The Music of Alamgir: Albela Rahi

Posted on May 20, 2007
Filed Under >Bilal Zuberi, Music, People, TV, Movies & Theatre
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Bilal Zuberi

A young boy was born in 1954 in what is now Bangladesh. 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. He settled in the PECHS area of Karachi 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. For an aspiring musician, just a free meal and an attentive audience was worth the effort.

And that is how a legend emerged. Who among us has not heard of Alamgir? From that small dimly lit cafe he got introduced to Khushbakhat Shujaat from the Karachi TV station and then to Sohail Rana, the music maestro who made careers for so many people. His guitar skills and rendition of a famous spanish song Guanatanamera, altered to beAlbela Rahi in Urdu landed him a spot on TV, and from there on he never looked back. In his own words he kept singing because it was his passion, and mesmerisingly watched himself become a superstar right before his own eyes.

Alamgir was the King of Pakistan Pop Music until mid 90′s, and then, he disappeared. Yes, nobody has known for the past decade or so where Alamgir went. The guy who was ubiquitous on TV, who sang popular songs on TV and film, and who had one super hit after another, from Dekha Na Thaa to Yeh Shaam Aur Tera Naam, “Neeley Neeley Amber per”, Cococorina“, “Mainey Tumharee Gagar Sey and Maaon Kee Dua just left his fans hanging and disappeared from the scene.

But this weekend I had a chance to meet Alamgir in person in Boston and listen to his songs again. Backstage I asked him about his story and it was intriguing. But before that, let me tell you how inspired I felt meeting someone so simple and down to earth. He has been on top of the world once, and yet he only speaks about his life long passion for music and singing. He has received numerous awards in absentia, but his biggest disappointment has been leaving his fans behind and not taking the time to tell them what he was going through.

Alamgir had become a star from the age of 15 and 25+ years of stardom took its toll on him. The hectic schedule, and pressure of moving from show to show, music studios to film recordings, and then to TV performances, simply sapped the energy out of him. He turned 40 and realized he had given so much to his fans, to his country, 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 80′s and 90′s in Pakistan.

This weekend when he got on stage he did not have flashy clothes on, neither did his performance stage have glittering lights or a large band of musicians – but his energy was infectious. He danced around, making even people in their mid-60′s move their arms around to join his rhythm. As for me, I was probably singing louder than he was. It was fabulous singing the classics I grew up with.

Alamgir is known to have composed and sung over 400 songs in 20+ languages. Besides Urdu, his songs in Bengali are also well known to his fans in both Pakistan and Bangladesh. Since the 1970′s, and we are talking of the days before Nazia and Zoheb Hassan, Vital Signs, Junoon etc, he was the heart throb of the young generation. He brought Elvis like energy to his live and TV performances and brought the audience on its feet. I still remember an uncle trying to imitate him on “Dekha Na Thaa” at a family party, and I wonder how many of us have participated in, or at least witnessed, mehndi functions with Dandia dancing to the tune of “Mainey Tumharee Gagar Sey“.

Alamgir went back to Pakistan last year after more than 10 years. He was invited to TMA ceremony where he received the 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. Well, he told me he does plan to go back now for a few months, release 1 or 2 new videos, and give a proper good bye to his fans. Until then, he sends his hello from Atlanta, Georgia where he is now settled with his wife and son.

Below, I am attaching links to a few videos that show the versatility of his talent.

The following is a song from Pakistani movie Jageer. The song is “Hum Chalay to Hamarey“:

The next video is that of Alamgir performing “Maoon Ki Dua” on PTV:

And finally, watch one of Alamgir’s recent performances in the US singing Mehndi Hasan’s “Gulon mein rang bharey“:

37 Comments on “The Music of Alamgir: Albela Rahi”

  1. Asma says:
    May 20th, 2007 9:51 am

    Ohh lovely post – I’m a big time fan of Alamgir’s melodies and his voice :-)

    An era pakistan had …!

  2. May 20th, 2007 10:27 am

    Thanks for this post, it was nice to read about Alamgir’s life, someone whos music i used to usually ridicule. I grew up in the 80s and early 90s and the only song i remembered was “Yeh shaam aur tera naam” and frankly it sounded a bit too wierd to me. But thats just because i was born in a different era. Regardless, its always inspiring to read a story of such passion, dedication and finally success. I didnt even know till date that he’s bengali.

