We all speak the same language...or do we?

It's a small world after all. Met a classmate from elementary school last night. Last time I'd met him was in Bombay, 16 years ago. He just happens to be living in Southern California...go figure...long live the human network! :)

Today is Pakistan's independence day. Figured it would be a good time to mention my favorite artists from the country. But first, some personal notes. I frequented Pakistan as a child, and spent most of my teenage years living there. It was a true learning experience, providing innumerable and valuable lessons in diplomacy. Besides, there was a certain unparalleled pride and joy in sporting a Sachin Tendulkar jersey in Karachi...I wouldn't recommend anyone try it (or a Pakistan jersey in India) outside of a controlled environment, e.g. after hours at school. Wait, those could get out of hand too. How else would I explain not going to school for a week after this? ;) That might have had as much to do with a trip to Calcutta (for the semi-final) than anything else, but you get the point.

My experience living in both countries for a combined 16 years, 10 of which I remember very, very clearly at 26, leads me to believe that the people of the two countries share much more in common than most will ever admit. The geo-political struggles in the region are beyond the scope of this blog (in my other life, I have been invited to deliver classroom lectures on the subject, and have gladly done so). Commonalities are to be celebrated and differences to be appreciated. In this spirit of hope for unity, here is a prayer for continued friendship, trust, and respect between the two communities. A note of thanks to the forces we do not have the capacity to understand, that guide this. Things are a lot, lot better today than they were in the relatively recent past, and one can only hope for that to continue.

To my two favorite Pakistani artists (both vocalists) of all time:

1. Nazia Hassan: The beautiful Nazia apa (apa is a term used of respect to an older sister -- that's who she was to kids who grew up admiring her) was very Bollywood-friendly from the outset. Through the 1980s and mid-1990s, Nazia (and to some extent, her brother Zoheb) ruled South Asian pop. And you probably know her already, given she won a Filmfare for singing this song in the film Qurbani (1980). Sadly, I attended a rather subdued Junaid Jamshed (see below) concert in 2001 in honor of Nazia, who passed in 2000. She was 35. More at the Nazia Hassan Foundation.

2. Junaid Jamshed: The lead vocalist for what was one of South Asia's first popular music groups -- the Vital Signs. Having met Junaid a few times, I can tell you his personality commands respect. He understands the youth of the country, and for over a decade, delivered quality music (some of which made its way to Bollywood). His understanding of the youth and identification of a void prompted him to give up his career in showbiz, and take up a daunting challenge.

Today, he is an outstanding ambassador of moderate Islam, and his lectures (many carried by the BBC in England) warn of the evils of extremist ideologies, regardless of religion. Based on the lectures I have listened to, he talks of one message we could all use reminders of: We all speak the same language (no, not the MTV slogan). Here is my favorite Junaid Jamshed song (he's behind the microphone) -- couldn't find a version with translation:

And here is its 'inspired' counterpart from across the border (it's a great song, but much like everything else in this category, we tend to like more the first one we listened to). The singer is Jojo, and the actor none other than our very own Jimmy Shergill. This was immensely popular back home in India, and if any of you really liked it, I can relate to you, thanks to Pritam Chakrobarty. :(

It (the 15th) is tomorrow! Yay!!!


Nicki said...

Niiiicce post. I've been listening to Pakistani music lately.

I've always been a fan of Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam. However, I've been listening to the following for the past few weeks....

Ahmed Jahanzeb (love his sad songs)

Fakhir (like the pop flavor)

Fuzon (modern music with classical twist)

Jal (found out Atif Aslam used to be the lead singer in the group)

Roxen (loved their songs in Aawarapan)

Nicki said...

I'm so dumb. I forgot to comment on Nazia. I love her! Ever since I heard her songs from Qurbani and Star. I even went and got her album. RIP

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Nicki: That's very interesting, thanks for sharing your list!

Nazia has very many excellent songs. Her solo albums are among my favorites.

