Remembering Mujeeb Alam

ByRao Tashfain

Banker with an interest in international affairs


June 25, 2023

Mujeeb Alam

Rao Tashfain recollects an
iconic career

Mujeeb Alam – Pakistan film music of yesteryear was exceptionally alluring and became legendary within the annals of the popular music. The film industry of the country was fortunate to have exceptionally brilliant music composers and singers. These performers explored new avenues of musical tunes with the result that many soulful numbers came into being that are still part and parcel of Pakistani national lore. In this period the Pakistani film music actually became the mainstream music and becoming part of it became the ultimate goal of performers throughout the country. The music produced consequently is still rated very high and it is widely emulated. Unfortunately the originality and purity associated with film music lost its glow by end the 20th century and now it is practically non-existent.

From amongst a wide range of performers, Mujeeb Alam emerged from nowhere and captured the hearts of music-lovers by his prodigal talent. Though his singing career was short but it was embellished by exceptional rendition of tunes given to him to sing. He created a space for himself in the presence of singing giants Ahmed Rushdi and Mehdi Hasan and made his mark in popular film music. Mujeeb Alam was a rarity in popular music as he did not belong to any musical family but was an untapped talent who was accidentally discovered.

When he came to prominence he was often compared with Indian singer Manna Dey who was highly gifted but remained under the shadows of singing stalwarts Muhammad Rafi and Talat Mehmood who ruled the roost. Pakistani popular music had yet to come under the grip of pop and sonorous numbers sung by Mujeeb Alam were greatly valued. Mujeeb Alam also created a distinct niche for himself that ensured his special place in musical annals of Pakistan. His songs are still sung in musical concerts and have become a permanent part of any performer’s singing repertoire.

His song ‘Main tere ajnabi shehr mein’ became a cult song and many people identified with it emotionally and it became famous on both sides of the border. It was a rendition that was laden with emotion and hit the inner chords of human soul. The tenor of his voice was classical in content but it was well-suited for light songs though the depth of his rendition of notes was duly appreciated by the leading composers of his time. All leading composers used his talent for their compositions and he kept on singing for over a decade. The melancholy touch in his voice suited the tragic situations of films and his voice was widely utilised for them.

He came to prominence by singing ‘Woh mere samne tasvir bane baithe hain’ for film Chakori that catapulted actor Nadeem to ever-lasting fame. The film was produced in 1967 in the then East Pakistan and gave break to many future successful artists including Mujeeb Alam. The rendition of this song was complete in every respect and it opened the doors for Mujeeb Alam. He won the prestigious Nigar Award for his performance.

Mujeeb Alam’s voice was ideal for songs composed in modern ghazal tenor sung on slow-beat and full of immense feelings. His rendition of ‘Mein khushi se kyun na gaoon’ is rendered very effectively and he conveys the forlorn feelings with abandon. This song also brings to fore the depth in his voice that was lacking in soft voices of Muhammad Rafi and Talat Mehmood. Pakistani composers made deep-voiced singers such as Mehdi Hasan and Ahmed Rushdi sing a notch higher emulating high-pitched voices of Muhammad Rafi and Talat Mehmood but the popularity of Mujeeb Alam’s deep-voiced rendition encouraged the composers to let Ahmed Rushdi use his deep notes effectively.

His rendition of ‘Mein tera shehr chor jaoon ga’ created new records of popularity and set the standards for dramatic delivery of film numbers. His lilting number ‘Woh naqab-e-rukh ulat kar’ also became a standard ghazal rendered in gay abandon and became very popular. His rendition of ‘Dunya walon tumhari dunya mein’ is an excellent composition rendered amidst a continuously breaking beat (tora) and depicts the grip of the singer on the tune. His songs were picturised on leading stars of silver screen such as Nadeem, Muhammad Ali and Waheed Murad. He sang almost 12,000 songs and won a number of awards. He also performed at about 500 musical concerts abroad and won the hearts of audiences by his resonant voice. He has to his credit some 12 albums and he sang in Bangali, Punjabi and Pashto languages also.

With the advent of pop music Mujeeb Alam lost his clout and was totally forgotten. He eked his existence in Karachi and was often bitter about the treatment meted out to him. It was a pity to see such an effervescent voice go to waste. He however lives in the popular music annals of Pakistan. The Weekender


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