Could any girl imagine wearing a red jump suit, high waisted belt, mic in hand, jostling shoulder and appearing on a national television screen in the Pakistan of 1980s? Well, she dared!
There was something eminent about Nazia Hassan that caterwauled her being a Pakistani, yet there existed a transcendental facet to every music she produced that caught attention of the ears accustomed to listening Noor Jahan or Farida Khanum. Pakistan has over the decades produced some quality music and a number of musicians taking over the centre stage with domestic and international acclaim, but about Nazia Hassan there’s a certain pristine quality that has the power of eternity. 
The late pop sensation was just a child when she began her singing career during the 1970s. She started off with small appearances on several television shows on PTV as a child artiste and then went on to create a legacy of her own. The Hassan siblings, Nazia and Zohaib Hassan, were in England when they discovered the fiery music scene of Johnny and Marrie, Jackson 5 and Carpenters. 
Around the time they met Indian composer Biddu, UK-based Indian music producer, who was then relatively unknown and meshed the two worlds of music together, the eastern melodies with modern orchestration to produce Aap Jaisa Koi for Qurbani (1980), picturised on Zeenat Aman, Feroze Khan and Vinod Khanna. The orchestration of Aap Jaisa Koi, is only half the story of its success; the other, and more significant half is the husky voice of Nazia, which came like a whiff of fresh air in the stuffy setting of cine songdom.
Not many people in India knew Nazia, they only knew it was an exciting new voice they were hearing in Baat ban jaaye, their response to it was instinctive. They liked what they heard, that went through one ear, instead of going out from the other, was transmitted down to the foot, which compulsively began tap-tapping to the song lyrics. 
By 1981, Nazia was reading aloud from her first foray into the music realm – Aap Jaisa Koi, winning her the Filmfare Best Female Singer award when she was merely 15 years old, the youngest recipient of the award todate. 
Where in the west there was Michael Jackson and Madonna, for the South Asian music lovers, it was Nazia Hassan. You think it might be unfair to draw a parallel between them. Well, it’s not so out of place. Nazia was the the first South Asian musician to compose disco-inspired dance music. 
Such was Nazia’s success that it was once said that she surpassed Lata Mangeshkar, Indian playback singer, both in terms of sale and popularity. Lata’s biographer Raju Bhartan however posed a question: “Were there, then, no serious challenges to Lata in her long singing career?”
He responds, “There was a happening in Lata’s life and time that made a mere teenager despair for her. That teenybopper was Nazia Hassan.”
Nazia then collaborated with Biddu, to produce the album Disco Deewane that created a new genre of Bollywood pop music that persists today. Disco Deewane made the charts in 14 countries and became the best-selling Asian pop album. 
She later worked with her brother, Zohaib Hassan, to release four more non-film albums, Boom Boom (1982), Young Tarang (1984), Hotline (1987) and Camera Camera (1992). Disco Deewane and Boom Boom are songs still treasured by their fans – so much so that Karan Johar did a remake of Disco Deewane for his Student of the Year (2012). The brother-sister duo also made several appearances on Pakistan Television (PTV) throughout the ‘80s, and jointly hosted the show Music’89 that served as the launching pad for many new talents including Vital Signs, Ali Haider, Sajjad Ali and Strings. 
The fusion sound that came naturally to Nazia and Zohaib was also subjected to intense scrutiny in the early years of their music career. But the traditionalists could not halt the rock-‘n’ –roll trend. What was perhaps, most striking about the siblings phenomenon, was the pair’s ability to convey the resentments and desires of a whole generation of young people growing up in the 1980s. Coveted as the only singers from Pakistan to have performed for Nelson Mandela, they also started off with a focus on social causes including drug abuse campaign, using music to reach far off places. Nasha Na Karo (Don’t Smoke) one of the sound-tracks produced as part of their campaign and organisation, BAN (Battle Against Narcotics). 
At home, the success of the siblings created not only a sense of newfound respectability towards, and awareness of the music industry as a worthy field, it also offered a fresh breath of air to the suffocated youngsters disillusioned by limited creative opportunities during that time.
Engineers, doctors and even young military officers, picked up guitars; If Nazia and Zohaib can do it, people thought, then so can we.
Between the time of rising to fame, getting married and realising the harsh realities of life with a failed marriage, Nazia got Business Administration degree from Richmond American University and Law degree from London University. Following the release of her last album Nazia shifted her focus to philanthropic work abroad, and also worked for the Department of Political and Security Council Affairs at United Nations - New York. 
It’s no shocker that Bollywood has decided to make a movie on the lives of the two legends, Nazia and Zohaib Hassan and Alia Bhatt is speculated to play the pop icon’s role.
Eighteen years ago, on August 13, 2000, the shining light, Nazia lost her battle with cancer at the young age of 35 in London. Indeed, one doesn’t have to look too far for that immortal baritone voice, constantly poking out from the covers of commemorative magazine issues in full length dupattas with the innocent smile.

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