Kausar Fatima dwells on the superlative performance of one of the best singers of Pakistan
Akele naa jana is a cult song and is sung by all generations of Pakistanis. This number composed by Sohail Rana for Waheed Murad’s first film venture Armaan catapulted the inimitable Ahmed Rushdi to the heights of fame he never descended from. This song also won him his second Nigar Award. Though Rushdi has earned accolades for perfectly rendering Chand sa mukhra gora badan composed by M. Ashraf, who slightly changed the tune prepared by his uncle Master Inayat Hussain sung by Mala (Lo jee hum ja rahe hain), and Rushdi also netted the prestigious Nigar award but akele na jaana was his defining rendition.
Ahmed Rushdi was part of the modern movement in Pakistan’s entertainment industry and his God-gifted talent was very well exploited by all music composers of the best age of Pakistan’s popular music. The men hovering around Ahmed Rushdi, who played such important roles in his career, Parvez Malik, Waheed Murad, Sohail Rana and Masroor Anwar all possessed tremendous talent and helped in the flowering of the unique abilities of Ahmed Rushdi as a crooner. He had the uncanny ability to mould his voice to any situation and render all types of compositions effortlessly.
Ahmed Rushdi is recognised as an outstanding play-back singer who performed in the subcontinent and is equally rated with Muhammad Rafi and the likes. He was blessed with a voice that was velvety as well as clear enough to sing in any part of the octave. His was rated as a voice that did not form ‘cones’, as it rose up to touch the upper notes and its volume rose up without getting squeaky.
Rushdi was made to sing virtually anything and he did it exceptionally well. His range was amazing as he sang happy, comedy, tragedy, qawwali, lullaby, and patriotic, pop, revolutionary or folk numbers with no difficulty. He fulfilled the requirements of all music directors from mellow Bengali to emotionally unrestrained Punjabi composers as an all-purpose talent. His versatility was legendary as he moved from one emotional strain to the other.
Born in a religious family Rushdi started his singing career from Radio Pakistan Karachi and his number Bandar Road se Kemari meri chali hai ghora gari became an instant hit. In those days two singers, SB John and Ahmed Rushdi were in great demand in social musical circuit but SB John’s career ended after a very popular song Tu jo nahin hai tau kuch bhi nahin hai whereas Rushdi’s soar to new heights.
The recognition of his talent in the film industry provided Rushdi the perfect platform to exhibit his true colours. He sang for many films till he hit the jackpot in 1961 with Chand Sa Mukhra Gora Badan and further strengthened his reputation with all-time trend-setter Gol Gappay Wala Aaya in which his calm voice is very attractive. His number Ko Ko Koreena sung in 1966 is still a rage and is not only remixed frequently but is a given for all social and family functions. This rendition is rated as the first pop song of Pakistan.
His credentials as an all-round singer gained credibility when his song Kisi chaman mein raho tum bahar bun ke raho composed by Khalil Ahmed gained wide popularity bringing to fore the pathos hidden in Rushdi’s matchless voice. By this time it was widely recognised that his voice suited heroes, comedians and even character-actors. He also rendered numbers that are included as classics such as Habib Jalib’s Shauq-e-awargi and Mein nahin manta that revealed the depth of his range.
His signature song Kabhi tau tum ko yaad ayen gi for film Chakori brought stardom to actor Nadeem. His songs Bhooli hue hoon dastan, Tumhein kaise bata doon, Haan issi mor per and Tujhey apney dil se mei kaise bhula doon broke all records of popularity establishing Rushdi as the mainstay of play-back singing. His song Ae abr-e-kaaram aaj itna baras brought another Nigar Award for him.
Ahmed Rushdi was primarily instrumental in altering the sound of film music in Pakistan. It was reported that the Chinese also rendered his song Aise bhi hain maehrban zindagi ki raah mein. Though Rushdi was not classically trained as he belonged to a religious family that abhorred music but his renditions are compared with that of classically trained singers.
Rushdi is credited with being the first singer to go pop and his performance inspired singers to follow with his clear delivery and timely expressions. He had the unique quality of giving expressions during singing along with producing sounds of different birds and objects. Ahmed Rushdi was one of those fortunate artists who become icons in their lifetime and showed the way to future generations. TW
Kausar Fatima works in an international audit firm and writes for magazines