  3. Tamed~. says:
    May 20th, 2007 10:45 am

    Nice post, Alamgir was indeed one of the pioneers of pop music in Pakistan.

    One thing which I want to point out in your article is that cococorina was sung by Ahmad Rushdi, & he was the person who actually introduced this type of music in Pakistan.

    Bengalis are famous for their singing & dancing abilities & so Alamgir had god gifted abilities as well.

    Later in his career, he lacked the verstality & was unable to compete with the mushroom growth of pop bands, some of which as we know were very good.

    I love few of his songs; sham seay pehlay aana,
    suna suna jevan apna, dekh tera kya rung, gagar, but not dekha na thaa as he manipulated it so many times (remixed & altered) that there was no joy listening to it.

    I can still remember the video clip of Albaila rahi (a clip in mid 80′s!! imagine how creative was he as the video clips were not in fashion in those days) in which he was on his ‘Tidda motor cycle’ (Trail mountain bike) , wandering around the National highway & the city. There was a very trendy touch in that video.

    He was the person who knew the in & out of music & had the command on sur taal & other nitty gtritty of the business.

  4. Samdani says:
    May 20th, 2007 11:02 am

    I am a great fan of Alamgir myself. Thanks for the post.

    However, I think that the selection of the songs (specially the second two) coudl have been better. Both for quality and choice, these are not teh best of Alamgir at all and give a rather bad taste in mouth. Something like ‘dekha na tha’or ‘ye sham aur tera naam’ woul have been better. The quality of teh second recording is quite bad and on the third, unfortuantely, he is realy not singing it very well and maybe he should not be singing this at all. It is a ghazal that is very well known and masterfully sung by others so one tends to immeidtaely compare.

    But overall thank you for the memories.

  5. Shazia Rubab says:
    May 20th, 2007 11:27 am

    I am a great fan of Alamgir. But I believe that the only person who can do justice to the poetry of “gulon may rang bharay” is Mehndi Hassan and Alamgir should not even have attempted that. Again, I love the songs he sung back in the 70s. I love his voice but its just not for Faiz’s poetry. Anyone agree with me?

  6. Zia says:
    May 20th, 2007 12:06 pm

    Thanks Bilal..reminds me of good old days when he was on TV during tea breaks of cricket matches:).

  7. Faraz says:
    May 20th, 2007 12:58 pm

    wasn’t cococorina sung by Ahmed Rushdi?

  8. Zia says:
    May 20th, 2007 1:14 pm

    Faraz , yes it was sung by Ahmed Rushdi and later on Alamgir did sing it on TV.

    Shazia, I agree. This ghazal sounds good with Mehdi Hassan.

  9. Adnan Ahmad says:
    May 20th, 2007 8:39 pm

    Beautiful post.

    Even now when I want to relax I play his song ‘shaam se pehle aanaa” and then just sit back and let my tensions slip away. Interestingly Moeen Akhtar worked on this song with him.

  10. Tamed~. says:
    May 20th, 2007 10:20 pm

    @ Zia & Faraz:

    As I have mentioned before, cococorina was originally sung by Ahmad Rushdi, this song was considered to be first ever
    pop sung in the history of Pakistani music.

    Almost at the same time, Roona Laila from East pakistan sung a few pop songs as well.

    So Ahmed Rushdi & Roona Laila can be regarded as pioneers of pop music in pakistan.

  11. Mutazalzaluzzaman Tarar says:
    May 20th, 2007 10:23 pm

    “Hum chalay” and “Dekha Na Tha” are my Alamgir favourites. He has made tremendous contributions to Pakistani music. So, I hate to nitpick but, imo, it’s a stretch to say that he was a superstar much less THE superstar by the mid 90s. I think VS, Ali Haider, Sajjad Ali, Junoon, Najam had firmly taken over the youth’s imagination by that time.

    Either way, it’s good to hear about him and a little sad that he doesn’t intend on making a return to music. At the TMA, he said that he will come back and do music with the new generation like Immu, Shallum etc. But I guess he’s binned that idea.

    Thanks for all the music, Alamgir. You will always be remembered.

  12. zakoota says:
    May 20th, 2007 11:18 pm

    I think that it was Alamgir who brought the real pop revolution to Pakistani Music Industry. His singing, his movements and his style was very unique and in those times he looked like the Elvis of Pakistan.

