Ah, the ‘80s! The bygone era of bad hair, glam rock, break dancing, Miami Vice, neon lights, acid wash jeans and denim jackets. It was a time when Sultan Golden could jump over 22 cars in a single bound, 15-year-old Jahangir Khan became the youngest winner of the Squash World Open and “Fifty-Fifty” left audiences breathless with laughter. The ‘80s also heralded the birth of popular music, with hits like Is “Parcham Kay Saye Tala”, “Disco Deewane” and Hawa Hawa. Independence Day functions were incomplete without the obligatory rendition of “Hum Zinda Qaum Hain” and bedroom walls of teenagers across the country would have been bare if not for Vital Signs posters.
Here is a look at five music sensations from that golden era.
Originally from Iran, Muhammad Ali Shyhaki is easily one of the most quintessential landmarks of the ‘80s pop landscape. A graduate of Karachi’s NED University, this civil engineer, provided us with evergreen tunes like Meray Bachpan Kay Din and Meri Ankhon Say Dunya Ko Dekho with remarkable regularity before pursuing his career as an aviation engineer. If you think today’s Coke Studio collaborations are amazing then know that Shyhaki’s ‘Allah Allah Kar Bhayya’ with folk legend Allan Fakir, whom he brought to the mainstream, set the stage for such endeavours. It is of no surprise then that many acknowledge Shyhaki, alongside Alamgir, as the torchbearers of pop in that era. Shyhaki retreated from the limelight after his career change, occasionally gracing Independence Day concerts with his presence. He recently made a comeback with a revamped version of his song Teray Ishq Mae and is currently completing his US tour.
4) Hasan Jehangir
Pompous, proud, privileged; whatever you call him, Jehangir was a mega superstar in the ‘80s, not only in Pakistan but internationally. Imagine penning a song called “Imran Khan is a Superman” and gaining international superstardom. Such was his charisma, and still is, whenever you hear him speak or sing. You might love him or hate him but you have to respect the man for his absolute originality; even when he boasted about performing in sold out Indian stadiums at a time when neighbourly conflicts were at their peak. Currently, although his pomposity still remains quite untouched, he is back with a fresh Bengali number Dol Dol. Several websites in 2009 also reported that Hawa Hawa would feature in a Bollywood film. Although this project was put on hold for a while, it’s apparently back on track now. The singer also plans to sing for an upcoming Bollywood flick in India and promises to come up with a lot of new music. Currently, he’s doing a tour in Bangladesh.
Known as the Elvis of the East, Alamgir has not only enthralled audiences in his age, but also inspired many to pursue a career in pop music. It is rumoured that when Alamgir moved to Karachi from East Pakistan, all he carried with him was a guitar and a passion to sing. He performed at small cafes where the only remuneration was free meals. With unforgettable hits such as Dekha Na Tha and Khayal Rakhna his popularity at the time was matchless and his distinctive attire always ensured that he stood out from all other musicians. With time, age took its toll on Alamgir and in 2004 he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. He is currently undergoing treatment in Atlanta, Georgia. Alamgir recently released a new version of his popular song Keh Dey Na, featuring Canadian singer Kristie Yung.
2) Nazia and Zoheb
The two siblings, Nazia and Zoheb, are regarded as the pioneers of pop music in Pakistan, bringing us hits like “Disco Deewane”, “Boom Boom”, “Dum Dum Dede”, “Ankhen Milane Wale”, “Pyar Ka Jadu”, “Telephone Pyar” and “Aap Jaisa Koi”. Nazia captured the heart of the nation with thousands rushing to emulate her but only Nazia could knock an “Aankhein Milane Walay” out of the park with as much effortlessness as a “Dum Dum Dee Dee” or “Pyaar Diyan Galan”. Often playing along yet serving as only an efficient sidekick, Zoheb’s career kicked off when he appeared alongside his sister in the iconic, worldwide best-seller album Disco Deewane. Post the heartbreaking demise of his sister, Zoheb vanished from the music scene, returning much later with his 2006 album Kismat. Today, the only glimpse one might catch of him is on a morning show.
1) Vital Signs
Almost every Pakistani music artist or band — including Junoon — has in some shape or form been inspired by Vital Signs. It is this influence that places them at the top of Pakistan musical pantheon. Initially comprising of Rohail Hyatt, Shahzad Hassan, Junaid Jamshed and Nusrat Hussain, the band was later joined by Salman Ahmed. One of the most iconic tunes belted out by the band would have to be “Dil Dil Pakistan”, voted by BBC World as the world’s third most popular song of all time. From the patriotic “Hum Hain Pakistani” to the cheeky “Goray Rang Ka Zaamana” to the mellow “Main Chup Raha”; Vital Signs have done it all. Today, Rohail Hyatt produces Coke Studio while Shahzad Hassan handles a production company of his own. After a successful solo career, Junaid Jamshed renounced music in 2004 and is now running a clothing line, appearing on religious shows and also the occasional ad for chips and ‘halal’ vaccines.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 13th, 2011.
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