Alamgir - The
 Albela Rahi

Alamgir and my youth and college go side by side - those were the days when pop singing was everywhere but Pakistan in early 70s. We would listen to a half an hour English music programme aired by Radio Pakistan Lahore once a week or play LPs (in exchangeable deals from friends). Then we heard a new voice on our B&W PTV - something very different, rich, melodious, young and inspiring. This Albela Rahi opened a new vista and chapter in the music of Pakistan and soon everyone in the streets was singing "Albela Rahi" (an Urdu translation of a  famous Spanish song “Guanatanamera“ ) by this music magician we now know as Alamgir. His all time hit "Dekha Na Tha" along with an Iranian female performer was an instant hit. And then there was no ending to his melodious pops synchronized with his boy movements on the TV.

Alamgir was born in 1954 in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and studied in Mirzapur Cadet College, Mymensingh, East Pakistan. He briefly studied in PAF Shaheen School, Dhaka, East Pakistan. As a child his only influence to music was Elvis Presley. The very first song that he ever uttered to sing a song was at the age of 10, and that was Elvis's song " His Latest Flame ". As a toddler he once got so attracted to a Hemanta Mukherjee's record his father was listening, that he crawled to the gramophone and ripped off the mesh covering the speaker in an effort to locate the source of the melodious voice. As he was growing older so was his number of influences. Legends like Abbasuddin, who was his father's favorite singer, Hemanta Mukherjee, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Englebert Humperdink, Ustad Amir Khan, Ustad Salamat Ali, Roshan Ara Begum, Mozzart, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mannade, Simon and Garfunkel, Billy Joel, Mehdi Hassan and Elton John were among his influences.


Left: Dekha Na Tha Right: Soona Soona Jewan Apna

At the age of around 15, he moved to Karachi in search of a future in the music industry. He had brought nothing else with him but a guitar and a passion to sing and started singing in the evenings at a small cafe called “Cafe D Khan” on Tariq Road. He would not get paid for his gig, but did get a free meal each day. The cafe was famous for its intellectual gatherings and that is where he was spotted when someone from the audience told him to appear in a programme at the TV station called "Ferozan" hosted by Khushbakht Aliya. He gave his audition, Khushbakht liked his Guitar playing but she had already selected someone else. It just so happened that Sohail Rana, the music director was in the next studio and asked someone to call Alamgir to his car outside the TV station. There Sohail Rana told Alamgir that liked his guitar playing and asked if he would like to perform for children. This is how he entered in the formal world of Music.

He would from then on an instant celebrity and there was a time during the 70s when the music loving boys and girls gathered regularly on the streets near the Karachi Jheel Park to get a glimpse of this pop singer as he used to travel along in his red sedan in evening. Alamgir’s second pop song "Pyar hai zindagi ka gehna" was also an Urdu translation of a foreign song. He soon became popular among the younger generation in the country. He has sung about 400 songs for Television alone. He has sung not many for the film, even though he has received the highest film award in Pakistan called the Nigar Award, along with Mehdi Hassan and Noor Jehan in 1978 for the best singer that year for the song "Mujhe Dilsay Na Bhulana" ( film " Aina" ). He is the singer who set the beat for a decade. A dancer with the fanciest feet on stage. His numbers, which are incredible are also becoming indelible. He has a fresh original sound. The music is either energetic or sensual. You can dance to it, work out to it, relax to it, sing to it. Its hard to sit still to. A singer who has an uncanny sense of what his audience wants and how to go about the hard and profitable business of giving it to them. Singing and dancing at the same time is a very difficult act, but Alamgir being a born dedicated artist became the first singer in Pakistan to have started it. Something very common these days, though.

He also performed abroad. He is respected by the music lovers everywhere and still performs in live concerts in America.  He has already performed there five times and was awarded pride of performance of rendition of a song in Korean. He has traveled and performed in 45 countries around the world. In the last 25 years of his fame, he has released about 30 albums. 20 plus in Pakistan and about 5 in Bangladesh.



Left: Mujhay Dil Say Na   Right: Hum chale tu hamare sung sung

Alamgir remained the King of Pakistan Pop Music until mid 90’s, and then, he disappeared. May be dejected by what pop music became. Today's pop music, Alamgir ruefully admits, is mostly trash. . He felt that music should be soothing, instead of ear drum blasting form that it acquired. To him, the melody and the lyrics of a song were of immense importance. He turned 40 and realized he had given so much to his fans, but had had not set aside any time for himself. That is when he moved to the USA and settled here, trying to find some space for his own life and family. For the past 10-12 years he has been in the USA, shying away from public spotlight in Pakistan. But his passion for music continues. He has built a studio at home where sings and rehearses every day, he still performs on the weekends at small events around the US cities, and to his fans like myself, his voice still sounds the same as it did back in the 80s and 90s in Pakistan. Recently, Alamgir came to Pakistan after more than 10 years when he was invited to TMA ceremony to receive a very well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award. He sang, and he sang like never before. In his own words he was overwhelmed by emotions, by the love he saw his fans still had for him, and how much they wanted him back.

In recent years, he has taken to ghazals, which provide yet another very talented, professional and maestro side of Alamgir - quite tangent to his otherwise popularity as a pop singer.


Left: Gholoun Main Rang Bharay - Right: Chupkay Chupkay


Lately, he has been very sick and is in Hospital of Atlanta (USA) - in fact he is In Very Critical Condition. He suffers from polycystic kidney disease, undergoes dialysis three times per week and requires a kidney transplant. The ailing pop maestro needs a lot of financial support for the very expensive treatment and prayers from his fans.

This page was created on 18 September 2009

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