    Besides pop songs, Alamgir has sung some of the best national songs “Milli Taranas”. I was and still am a big fan of him and will continue to enjoy his music. The younger generation of today might not have a good idea about Alamgir’s music as todays stars like Atif Aslam, Ali Zafer etc are popular among them but for those like me, who were growing up in 80′s, like and understand Alamgir’s music better.

    Unfortunately Alamgir’s was a part of an era where the downfall of Pakistan’s film industry had started, therefore, he could not play an active role in film music. However, Robin Gosh took confidence in him and songs of film “Aiena” were a huge huge success.

    Alamgir has a very special place in Pakistan’s music and will always be remembered with fond memories.

  13. okha_jatt says:
    May 21st, 2007 9:37 am

    Nice post. Thanks for an update on Almgir. Alamgir was an icon of music in Pakistan during 80′s. My favourite song of Alamgir is “Kabhi tum idhar sey guzar kay tou dekho, in ankhoon say dil mein utar kay tou dekho”. I think this is one of the less remembered gem by Alamgir.

  14. Razi says:
    May 21st, 2007 3:58 pm

    Lets see how many of us can list some of his outstanding melodies: Here’s my attempt.

    - Shaam se pehle aana
    - Soona Soona jeewan apna
    - Dil ke sub raaste, tere hi waaste
    - Woh mera kya hae maen us ka kya hun
    - Tum meri aankhen ho, maen khwaab jaisa hun
    - Gae dino ki musaafaton ko……..Khayal Rakhna
    - Kabhi tum idher se guzar ke dekho
    - Maano mera kehna

    Amazing songs.

  15. Babbi says:
    May 24th, 2007 1:52 am

    The younger generation now cant even imagine how alamgir came as a wave of fresh air in those days. He really was impressive and had that special thing in his voice.

  16. Kasim Mahmood says:
    May 24th, 2007 8:31 pm

    I recall Alamgir being so popular among the boys and girls of the 70s and 80s, that in order to avoid being mobbed by them at the end of his show, he would pretend as if his walking the down the stage was part of the act but then suddenly, he’d rush out .. almost running to get into his car and speed away. That was late 70s and early 80s. But like anything else, times changed. I later saw Alamgir singing at parties and no one paying attention. Instead, most of the audience enjoyed the food and casual conversation while he was singing. It was a sad sight but that’s part of showbiz. I believe new pop singers were emerging and Alamgir, like many other legends, was unable to reinvent himself. He faded faster than most expected but I am glad he doesn’t hold a grudge any more and went back to Pakistan, the country that made him what he is today.

  17. May 26th, 2007 3:32 am

    I loved his songs like bang bang, albela rahi etc

    http://pakspectator.blogspot.com

  18. Jawad Ali says:
    June 25th, 2007 9:58 am

    I am a Bengali, and from what I had seen Alamgir’s Voice is made for Urdu songs. It sounds the best more than Bengali or any other language he sang, in Urdu.

  19. MOHAMMAD AYAZ SAGAR says:
    August 9th, 2007 1:37 pm

    Thanks a lot for information about our legendry singer i like him very much and previous year’s are very hard for artists because we have not
    many T.v channels but now, i want to say about M.r Alamgir he have very
    good voice and his songs are very sweet and very simple i will remember my old memories and i know we are listin alamgir songs in P.T.V and today i am feel very glad read his history and tell me please where he is
    going and i really like his song ALBELA RAHI i wish you all the best thing do with our LEGENDRY SINGER
    ITS MY HEART VOICE

  20. Sajid says:
    August 23rd, 2007 4:52 pm

    i must say it is “well puted” text for the legend, he’s among my favorite musicans. i also grew up memorizing his songs it’s like they r subconcious attatchement of my memory and can pop out any time as like today on my way back home from isl i was singing under my tongue “shaam say pehlay anna” along with fadin sunlight…
    i sure and we for sure miss him.
    may GOD bless him where ever he’s.