I thought Atif Aslam was better with Jal -- Jal are doing just fine without him, and I like that their lead vocalist is even involved in a relationship with Amrita Rao! And Roxen's Rozen-e-Deewaar, which has songs from Awarapan, is one of the really good recent albums.

Haven't listened to much of the rest, and I should. Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Bollywood Fan,

Thank you very much for this post.

You say, "the people of the two countries share much more in common than most will ever admit."
Very, very true!!

I mention this from time to time in my comments, so I may have already told you, but if not, I'm half Pakistani (the other half a German/Mexican/Norweigan mix). My mother and I used to live in Pakistan for about 6 months when I was four years old, and so the music, smells, food, sights, sounds ring in my earliest memories. After that, my parents divorced and I was reunited with my father about 4 years ago(When I was 23). I bring all of this up because I'm sort of an observer trying to learn about her own heritage through a looking glass. This is an extremely interesting and satisfying journey, and I've learned a lot from it, but the chasm betwen India and Pakistan is one I perhaps do not understand as I wasn't raised in awareness of it.

Here are the facts I'm told from my stepmother: My father's family is Punjabi, and migrated to Karachi after Partition. Yet our family would never, ever refer to themselves as "Indian". I guess this is understandable, if you consider that one is a native to where they are actually born (and my father was born in Pakistan). Yet you have third and fourth generation Mexicans that live in the U.S. and still consider themselves Mexican...so is this the same thing?

Whenever I go to visit my family, there are Indian soap operas playing in the background. My stepmother, who is from the mountains in Pakistan (Not sure where exactly) has grown up loving and watching Bollywood films. Yet when I told her I was taking a class in school on the history of India, her response was, "Why don't you take a class on the history of Pakistan?"

Anyways, this stuff just fascinates me because as an "outsider" I see so many similarities and don't see any reason to deny them. I'm not sure if you meant this discussion to go in this direction, and I apologize if thats the case! I just really agreed with your comment and wanted to share my own opinion :)

I'm not familiar with the artists(Shame, shame), but it was very interesting to read about them!

prochymaster said...

Hi BF, Thanks for introducing me to Junaid Jamshed and that lovely song 'Woh Kaun Thi' by Vital Signs. Just finished downloading it from Youtube. As an average keyboard and guitar player, it was good to see a lot of both in the song. Some of my students and I get together and jam on the guitar and keyboards every now and then and have a lot of fun but none of us have any aspirations of being rock stars. Regarding the version of the song by Jojo,I personally thought it was nowhere near the original, and I dont know whether it was supposed to be a cover version since they didn't even change the title of the song. As for Nazia Hassan, she will always hold a special place in my heart, because when we bought our very first Taperecorder, way back in the late seventies, hers was the first album we bought and listened to, over and over again.
As regards the song 'Yeh Ishq haay' given Pritam's track record, you may be interested to know that the beginning at least is lifted from a Spanish-Bulgarian song, sung by the Bulgarian Music Idol, Stefan Lalchev and others. Check out Youtube link http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=oElkWIws7ZI. The name of the song is Kolko Te Obicham.
On a final note, nothing in India is sacred, as I have learnt through bitter personal experience. I have written 2 French books, which were available for private circulation only among my students, though many Institutes were using them, with my permission. Last year, a professor from a reputed college (a PhD. no less) blatantly lifted more than a 100 pages, word to word, to the extent that she didn't even bother to change some minor mistakes I had made and published it under her name and there was zilch I could do about it.
Well, I've bored you enough, (the reason for my rambling being that I have fractured my foot and have quite a lot of time on my hands, being home bound). Until next time. Prochy

Anonymous said...

Nazia Hassan is truly a legend and one of my favorite Pakistani vocalists, ranking alongside Noor Jehan and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. It was only last month that I decided to really explore her work, which to this day sounds fantastic. I literally went through every Nazia Hassan related video on YouTube, and found out there was so much in her career after Aap Jaisa Koi and outside of Bollywood. Nazia Hassan was more than a talented singer with a beautiful face, but she was also a great human being. For example, she championed social welfare causes and studied law at London University. After her music career, she even worked as a political analyst at the United Nations.

