A Voice That Lives on
By Siraj Khan
Boston, MA

The year 1980 swept into the Indian film industry a Pakistani girl. She came to India via England to rock the world of music with her own trail-blazing style of get-up-and-dance flavour. Then, it would have been difficult to conceive that a young girl, barely in her mid-teens, would perhaps unknowingly set an example of aman ki asha on a scale that even established politicians and diplomats would not be able to achieve.

Feroz Khan's Qurbani would have still been a success at the box-office even without Baat Ban Jaye, but just this song sung by Nazia Hassan and picturized on vivacious Zeenat Aman had something in it, the magic which nobody had visualised in their wildest imagination. Biddu, a UK-based Indian music producer, who already had several hits under his belt producing hit songs for Tina Charles, Carl Douglas and others, composed Nazia's first mega hit. Biddu is known for danceable faves like "Ring My Bell" and "Kung Fu Fighting." Both the song and singer became overnight sensations. Nazia won a Filmfare Award in 1981 for the Best Female Singer -- the first Pakistani artiste to achieve this honour. She remains the youngest recipient ever to win this award -- an added distinction unlikely to be surpassed for a long time to come.

Nazia Hassan had set the music scene alight in India with her joyous, hyper-desi disco trend.

The effect of her popularity across the length and breadth of the subcontinent was nothing short of magical. Political boundaries seemed to disappear. Seamless movement of people started across the borders. Even cricket between the countries started to resurface.

The youth on both sides of the border looked up to Nazia as the subcontinent's first true pop diva, with stunning looks to go with the voice. India Today magazine voted Nazia Hassan -- a Pakistani -- as one of the 50 people who helped change the face of India. The most visible and tangible change in India's music space was the personal album trend which began taking off with Lucky Ali, Alisha Chinoy, Shewata Shetty and many others.

Nazia Hassan's phenomenal success was no flash in the pan. She teamed up with her brother Zoheb and produced hit after hit. Coming at the heels of Baat Bun Jaye in 1981, was Disco Deewane which broke all sales records not only in India and Pakistan but also topped the charts in Brazil, the West Indies and Europe. Successful albums like Star/Boom Boom (1982), Young Tarang (1984), Hotline (1987) followed and later Camera Camera (1982) rolled out, along with TV shows with BBC, ITV, Channel 4. In 1989, Nazia and Zoheb hosted the groundbreaking all-Pakistan television pop show called Music'89, produced by Shoaib Mansoor.

Culture and art play a key role in building bridges between boundaries. In fact, culture and art belong to the whole world. Before them vanish the barriers of religions and nationalities. Those who believe in this have seen it for themselves. Some of us discovered this rather late in our lives. Nazia Hassan was a great believer in the power of music, something that she identified very early in her life.

Perhaps the seeds for such a thinking and conviction were sown very early in her tender years. Nazia was a child participant / student of Music Maestro Sohail Rana in the PTV program Kaliyon ki Maala . I recall Dosti Aisa Naata Jo Sonay Sey Bhi Mehanga. Kaliyon Ki Mala took the shape of Sung Sung Chalte Rehna, Saat Suroon Ki Duniya and Hum Hi Hum, which were also directed by Sohail Rana in his inimitable style and methodology. Nazia started to bloom and really began singing not only in her voice, but also from the heart. She has on many occasions acknowledged the contribution of her mentor Sohail Rana in polishing her hidden talent and also building her confidence and self-discipline. Yet another student of Sohail Rana, Adnan Sami during his recent interview with ARY the Pakistani TV channel, acknowledged his tutelage by Sohail Rana in 1979/80 in the TV program Rung barangi duniya from PTV Islamabad Center.

Nazia's passion for building bridges was not confined to music. Armed with a law degree, she ended up working for the UN from 1992-94, when she got married and moved to Dubai in 1995.

Alas, history is full of great people who achieved in a few years, what others do in a lifetime. Like so many wonderful artistes of the subcontinent before her -- Geeta Dutt, Geeta Bali, Madhubala, Meena Kumari and others -- Nazia Hassan succumbed prematurely to disease and illness. It was on August 13, 2000, when she left for the heavenly abode, just in her mid-thirties.

Yes, it's been almost fourteen years. Nazia, you will be remembered not only for the musical treasures of joy and peace that you have left for us, but also because you showed us that what is played is the music, not the instrument. More importantly, we admire you for taking music beyond borders. Shayed baat bun hee jaye!

A few gems from Nazia Hassan's treasure box, which she has left for us.

Dum dum dee dee


Boom Boom


Ye DIl Tere liye







Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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