, ‘Lagan’ and ‘Jinde Meriye’ from the film Qissa Panjab, Deedar, ‘Saiyo Ni’, ‘Kuli Faqeer Di’, ‘Mainu Rok Na’, ‘Ishq’, ‘Jogni ‘ and many many more.
Watch our very exclusive gupshup with the Nooran Sisters and their father, Ustad Gulshan Mir:
On their first tour of the UK they were asked if they would do more commercial music to which the response was, we do get lot of offers from Bollywood but we are very particular about our Sufi roots.
Their concerts promoted by Filmonix in the UK, taking place in Birmingham, London, Leicester and Leeds attracted large audiences. They witnessed Gulshan Mir, the Nooran Sisters and their younger brother on tabla take the stage by storm.
Their performances on stage included renditions of many of their popular Sufi songs and included tracks which showed, Jyoti Nooran especially, showing a trance style of delivery.
Audiences were wowed by their vocal range and ability to constantly sing in a very admirable way and their trade-mark clapping above their heads.
Presence of the whole family on the stage, including the mother of the Nooran Sisters and Jyoti Nooran’s husband, is something that is quite common during their performances.
The family has performed in the UK, Canada and the USA and will no doubt be touring many other parts of the world, to Sufi music loving audiences; delivering their infectious and original sound.
As their musical journey now flourishes, we can certainly look forward to many more releases from Gulshan Mir and the Nooran Sisters in the future.
Win FREE tickets to see the wonderfully funny Dead Sheep at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The REP) on 1st October 2016.