The Birth of Pop Music in Pakistan: Ahmad Rushdi, Waheed Murad and Ko Ko Korina

Posted on January 3, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Music, People
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Adil Najam

At various points and during various discussions on ATP readers have debated just when ‘pop music’ arrived in Pakistan. Some have suggested Vital Signs as the beginning, others have argued that the first step was from Nazia and Zohaib Hassan, and yet others take it further back to Alamgir and Mohammad Ali Shehki. Each, of course, was an icon of their time and shaped the music that was to follow them.

For me, however, the birth of ‘popular pop’ came with Ahmad Rushdi; especially when he teamed up with Waheed Murad. We have argued here that Waheed Murad might have been the very first ‘heart throb’ hero of Pakistan. Let me now suggest that Ahmad Rushdie defined ‘kool’ as much as Waheed Murad and that Ahmad Rushdie was the first real Pop Superstar of Pakistan.

More than that Co Co Corina – or is it Ko Ko Korina – is the definitive and defining Pakistani Pop song. Not only was it the first superhit pop song but it remains an icon for its generation and for Pakistani pop music in general.

I guess it should be clear by now that I really like this song. Take a look and listen; and hear and see why.

Waheed Murad, as you can see, is in his ‘Elvis Presley of Pakistan’ mode here. For another glimpse of that mood see the video in our previous post on Waheed Murad.

By way of a parting note, I should add that even though I have expressed my own bias against what I have called the ‘hilna jullna’ style of singing I am not only not averse to but am actually partial to a good ‘performance’, as long as the singing is not compromised by the ‘hilna julna’. This video is not just nostalgic but also meets that test of fun performance combined with good singing.

22 Comments on “The Birth of Pop Music in Pakistan: Ahmad Rushdi, Waheed Murad and Ko Ko Korina”

  1. Khalid R Hasan says:
    January 3rd, 2007 6:49 am

    Adil, I agree absolutely that “ko ko ko rina” was the first Pakistani pop song, at least as far as I can remember right now. It was a catchy tune that could be heard everywhere at the time.
    However, I don’t think Ahmed Rushdie qualifies as a “pop” singer, as he wasn’t the type to attract hordes of teenage fans to his public appearances. He was primarily a playback singer, and a great one. Just writing about him brings back memories of songs like “Akaylay na jana”.
    I think Alamgir and Mohammed Ali Sheykhi were our first pop stars, though Waheed Murad could have been if he had ventured into it(pop stars are all about image, not necessarily how well they sing). Nazia and Zohaib then lifted the art to another dimension with their disco beat.

  2. Samdani says:
    January 3rd, 2007 7:27 am

    Wah! What wonderful memories you have brought back. Yes, this is a classic song for both Waheed Murad and for Ahmad Rushdi. I agree with Khalid that Ahmad Rushdi was a bit of a ‘hero’ himself but he was really a playback and his ‘face’ was always Waheed Murad.

    I am not sure what the definition of ‘pop’ is. But in those days there was no concept of public performance and concerts and videos etc. by singers.

    Again, what a great song. Thanks.

  3. January 3rd, 2007 8:23 am

    Wah sahab! Umda post!

    Adil bhai mey tu tab aap ko manun jab aap Nayara noor ka gaya huwa faiz k ghazal “Rat you dil mey terey” ka Youtube version daryaft karain:>. I badly need it!

  4. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    January 3rd, 2007 9:48 am

    The term “Pop Music” short for “Popular Music” originated in the USA and was used to describe the kind of music popular among young people in fifties. This music was popular for its rhythm and beat and was not necessarily based on the classical or even traditional folk European music. In order to distinguish it from the established European music traditions it was given the name “Popular Music”. In Pakistan “Pop Music” is an “import” and not a “birth”. So the question is that “When and by whom was this form of music imported into Pakistan?”. To my knowledge Robin Ghosh, Musleh-ud-din, and Sohail Raanaa in sixties were the early composer who tried to include this form of music in their compositions. Ahmed Rushdi, even though a great singer, was not composer of these and other pop music songs. In America and Europe the pop music moved from radio to stage performance and concert halls, auditoriums and even large stadiums. In Pakistan it moved from films to small group bands with western musical instruments performing in halls and hotels. Newer the less it is an enjoyable form of music popular in those who like to listen some thing other than traditional Pakistani music.

