Nazia Hassan

Nazia Hassan (Urdu: نازیہ حسن‎) (3 April 1965 – 13 August 2000)[1] was a Pakistani pop singer. Her song, “Aap Jaisa Koi”, from theIndian film Qurbani (1980) made her famous in Pakistan and all of South Asia in the 1980s. Her debut album, Disco Deewane (1981), also charted in fourteen countries worldwide and became the best-selling Asian pop record up until that time.[2] She, along with her brother Zohaib Hassan, went on to sell over 60 million records worldwide.[3]

Hassan was the first Pakistani to win a Filmfare Award and remains the youngest winner of a Filmfare Award in the category of Best Female Playback Singer to date when she was 15. Hassan is a recipient of the Pride of Performance, Double Platinum Award andGolden Discs Awards.

Hassan was born into a Muslim family in Karachi, Pakistan and brought up in Karachi and London. She was the sister of singer Zoheb Hassan and Zara Hassan.[4]

She received her bachelors in Business Administration and Economics at the Richmond American University in London. In 1991, she became an intern in the Women’s International Leadership program at the United Nations. Later on she went on to work for United Nation’s office of Political and Security Council Affairs. Nazia Hassan held aLondon University law degree (LLB).[1]

Nazia Hassan was the daughter of Basir Hassan, a businessman, and Munizeh Basir, an active social worker. She had two siblings, brother Zohaib and sister Zahra, both of whom became singers. Nazia was married on 30 March 1995 to Ishtiaq Beg[5] but they divorced ten days before her death.[6] They had a son, Arez, on 7 April 1997.

Her illness[ .]

Hassan fought a long battle with cancer during the last years of her life and died of lung cancer in London on 13 August 2000 at the age of 36.[1] She had been admitted to North London Hospice in London N12 three days earlier when her condition deteriorated. She showed signs of mild recovery the day before she died and it was thought that doctors would allow her to go home. But early Sunday morning, her mother Muneeza was called to the hospital where her daughter had started coughing heavily at around 9:15 am. She died within minutes. She is buried at Hendon Cemetery (Muslim Section) in London. In an interview, her brother revealed that she died an unhappy person.[6]

The Government of Pakistan has conferred upon Hassan the highest civilian award Pride of Performance. The award was presented to Hassan’s mother, Muniza, by the President of Pakistan in an official ceremony held at Islamabad on 23 March 2002.[7][8][9]

Career[ .]

1975–1980: Beginning[ .]

Hassan began singing during the late 1970s, when she appeared on several television shows on Pakistan Television (PTV) as a child artist. Her professional career started at the age of fifteen when she provided the lead vocals for the song Aap Jaisa Koi from the 1980 film Qurbani. She met the film director Feroz Khan at a party in the United Kingdom. Khan later requested Hassan have an audition with Biddu, a London-based Indian music composer. Biddu then signed her up for Aap Jaisa Koi, the song he composed forQurbani.[2][10]

The song was a huge success in India and despite Hassan being a Pakistani, she gained overnight fame there.[11] In 1981, Hassan won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback for Aap Jaisa Koi.

1981–1987: Pop music[ .]

After the success of Aap Jaisa Koi, Qurbani became a big hit and she collaborated with Biddu on numerous other projects. In 1981, she became the first playback singer to release an album. Her first album was Disco Deewane. The album broke sales records in Pakistan and India and even topped the charts in the West Indies, Latin America and Russia. This album became a mega-hit and Hassan became an established pop singer in Pakistan. The album also had vocals by her brother Zohaib Hassan.

After the release of Disco Deewane, she and Zoheb were offered the chance to act in a movie by Biddu, but they refused to act and chose singing. Hassan’s second albumStar/Boom Boom was released in 1982 for which she was nominated for Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer. The soundtrack of the album was used in the movie Star. The film did not succeed at the box office but the album was successful and increased the popularity of Hassan and her brother Zoheb in Pakistan and India.