My personal favorite Nazia Hassan song is Dum Dum Dee Dee, followed by Disco Deewane, and my favorite Nazia-Zoheb duet is Dosti.

Anyway, BollywoodFan as a Nazia Hassan fan you MUST watch this Zoheb Hassan interview from Brunch with Bushra (a Pakistani talk show). I kinda feel sorry for Zoheb because he has always been overshadowed by his sister, but here he shares many fascinating details of her life: how they were discovered by Bollywood, the making of Aap Jaisa Koi, controversy surrounding them, and who Nazia really was as a person.

Part 1:

I agree completely with your thoughts on India and Pakistan (although I think today wearing a shirt with the American flag in some parts of Pakistan is probably just as dangerous as wearing a Tendulkar jersey in Karachi). Until 1947 the two countries were one nation and the differences that have emerged in the past 61 years pale in comparison to what we have shared for centuries.

I wish you and India the best on this Independence Day.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Nida: Thanks for your comment. You embody diversity like few others, and I am in awe of your observations!

It is difficult to understand the root causes for the India-Pakistan divide. Depending on who we talk to and what we read, we tend to get very different viewpoints.

What worked for me was going to school in both countries -- learning of history from books written for that country's audience. Two very different takes on the same issues, which is probably why people from the other side would be concerned when it's the opposite side's views that one understands more.

To learn more, I suggest you try to read some books by or on the most respected (and rightfully so) leaders of the two countries -- Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Their thoughts on partition were contrasting, but they were diplomats (they wouldn't have accomplished as much as they did if they weren't).

The most unfortunate thing for South Asia was that both Gandhi and Jinnah died shortly after independence. The individual who assassinated Gandhi belonged to the same group (the parent organization) as Pandey in Rang De Basanti.

One of the best indicators of the nature of the relations, over time, has been cricket games (or matches) between the two countries. These games always reveal the true character of the people.

Here is where we see (and hear) reaction to the conflict that we don't in, say, a classroom, conference hall, or dinner conversation on the subject (even from members of the upper echelons of society -- education has nothing to do with it, contrary to what a lot of the world thinks of the region, calling it a product of 'illiteracy').

And here is where I am most disappointed in 'our' (desi) people, for most fail to separate religion from sports. This is why I eventually stopped attending cricket matches between the two countries -- there was too much hurt no matter who won or lost, and the joy of my team (India) winning didn't seem to surpass what else I walked away with. This held true in both India and Pakistan. And I was one of the few who, for some time, even supported the two governments' decision to not have any fixtures with the two countries. That has changed, and the situation (at least between the two teams) now is a lot better. I'm hoping us fans can learn from some of our sportspersons.

Having said that, I think there is increasing mutual admiration between the youth of the two countries. And given the percentage population of both that are aged 25 and below (I'm starting to feel old now), there is reason for optimism about where we might be when some from our demographic are leading the countries 20 or 30 years into the future. We won't have the pains of partition to hold grudges. Having not been through that phase, I know I will never understand completely the complexity of the rift. And I didn't realize this until after having spoken to some of the senior citizens of the countries who participated in the migration that accompanied partition. They know most. They were hurt most (in the best case, they lost their homes and not any family or friends). But they are also the most patient and accepting.

This is also where the entertainment industries in the two countries can make a huge difference. I think they're getting there, slowly but surely. You're right about Bollywood -- they're major hits all over Pakistan, and people probably watch more movies made in India than they do the ones made in Pakistan! India too has a decent following of Pakistani drama serials (or TV shows). Again, it works both ways! :)

Some day, I'd love to have a more detailed conversation on the subject! :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Prochy: Thank you for your comment. Glad you liked 'Woh Kaun Thi', it's long been one of my favorites. That jamming on the keyboard and guitars sounds like so much fun!!! Have you recorded any of the sessions? Also, you might find this music video (from my favorite Pakistani movie 'Khuda Ke Liye') interesting, while we're on the subject of unity and music:


You have some great memories associated with Nazia Hassan! She really was very very good.