  5. Samdani says:
    January 3rd, 2007 1:38 pm

    Can you please confirm what the name of the film was and also whether this was a Sohail Rana composed song. Seems like it is from the same film as the video on your earlier Waheed Murad post?

  6. Wasiq Ali says:
    January 3rd, 2007 3:01 pm

    I recall my father playing ko ko korina. It was defintely the fist pop song in Pakistan. Thank you for reminding us of Ahmed Rushdie and his contribution. We do tend to have somewhat short memories, don’t we?

  7. The Pakistanian says:
    January 3rd, 2007 4:00 pm

    Salaams Everyone. Adil Bhai, you seem to have a habbit of reminding me and I am sure many many who visit this blog of those good old days in the 80s when the whole family used to convene in the living room sit in front of the TV and watch the 8pm drama on our good old wholesome PTV. Gone are those days and I must say that our music has come a long way since then, and I wish I could say the same about the rest of our show business. Anyways, regarding the topic at hand, do pardon my ignorance but whenever I hear the name Ahmad Rushdie, the only song that gets credited to him is Ko Ko Korina. So to me he sounds more like a one hit wonder! IMHO the first real pop superstar in Pakistan has to be Alamgir not even Shehaki, he came a little later.

  8. Razi says:
    January 3rd, 2007 5:55 pm

    The song was from the movie ‘Armaan’ and its music was indeed composed by Sohail Rana. There have been many songs which Rushdi sang which could have fallen under the category of ‘Pop’…such as:

    “Aik Uran khatola aye ga…Aik laal pari ko lae ga”. I believe the movie was “Jane Bond-Operation Karachi” starring Rakhshanda Khattak.

  9. January 4th, 2007 12:13 am

    Dear Pakistanian (I like that!), you are right the music scene is actaully alive and thriving and some very very good work is being done…. I keep telling myself I have to do more on contemporary music. [Must say, however, that I do worry about the state of ghazal singing today... which has nearly vanished]

    On Ahmad Rushdi, he was certainly NOT a one-song star…. while this song was particularly iconic the range and versatality of his work is quite amazing. Even though he died young he has left behind a large and wonderful body of work that includes such classics as alailay na jaana, kissi chaman meiN raho, Acha kiya dil na diya, jabb piyar meiN duo dil miltay haiN, etc. A good place to find some of his best work is here.

  10. January 4th, 2007 2:27 am

    Please read article by one of my favorite writers Nadeem Farooq Piracha.

    This link describes Socio-political History of Modern Pop Music in Pakistan.

    Enjoy.
    Shiraz

  11. Shahran Asim says:
    January 4th, 2007 7:38 am

    Appreciate for another post.

    Ahmed rushdie was a real singer and I guess the song that really gave him a break was “bandar road sey keamari”.

    Well it is an evergreen song.

    I have not been able to find the original version of this song and I can find other versions. Really appreciate if someone could upload the song.
    Also there used to be a show that comes on tv in 70s where ahmed rushdie used to sing.

    Ihave been looking for the.

    I have been looking

  12. Sohaib says:
    January 5th, 2007 2:43 pm

    Very nice. Alongside “dil dil Pakistan,” this is probably one of the most definitive tunes of the history of popular music in Pakistan.

    Now you must do a post on Runa Laila!

  13. Suhayb Alavi says:
    March 20th, 2007 12:16 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsbX0Umv6tI

    just check out this……. if EVEN alamgir has praised it himself……..

    Ahmed Rushdi was the firs tpopstar of Pakistan. and if anyone can get his visuals while performing on TV/Stage. it will b highly obliged.

  14. Tinajaa says:
    March 29th, 2007 7:02 pm

    wooooooow,what a wonderfulsong.i lovvvve this song. ,it’s both better for ‘waheed murad’and ‘ahmad rashdi’.

