Remembering NAZIA HASSAN

  • 31 Mar - 06 Apr, 2018
  • MAG’s Editorial
  • Tribute

Like no one else – that’s what Nazia Hassan, the nightingale of Pakistans, is remembered as. The magic that the melody of her voice brewed in the heart of every person who listened to her singing, still resonates. And it resonates even powerfully today, as we lament her gapping absence on what would have been the singer’s 53rd birthday.

Her voice left a void in pop music, that even after years of her young death, hasn’t been replenished. Today she is remembered and mourned, like no other musician. MAG pays a tribute to Pakistan’s first female pop sensation by looking at her illustrious achievements, unforgettable legacy, her life and the fateful trails of the youngest musical diva Pakistan music industry has ever had.

Through a musical career that started when she was 10, it is fair to say that Nazia Hassan achieved things that were well ahead of her time. Born in Karachi and brought up in London, the Queen of Pop and her younger brother Zoheb Hassan are hailed as the iconic duos of their time. The year 1980 went down in the musical history as the pioneering age of Pakistani pop, with the duo’s formation of the band ‘Nazia and Zoheb’. Nazia made her singing debut by providing lead vocals to the song, Aap Jaisa Koi, from, the Indian film Qurbani. The song was on the group's debut album Disco Deewane released in 1981 and was produced by Indian producer Biddu. The album still remains to be the best-selling pop album of South East Asia. The musical number was a hit overnight and the duo rose to unparalleled stardom, becoming the most successful Asian pop musicians of their time.

The breakthrough

The years 1981 to1983 proved to be breakthrough for the young singer. The sensational success of Ap Jaisa Koi had Nazia and her talented brother collaborating again with Biddu. The hit song won the 15-year-old Nazia the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer, the youngest recipient of this highly prestigious award, to date.

The brother-sister duo soon achieved the milestone of being the first teen singers to release a pop album. The album Disco Deewane broke all record sales in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, South Africa and simultaneously topping the music charts in international countries including West Indies, Latin America and Russia. The album’s success was colossus, and also went a long way in establishing the young singer’s career in the music industry. Then, followed a series of acting offerings by the bigwigs in Indian film industry, including Biddu, who offered Nazia and Zoheb a chance to act in his movie. While we agree that the charm and beauty of Nazia would have been captured beautifully on reel, the duo refused the offer and chose singing as a career. The second album Boom Boom in 1982 was taken well by the audiences. Its soundtrack was featured in the movie Star; while the film did not do well at the Box Office, the masses were all praises for its sensational music.

The raging success and Music 89

The third album Young Tarang, was the first of its kind in Pakistan to feature music videos. It sold over 40 million copies, leading a glittering path to the stars in the South East Asia’s mainstream audience. Ankhien Milaney Waley, Zara Chehra and Dum Dum Dee Dee became the most popular songs of the album. Post the release of Young Tarang, the band made a comeback to singing for Bollywood movies as playback singers when Nazia sang with the legendary Kishore Kumar.

The fourth album, Hotline was released in 1987 and had the most popular songs of that time Aa Haan, Hum aur Tum, Paisa Paisa and Telephone Pyar. The songs are still enjoyed and remembered for their lightheartedness and melodic tunes.

As the era of 80s came to a close, Nazia and Zoheb were basking in the glory of being the most popular Asian pop singing duo. They began hosting the revolutionary show Music 89, which gave a platform to rising bands and singers. As the show garnered immense popularity in Pakistan, the singers became part of an unwelcome controversy, when the extreme Islamic elements in Pakistani Parliament banned the singers for promoting youth music and culture. Ironically, despite the ban, the show rose to stardom and helped launch the careers of many successful singers in Pakistan. Nazia hosted another show, Dhanak on PTV in the same year.

The other side of Nazia

Raging stardom can be exalting and hedonistic. But when stardom comes at a young age, it can be overwhelming and tempestuous to handle; it can make or break one. That being said, the young Nazia and Zoheb, despite the great seismic shifts their careers brought into their lives, were humble, modest and extremely down to earth. The early interviews of Nazia Hassan give an inkling of her disarming innocence, youthful gullibility and sweetness that leaves the viewers in awe even today. The always smiling, sweet-faced and welcoming disposition of the singer, that charmed millions worldwide, is still remembered by the masses today.