Her third album, Young Tarang was released in 1984. It was the first album in Pakistan to feature music videos, which were made in London by David & Kathy Rose. The album became one of the most popular in Asia. Ankhien Milane Wale was a popular song from the album. After the release of Young Tarang, she returned to singing for Bollywoodmovies as a playback singer.

Her fourth album, Hotline was released in 1987. Aa Haan was the most popular song of the album.

Music 89 and retirement[ .]

At the end of 1980, she had become the most popular pop singer of Pakistan. In 1988, she and her brother Zoheb appeared with music maestro Sohail Rana in his television program, Sung Sung. In the following year, she and Zoheb hosted the groundbreaking show Music ’89. The show was produced by Shoaib Mansoor. It was the first-ever all pop-music stage show to be aired on television. The show launched the careers of many new rising bands and singers and became popular in Pakistan. She hosted another show,Dhanak on PTV in the same year, 1989.

In 1991, Hassan and her brother Zoheb recorded her fifth album, Camera Camera. Before the album’s release, she and Zoheb announced during a launching ceremony that it would be their last album. The album was released in 1992. It was not as successful as her previous albums and received only average reaction. After the album’s release, she left her singing career to focus on her personal life.

In 1991, she joined the Department of Political and Security Council Affairs at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and worked there for two years. In her third year, she offered her services at UNICEF. Her social and academic excellence won her a scholarship in Columbia University’s Leadership Program, but she was unable to take up the offer because around this time she was diagnosed with cancer.

The composer of her albums, Biddu, composed a song, “Made in India” and he wanted Nazia to sing it. But the retired Hassan refused to sing a song that might offend Pakistan.[12] The song was then offered to Alisha Chinai.[12]

Legacy[ .]


Nazia with Biddu in Mumbai.

Pakistan’s vibrant contemporary music scene owes itself to Nazia Hassan’s redefinition of pop. In fact, the biggest 1990s bands, including the Vital Signs and the Jupiters, got a platform on “Music ’89”. Hassan also had a seismic impact in India. India Today magazine voted her as one of the top 50 people who helped change the face of India. She has contributed to the development of the present isomorphism ofBollywood music and pop. “She set – well ahead of its time – the personal album trend in India, spawning the likes of Alisha Chinai, Lucky Ali and Shweta Shetty”, the magazine noted at the time.[13][14] After the huge success of their music, Nazia and Zoheb were signed by EMI Group and were the first South Asian singers to be signed by an international music company.[13]

She used her abilities to promote social causes. All the money earned from music was spent on charity. She specially worked for children, youth and women in distress residing in the underprivileged areas of Karachi. She supported the “Inner Wheel Club” of India and helped raise funds for it. In Pakistan, she established the organization BAN (Battle Against Narcotics) and became an active member of organizations such as Voice of Women, National Youth Council of Pakistan. She worked with Javed Jabbar, former Information minister, to raise funds for children in Rajasthan. She went to a very large number of schools to hand-out toys to poor children and gave talks on the subject of social awareness for the under privileged. Hassan never forgot the love and support of all the schools and always spoke about them with great affection. The worthy staff and the students of St Joseph’s Convent School, Mama Parsi School and many others had gone out of their way to help the cause.

Surprisingly, music was only a hobby for Hassan and though her achievements in this field were anyone’s dream come true, she lived away from the glitzy world and led a secluded and simple life. She completed her education in the UK, got a law degree and then worked in the United Nations in the Security Council. She continued her social work even in New York and worked for children from the UN platform.

She is known as the Sweetheart of Pakistan.[15] Hassan is still the symbol of grace, sacred beauty and innocence and is frequently compared to Princess Diana, as she was known to possess a heart of gold.[16]

In 2007, Ahmad Haseeb created the documentary A Music Fairy in a tribute to Hassan which was screened at Kara Film Festival and University of Ankara.

Foundation[ .]

Main article: Nazia Hassan Foundation

In 2003, Hassan’s parents created the Nazia Hassan Foundation to further their daughter’s efforts to make this world a better place for everyone, regardless of caste, creed and religion.

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