  15. shakil ahmed says:
    April 7th, 2007 10:21 am

    Hi,Adil Najam , there is no doubt that Ahmed Rushdi is the first Pakistani pop singer. Yeah Ko Korina is the first super hit pop song in Pakistan but Rushdi also sung before Ko Korina in Westren music like in film Raat Ka Rahi, Raaz etc but Ko Ko rina is the true pop song, if i recall my memory there are lot of hit pop song of Ahmed Rushdi such as Socha Tha Peyar Na Kereen Gey in film Ladla,Dil Ko Jalana Hum ney Chor Deya of film Mohabbat Zindgi Hi, Aik Uran Khatola Aey Ga in James Bond 007 , Kia pata Zindgi Ka in film Jab Jab Phool Kheley , Cher Char Keroon Ga Awazar Keroon Ka of film Phool Merey Gulshan Ka, Yaroo Main Bara Parishan of film Rangeela AurMunawar Zarif etc there are Hundreds of such pop song og Great Rushdi. We so miss u Rushdi

  16. zahida says:
    August 27th, 2007 12:33 pm

    I just want to say no one mention waheed murad religion and also why some people thing that he made a suicide

  17. mansoor tirmizi says:
    February 29th, 2008 5:13 am

    once i have read in thenews newspaper that ko ko korina was the first ever urdu pop song. if this is true, and i think it is, then ahmad rushdi was certainly the first pop urdu singer. this is true also because of his fast songs. waheed murad’s acting actually polished it. why waheed murad was so popular? off course just because his “pop acting”. it was his “pop acting” on ahmad rushdi’s “pop songs” that brought them boht into fame.
    this is what i get the conclusion.

  18. Emmenay says:
    April 4th, 2008 9:24 pm

    Adil is right. Ahmed Rushdie is the first singer who sang as fast a number as Co-Co-Corina which fortunately was filmised on Waheed Murad. Composed by Sohail Rana Ahmed Rushdie worked his vocal magic on the song while Waheed Murad embellished it with his splendid visual performance…the first of its kind on the Pakistan silverscreen.
    However, even the word POP was not even in vogue in this part of the world at that time, as very few people were familiar with the Beatles or the likes of Tom Jones either.
    But Rushdie could never have performed the song on any stage the way Waheed Murad did…so credit goes to Sohail Rana first then to Waheed Murad for making Rushdie so popular.

  19. Emmenay says:
    April 4th, 2008 9:29 pm

    One more fact I forgot to mention in my previous comment is: Sohail Rana not only introduced Ahmed Rushdie as a singer in his own right and Waheed Murad as THE actor to sing Rushdie on the cinema screen, he is also the first teacher of Nazia Hasan, Zoheb Hasan, Fatima Jaffrey, Afshan and a host of other youngsters who later on went ahead to become popular singers. SO CREDIT MUST BE GIVEN TO SOHAIL RANA BECAUSE IT WAS HE WHO THROUGH HIS MUSICAL TV PROGRAMMES FOR CHILDREN introduced them to the ABC of modern singing.

  20. Shakeel Anwar says:
    July 18th, 2009 12:33 am

    Some time earlier, I had heard in a tv programme, discussing about the song Ko Ko Korina, that this was an inspiration from a Spanish song (I don’t know the name of song), and Waheed Murad had asked Sohail Rana to compose a song on that for his film ‘Armaan’. However, I have been trying to find out the Spanish song, but I couldn’t yet. If this is true, and someone has any clue for that Spanish version, please give the reference or song’s name.

  21. Umair says:
    December 16th, 2009 5:51 pm

    Ahmed Rushdi is the evergreen top playback singer of south asia.His voice quality was amazing and he is famously known as “The MAgician Of Voice” and “The Master Of Stage”.We cannot restrict him to pop songs only.He was equily capable of singing every type of melody i.e ghazal,sad numbers,happy songs,high & low pitch songs,qawwali etc.He is the only playback singer of subcontinent(other than Mohammad Rafi) whose voice was full of expressions and best suited to every hero,comedian and character actor. Ahmed Rushdi remained the top singer of Pakistan film industry and even Mehdy Hassan occupied the 2nd position because of him.Rushdi recorded the highest number of songs in Pakistani cinema history.

  22. javed says:
    November 25th, 2010 2:01 pm

    Excellent. Enjoyed the post very much. Thanks.

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