While the later years, past her adolescence, saw making of a more confident, self-assured and bold Nazia, the hedonistic power and fame still could never rob away the unadulterated innocence and beauty that Nazia emanated. Always friendly and approachable by the media and her fans, Nazia was like a flower in the wilderness. Same went for her brother, Zoheb Hassan, who is immensely candid, and kind. Together they set an example, that when fame comes your way, it mustn’t be handled unscrupulouly, but with a kind soul.

Not only was Nazia talented, she was a genius. While her work as a philanthropist has been largely known and has left a mark on many, what may surprise her fans is the fact that she was also a lawyer and a political analyst. She was a top graduate from the well-reputed Richmond, The American International University and University of London.

All that she earned from music, she gave away to charity. She worked tirelessly for children, youth and women in distress residing in the underprivileged areas of Karachi. She supported organisations like Inner Wheel Club of India and established the organisation BAN (Battle Against Narcotics). She stayed an active member of organisations such as Voice of Women, National Youth Organisation, Pakistan. From stepping out in the remote areas of Rajasthan to handing children toys, to raising funds for their education and giving talks on the subject of social awareness for the under privileged, Nazia lived for the masses.

She devoted two years of her life as a member of United Nations Security Council at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The singer was also appointed by UNICEF as its cultural ambassador in the third year. Her social and academic excellence won her a scholarship in Columbia University’s Leadership Program, but Nazia couldn’t rise to it as she was just diagnosed with lung cancer at the time.

One last album and retirement

Their fifth and the last album, Camera Camera was released in 1992. The album wasn’t met with the same success like the duo’s earlier album hits. The band also did not promote the album and Nazia officially declared that she was retiring to focus on her personal life.

A dreaded news and miserable marriage

Early 90s ushered a darkness in the celebrated singer’s life. A becoming gloom, which soon blanketed the entire musical industry, loved Nazia. She was diagnosed with malignant lung cancer at a startling young age.

Soon after her diagnosis, on March 30, 1995, she married businessman Mirza Ishtiaq Baig, in Karachi. She had a son Arez, and as fate had it planned, it was perhaps the only happiness she got out of her otherwise miserable marriage.

The fateful end

It was August 13, 2000, Sunday. The newly divorced and terminally sick Nazia was finally showing some signs of recovery in the North Finchley Hospice in London. It was thought that she will be soon moved to her home. The same morning at 9:15 a.m., her mother Muneeza was immediately called to the hospital, where her daughter was coughing heavily. Nazia died within minutes; the melodic voice that crooned beauties like Ankhein Milaney Waley silenced forever at the age of 35. The queen of pop in South Asia was finally laid to rest in the Muslim Hendon Cemetery in London.

She died an unhappy person: Zoheb Hassan

It is tragic, when the stories which begin on the most beautiful notes, reach a rather haltingly doleful end. Nazia always tried to keep a fine line between her personal and professional life, that being the reason, she pulled of her musical career before her marriage. But it seemed, that the singer shied away from disclosing her personal misery even with her family. Although, her personal life was filled with turmoil, pain and melancholy, she kept her family in the dark about it and hid things even from her soul mate and brother, Zoheb. The turbulence of her failing marriage and the last few days of enduring were unveiled to her family, mainly after her death.

In many interviews after her sister’s death, Zoheb Hassan has spoken very candidly about her remaining days of agony. He was there with her sister in the last year of her life, and witnessed a beloved wilt away. In one of the interviews, he tearfully declared, “She never told me she was going to die so soon. I will never forgive her for this.” Despite the doctor’s telling her that she won’t survive for long, Nazia stayed optimistic. “She wanted to live for her son,” Zoheb said. “She wanted to do another album with me!” her brother shared.

Nazia’s marriage ended in a divorce 10 days before she said goodbye to her fans and this world.