Nazia would come on stage and shine: Zoheb Hassan calls late sister a ‘natural’ performer

Singer talked his initial reluctance to become a singer 

Entertainment Desk May 09, 2024

In a recent guest appearance at Star and Style, Pakistani singer Zoheb Hassan, half of the iconic pop duo Nazia and Zoheb, opened up about his unexpected journey into the music industry. The singer reflected on the humble beginnings of his career alongside his sister Nazia Hassan and the challenges he faced along the way.

Nazia and Zoheb emerged onto the music scene in 1980 with their hit single Aap Jaisa Koi for Indian film Qurbani. This track served as a precursor to their debut album, Disco Deewane, released in 1981 and produced by renowned Indian producer Biddu. Its infectious tunes resonated with audiences globally, propelling Nazia and Zoheb to international fame, with fanbases extending to countries like Brazil, Russia, South Africa and Indonesia.

Rise to fame 

“We never looked at the commercial side, at how successful we would get. We were just doing something that we loved,” he remarked during the interview. “It’s very important, I think, that when you’re doing something creative, you should just concentrate on that and not the success, fame and all.”

Given the longevity of the pop duo’s sonic catalogue, Zoheb counts himself lucky but has a simple formula to explain their enduring fame. “As a songwriter, if you have a good melody, it lasts forever,” he said simply. “A good melody is always a good melody. Nazia and I wanted to focus on the music. If you do that sincerely, whatever you make does last. If you’re doing something for commercial reasons or fame, then it doesn’t work.”

To everyone’s surprise, the Dosti singer harboured little fondness for music. He revealed, “I had no passion for music. When I was in school, I was nervous to tell people that I sing.” 

A reluctant artist

Walking down memory lane, he furthered on, “I used to do Sohail Rana’s programme for kids. I would feel apprehensive about telling my friends about that because they would say ‘Oh, you sing? You know, this is not very macho.’ So I would reply that I don’t sing, I just go and sit [on the show]. Basically, it wasn’t the ‘in’ thing to do.”

The singer also reflected on one of his major hits with Nazia - Disco Deewane. “We did this song, Biddu was there. We were just jamming and coined the phrase ‘Disco Deewane’ because disco was very in at that time and we just came up with the song. It was written in 15 minutes.”

Unlike his sister, who was a natural performer, Zoheb’s journey to fame demanded a lot of dedication. Vehemently opposed to singing, he disclosed how he would have people searching for him around the house. “I would hide. I hated music… I don’t even like to go out and perform. I’m an introvert.”

Despite this, he soon realised he needed to overcome his hesitations. “When you’re an introvert, you have to put in a lot more effort,” Zoheb mused. “I had to work very hard because I didn’t personally have an affiliation with music. So I had to work extra hard on everything to be able to come to that stage but Nazia was a natural.” As per the artist, his sister “was a star” who “would come on the stage and perform and shine.”

Playing at Madison Square Garden

When asked about his popularity with lady fans, Zoheb underlined how he rarely ever got to interact with his audience. He explained, “We used to live in London. We would visit literally just for two weeks to record songs and performances at PTV and elsewhere and fly back. So there was no time to interact with the ladies.”

Back at home in London, however, one instance made him aware of his steadily rising fame. “I was doing a show with Amitabh Bachchan and he was sitting on the side. This was my first ever live show… Amitabh said, ‘Zoheb, don’t worry. Go for it. Break a leg.’ Nazia was there and Zeenat Aman too. It was a big event…” the Boom Boom star recounted.

The young artist’s nervousness soon peaked when the show’s presenter made a gaffe. He recalled, “When they were calling me on stage, the presenter said ‘Shoaib Hassan’ because no one knew who I was back then. So when this happened, I freaked out. I thought to myself, if we were starting this off on the wrong foot, then it’ll only go downhill from here.”

Eventually, a little courage and some prayers got him on the stage where he found himself unexpectedly overwhelmed by the fervent cheers of fans. “I reached for the mic but I couldn’t hear anything because the girls were being so loud. I couldn’t hear myself sing.” 

He reminisced with a smile, “This was in Madison Square Garden, there were over 22,000 people in attendance. All the girls in the front row had come forward and they were screaming so loud. I couldn’t hear myself sing… I looked so confused and everyone was wondering why but that was because I couldn’t hear the foldback.”

On a sentimental note, the conversation found him expressing his love for his mother. Zoheb shared how he left everything in London to return to Pakistan and care for his ailing parent. “I live in Pakistan now because my mother has developed dementia,” he divulged. 

“I have a very successful business in the UK. What many people don’t know is that I work in construction. But I left everything for my mother because I love her more than anything in the world. And I love Pakistan,” he said.

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