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“:

HUM CHALAY TU HAMARAY (JAGEER)
03:48

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

Pakistan national song
05:50

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

Ghazal concert – Alamgir and Monir Live! in Atlanta, Georgia
08:41
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37 responses to “The Music of Alamgir: Albela Rahi”

  1. Bilal Zuberi says:

    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.

  2. Owais Mughal says:

    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-i s-sick-t16161.html

  3. Bilal Zuberi says:

    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

  4. Owais Mughal says:

    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?

  5. 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

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