Thanks for sharing more Pritam-related information. The beginning to 'Yeh Ishq Haaye' was so close to the original too. A shame.

And that case of blatant plagiarism *horrible* (actually, worse). Sorry to hear. The professor who did that should not be allowed to teach. And legal proceedings are in order, right? Although we know how effective those can be :'(

Hope your fractured foot heals soon!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Salek: Thank you for the documentary. Just finished watching it, and agree completely that 'legend' is an appropriate word for Nazia. The only time I met them was when they were invited to sing at a cousin's birthday (pictures from which I have been disallowed from sharing), and she had a remarkable presence.

I should have mentioned Biddu in my post -- the dude knows music, and I liked this remix with Nazia in the mid 1990s:


He had several good compositions with Alisha Chinai later. With both Nazia and Alisha, I thought their individual (non-film) works were way better.

The songs you note are all very good. Love Dum Dum Dee Dee:


I have also always really liked 'Telephone Pyaar'. The lyrics were so innovative back in the day, and her vocals were phenomenal, as always:


Thanks for your kind words. I think there are more of us who believe in unity, we just need to keep trying to get into the right positions to make a positive difference. Take care buddy!

PS: I found this video with an Anamika tribute to Nazia Hassan. Now I can better relate to everyone who said Don with Amitabh Bachchan was the way Don should have been. :)


Also, if I recall correctly, there was a show with Bushra Ansari in the late 1980s, where she starred in a parody of Disco Deewaane, placed in the context of cricket. It was a time in which every South Asian team struggled in the West Indies, and so the lyrics were 'Kaalu Deewaane', and we saw the legendary cricketers Curtly Ambrose (who's the *only* fair comparison to Wasim Akram) and Courtney Walsh.

And finally, I truly think (and I don't take this statement lightly, I know enough about the politics given personal background to say this) the two countries would be better off if we had the likes of Junaid Jamshed and Aamir Khan running the show! :)

Anonymous said...

You would not believe how jealous I am to read that you met Nazia and Zoheb! What was your conversation with them like?

That’s a good remix of Boom Boom (though the model in the video can‘t compare with Nazia Hassan), and it only supports my belief that not all remixes are bad; they just have to be done the right way (without betraying the character of the original song, if that makes sense).

Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: Alisha Chinai’s chartbuster “Made in India” was originally offered to Nazia Hassan, but she turned it down because she believed her singing it would be offensive to both her fans in Pakistan and India.

That Disco Deewane parody sounds hilarious, and I’m not surprised that desis would resort to racial humor in the face of such humiliation. As for Bushra Ansari, I am not at all familiar with her earlier work, but she still is a media icon in Pakistan. I’m really impressed by how versatile she is (actress, comedienne, singer). Just a few months ago I saw her in Vanee (a Pakistani drama serial) and she was very effective in her role as the manipulative sister.

Here is a parody of her talk show (note the laugh) as well as Atif Aslam’s Doorie. The song is commentary on the precarious world of Pakistani politics. In the Pakistan’s February General Elections, the religious party alliance (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal) fractured when Qazi Hussain Ahmad (brown hat) withdrew his party, Jamaat-e-Islami, to boycott the election. This left Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman (orange turban) of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam to compete in the elections alone, thus ensuring defeat at the polls.


Telephone Pyaar was a fun song to listen to, and I like how Nazia Hassan was willing to try new things, even singing in Punjabi. ‘Kariye Pyar Diyan Galan’ I think is her only Punjabi song…


That “Last TV Appearance” was interesting. Zoheb really comes off as immature and desperate for attention, and you can see how much he has changed since his sister’s passing. I was curious what Nazia had to say about her husband because I’ve read he really made her life a hell during her last few years, and someone like her deserved much better.