    Sajid

  21. taj khan says:
    October 9th, 2007 8:49 pm

    sir,
    i am happy for joining u.
    but i wante to become a singer plez halp mee.i have no money nor any source to show my talent.give mee any adress in pakistan wher i can show my talent to you.

    i am 100% sure that u halp me and answer me.

    thanks….
    taj khan
    from ZHOB (Balochistan)

  22. Tauqeer says:
    November 14th, 2007 9:28 am

    Hi!
    It`s a great tribute to the pioneer of pop music in Pakistan.i am a great fan of Alamgir.He has to his credit songs of all moods,one of the songs i refer to is “Jahan talak bhi yeh sehraa dikhayee deta hai;meri tarah sey akaila dekhayee deta hai” or “Gali gali meri yaad bichee hai;pyare rasta dekh key chal”

  23. November 26th, 2007 1:40 am

    I know Alamgir as a very old friend when he first came to Pakistan. I just saw him tonight on Brunch with Bushra on GEO TV. It was refreshing to see him after such a long time. His songs are still relaxing and refreshing. Alamgir you are Great.

  24. NITESH says:
    December 21st, 2007 4:29 am

    i need some information kindly if any know so reply me as soon as possible, one pakistan singer sung the song “Acha sila thiya tunay meray payar kaa, yar hee nay loout liya ghar yaar kaa” as with much song he sung, i want to that singer exact name.

  25. Dr. Asif says:
    December 24th, 2007 3:21 pm

    I am a big fan of Alamgir.

  26. ABDUL WAHID says:
    January 5th, 2008 1:32 am

    I LOVE ALAMGIR SONGS , I HAVE EACH AND
    EVERY SONGS COLLECTION, IS THERE ANY
    WAY IF I CAN TOUCH WITH HIM, AS WE ARE
    USUALLY DO A MUSICAL EVENING AND I WAS
    JUST WANDERING IF HE IS INTERESTED TO
    COME TO LOS ANGELES FOR MUSICAL PERFORMACE, PLEASE DO GET ME HIS PHONE NUMBER.

    THANKS

    ABDUL WAHID

  27. ABDUL WAHID says:
    February 10th, 2008 4:28 pm

    BILAJ ZUBERI

    IT IS A NICE ARTICLE OF ALAMGIR, I AM A
    BIG FAN OF HIM AND IN 1980 WE ARRANGED
    A CONCERT WITH MEHNAZ IN CHICAGO AND
    IT WAS VERY SUCCESSFUL, I RESIDE IN LOS
    ANGLES AND WE DO SMALL PRIVATE PARTIES AND CALL DIFFERENT SINGER, I WAS JUST WANDERING IF YOU CAN LET ME
    KNOW HOW CAN I CONTACT ALAMGIR IN
    ATLANTA SO THAT WE CAN ARRANGE PRIVATE MUSIC EVENING IN LA.

    WAIT FOR YOUR ANSWER

    THANKS

    ABDUL W AHID

  28. Sagar says:
    February 26th, 2008 1:16 pm

    Hey! M a big fan of Alamgir……. Can any body tell me the Site from where I could Download his tracks……….!

  29. May 31st, 2008 4:50 pm

    alamgir is my favorite singer and i like him form 1980
    and i give all the others people a coments that they should
    likem him too and i love his perfermence with shyhaki.

  30. October 5th, 2008 2:16 pm

    I passed matric in 1954 and Alamgir was born inthe same year.I was witnessing Tv programme from start I am now 76 years age.you brought memories of Sohail Rana ,Karachi Tram Way and many others.We are thankful to you.Please convey my Assalamoalaykum Warehmatullah And Eid Mubarak with my all the best wishes and all the best prayers to beloved Alamgir,our Legend.

  31. October 6th, 2008 5:26 am

    I WITNESS VARIOUS PROGRAMMES of “wiwidh bharti on Radio and various Indian Tv channels, They protect their music,culture and secure their traditional envirenment of their country.They are celebrating golden jubilee of the said Radio chennel.They give verious special programmes where in Gazals etc. ,ever they have give special favour to our legend who previously started in prepartition days,while our chennels FMS not given any lovely programmes of Gazals,pakistani songs,prepartition days songs,sung by iqbal Bano ,habib walimd so on so forth,what happenned to our people.ALMIGHTY ALLAH BLESS US ALL. AAMEEN

  32. Owais Mughal says:
    October 9th, 2008 11:22 am

    yesterday i read a short news on Jang website that Alamgir was very ill and hospitalized. Governer Sindh has arranged some help for the singer from a fund created to help artists in need. This news remained in jang updates for a while and then disappeared. Does anyone know more details?

  33. October 9th, 2008 12:10 pm

    Owais, you are right…here is a note from a friend who is very close to Alamgir.

