Nazia Hassan: The Immortal Legacy Of South Asia’s Queen Of Pop

Nazia Hassan
Nazia HassanPinterest

Pop music arguably died in India after the 2000s and many believe that Bollywood killed it. Hindi cinema did produce some jewels through its movies in the 21st century with singers like Lucky Ali, KK, Mohit Chauhan and Arijeet Singh but lately it's just been butchered remixes of old hits year after year. I guess the golden age of remixes died in the 90s as well. But even though indipop's life was a short-lived one, its origins were phenomenal, reaching lands and people extending far beyond South Asia.

Nazia Hassan with her family
Nazia Hassan with her familyPinterest

The person responsible for the popularization of pop music in the Indian subcontinet was a 15-year-old Nazia Hassan from Pakistan. Her debut song was the cult classic, 'Aap Jaisa Koi' from the 1980 film Qurbani with Zeenat Aman on screen. It was the perfect song in the peak Disco era of Bollywood and it made Nazia the youngest and first Pakistani singer to win the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer.

Watch Nazia performing the track below.

Just a year later, the artist released her debut album, 'Disco Deewane' with her brother Zoheb Hassan, produced by Indian-British music director Biddu under the label of HMV India/Saregama. The album had 10 tracks with a title track that was also remixed and featured in Karan Johar's Student of the Year. At a time when only Bollywood songs dominated the music scene, Disco Deewane created a new trend that snowballed into the sound of indipop as we know it.

Nazia & Zoheb, Nazia receiving a Filmfare from Raj Kapoor in 1981
Nazia & Zoheb, Nazia receiving a Filmfare from Raj Kapoor in 1981Pinterest, Youlin Magazine

The album sold 100,000 records within a day of its release in Mumbai alone. It also charted in 14 countries becoming a hit in Russia, South Africa, Latin America and Malaysia among others, gaining popularity among the South Asian Diaspora in UK and US. Nazia performed a remixed cover version of the title track 'Disco Deewane' in English called 'Dreamer Deewane' in 1983 which was released as a single. It became the first single by a Pakistani Female singer to enter the UK singles chart.

Nazia and Zoheb's 2nd and 3rd albums
Nazia and Zoheb's 2nd and 3rd albumsWikipedia, Spotify

Nazia Hassan was born in Karachi, Pakistan and brought up in both Karachi and London. Daughter of a businessman and an active social worker, Nazia was also a lawyer and social activist apart from being a musician. She started singing early as a kid, performing in TV programs before her debut track. Both Nazia and Zoheb released 3 albums in a span of 4 years; Star/Boom Boom in '83 and Young Tarang in '84 which was even bigger than the first one selling 40 million copies and setting the record for the best selling video album of all time. Soon after, she returned to singing for Bollywood movies as a playback singer.

Nazia with Biddu and other in Mumbai, 1994
Nazia with Biddu and other in Mumbai, 1994Wikipedia

The artist engaged in multiple philanthropic activities and was also appointed by UNICEF as its cultural ambassador in 1991. Her music and activism were instrumental in empowering women and promoting women’s rights in Pakistan. Her personal life, howeve, was not very easy. She experienced a torrid marriage with businessman Mirza Ishtiaq Baig, divorcing him in 2000 on the basis of physical abuse and as a result of him poisoning her, as mentioned in her testimony. Nazia died just 3 months after at 35 due to lung cancer but some, including her brother, claim she was murdered by her ex-husband.

Nazia Hassan
Nazia HassanPinterest

Last year her debut track was used in Ayushman Khurana's movie An Action Hero,and was yet another disappointing remix. The original song from 1980 on YouTube is loaded with fresh comments from people who have revisited the track to 'cleanse' their ears with Nazia's voice. Decades later not only did the vibrant pop music culture die with the singer but her discography still remains an evergreen source of nostalgia and melody justifying the people's title for her — 'The Queen of Pop'.