As for Anamika’s remix, her singing wasn’t bad at all but I have a hard time seeing how that tacky music video could be considered a tribute.

I agree with you that if we had the likes of Junaid Jamshed running Pakistan, the country would be in a far better state. Through his music at least, I feel that he’s someone who cares deeply about Pakistan (Dil Dil Pakistan). Not only that, Junaid Jamshed also seems to understand and appreciate the diversity of Pakistan’s population from the Kalash people of the country’s Northern Areas (Goray Rang Ka Zamana) to the Seraiki culture of Southern Punjab (Sanwali Saloni) to the Thar region of Sindh (Aankhon Ko Aankhon Ne). That last one is my favorite Junaid Jamshed song and video. Amna Haq looks amazing, Shoaib Mansoor directs and it’s pretty clear that Junaid has no idea how to play the violin (judging by how he holds the instrument).

I’m sure you’re aware of Junaid Jamshed’s recent turn towards religious piety, and even though he has stopped singing pop, his naats are pretty good too (I’d recommend Muhammad Ka Roza). Some people I guess weren’t too thrilled about this, but if his change in lifestyle has provided him with fulfillment, then who are we to complain?

And who said a more spiritual life requires a low-profile career? A few years back, I was with family in a Karachi shopping mall, when we stopped at one of Junaid Jamshed’s designer outlets. There we were shocked to see some of the outrageously high prices for the sherwanis and kurtas.

Anyway here’s an interesting interview of Junaid on a show called ‘Aik Din Geo Kay Saath’ (where the host basically spends a day in the life of the most prominent people in Pakistan).


theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Salek: Bushra Ansari has been at it for so long, she's always provided good, clean, fun, family entertainment for so long -- for that, I've always looked up to her. I've heard of Vanee, would you recommend it?

That piece with Jatif Aslam is hilarious! Thanks so much for sharing. I really liked the bit with 'Aadat' :) And of course 'Doorie' and that political angle to it.

'Kariye Pyaar Diyan Gallan' is beautiful. It was one of her later works, I think, and it was a major success.

The Zoheb interview is great. Recommended viewing for every fan of the Hasans!

As for Junaid, he has too many very good songs to his credit. He will always be by far my favorite pop music icon of all time. His naats are fantastic too. A heck of a vocalist all around. And if only we could get a few more lecturers like him (all he talks about is love for humanity, and that's a worthy goal no matter what religion one follows, or doesn't)! 'A Day in the Life' confirms that somewhat (was that Saurav Ganguly on the screen at the gym?). And he's still having fun and keeping it real, which is great to see. Really liked the discussion with his parents, wife and kids -- they're perfect role models for the moderate. The host of the show was a little too assuming, though.

Thanks so much for sharing! It's great to know he is still good friends with Shoaib Mansoor. And now I know there's even a Gandhian in him! :)

If you liked his song 'Dil Dil Pakistan', have you listened to Jeetainge (here) or Dil Maange (here)? Also, I didn't know about his clothing line -- that sounds like a go!

As for Nazia and Zoheb...especially of the former, she was great with kids (I wasn't even a teen back then), so our conversation was centered around superheroes, LOL...my answer, for the record, has always been He-Man :). My other very fond memory of the event came courtesy Behroz Sabzwari (who played Qabacha in Tanhaaiyaan -- have you seen it?), who was (and is) just great! His antics never end, do they?


Anonymous said...

No Bangladeshi Independence Day?? But what about SD Burman, Ritwik Ghatak & Mrinal Sen etc??? Or in music; Runa Laila, Sabina Yasmin... and umm, James (ie. Gangster) etc and their contrabution to Bollywood. :-O

theBollywoodFan said...

Of course, Anonymous. Of course!