    Alamgir has been a true trail-blazer, the first musician and entertainer who came up on the stage and TV and belted out his own unique vibrant brand of music, which so many others have tried to follow, over the last 35 years. His passion and vibrancy, however, has remained unparalleled and he has truly enriched our lives with his songs and music. Its now our turn to help him, when he needs it most.

    I spoke to Alamgir a few days ago and also to his only offspring Aurangzeb in DC, who is in his last year at college. Alamgir was in his usual high spirits, although I could sense some nervousness betraying his facade. After all, he has to undergo two hernia surgeries on October 2, before the dialysis process can start two weeks after.

    The new date for the Boston benefit concert is November 15th. I am working on two possible avenues at Pine Manor College and MIT. The sound system has already been arranged to his satisfaction. I am confident that, InshaAllah, he would be fit enough to perform. As a backup though, we will switch on to the “sitting down ghazals/geet on a harmonium” format, if he is even slightly uncomfortable with his usual Alamgir stage format. He is receptive to this idea.

    While we pursue with our institutional vehicles of help, I personally feel that in the spirit of sharing and caring of this holy month, in addition to our prayers for his health and complete recovery, we should start to activate the process of Giving right now, so that he has some funds well before his surgery. Towards this end, I have managed to discreetly get his bank account details from his wife, which are as follows

    Alamgir Haq
    Suntrust Bank
    routing: 061000104
    account: 1000088362248

    Additionally, I have already started to collect contribution checks on his behalf and plan to courier him on 9/26/08. If you prefer, you can make out your contribution checks to Alamgir Haq and mail them to me at

    Siraj Khan
    10 Atherton Road
    Hudson MA 01749

    If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at 978-621-8030. We specially need volunteers to make up the crew for the Boston concert.

    I look forward to hearing from you and working together to support Alamgir.

    Best

    Siraj Khan

  34. Owais Mughal says:
    October 9th, 2008 12:58 pm

    On following link I’ve found that Alamgir may be in a need of kidney transpalnt. I don’t have reason to disbelive info. on following webpage. The text appears 2 weeks old and looks like APPNA is collecting funds for him.

    http://www.forumpakistan.com/pop-singer-alamgeer-is-sick-t16161.html

  35. October 9th, 2008 2:11 pm

    Owais, tried posting this earlier but it didn’t go through…you are right on Alamgir. Here’s a note from a friend organizing a fundraiser for Alamgir.

    Alamgir has been a true trail-blazer, the first musician and entertainer who came up on the stage and TV and belted out his own unique vibrant brand of music, which so many others have tried to follow, over the last 35 years. His passion and vibrancy, however, has remained unparalleled and he has truly enriched our lives with his songs and music. Its now our turn to help him, when he needs it most.

    I spoke to Alamgir a few days ago and also to his only offspring Aurangzeb in DC, who is in his last year at college. Alamgir was in his usual high spirits, although I could sense some nervousness betraying his facade. After all, he has to undergo two hernia surgeries on October 2, before the dialysis process can start two weeks after.

    The new date for the Boston benefit concert is November 15th. I am working on two possible avenues at Pine Manor College and MIT. The sound system has already been arranged to his satisfaction. I am confident that, InshaAllah, he would be fit enough to perform. As a backup though, we will switch on to the “sitting down ghazals/geet on a harmonium” format, if he is even slightly uncomfortable with his usual Alamgir stage format. He is receptive to this idea.

    While we pursue with our institutional vehicles of help, I personally feel that in the spirit of sharing and caring of this holy month, in addition to our prayers for his health and complete recovery, we should start to activate the process of Giving right now, so that he has some funds well before his surgery. Towards this end, I have managed to discreetly get his bank account details from his wife, which are as follows

    Alamgir Haq
    Suntrust Bank
    routing: 061000104
    account: 1000088362248

    Additionally, I have already started to collect contribution checks on his behalf and plan to courier him on 9/26/08. If you prefer, you can make out your contribution checks to Alamgir Haq and mail them to me at

    Siraj Khan
    10 Atherton Road
    Hudson MA 01749

    If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at 978-621-8030. We specially need volunteers to make up the crew for the Boston concert.

    I look forward to hearing from you and working together to support Alamgir.

  36. Owais Mughal says:
    October 9th, 2008 8:26 pm

    A news item from Jang on Alamgir’s illness

  37. faisal says:
    December 23rd, 2010 7:29 am

    i m sale me kidney i m only 2day plz help my name faisal b+ i m live in khi plz help me 03142583099

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