Legendary singer A Nayyar passes away

LAHORE -  How I can believe, renowned singer and my friend, A Nayyar, is dead. He was sick, he was disgruntled, he was a rebel and at the same time he had all along been a kind-hearted person tying to help those in need or those who had been abandoned by their near and dear ones. His was the voice that would not only long be remembered but also would never be substituted by anyone. He was rightly branded as Pakistani Kishore Kumar.

Only a couple of weeks back, he visited The Nation’s offices and spent some time in my office. He had another senior colleague of mine, Emanuel Sarfraz, as his old-time buddy. Sarfraz had long been persuading Nayyar to give up drinking. But he remained alcoholic for a long time. It was only some years back that under doctors’ advice, he quitted the ‘mother of all ills’.

The news of his death is going to completely devastate Emanuel who is abroad to cover the recently concluded presidential election in the United States. I was a fan of his style of singing. I was introduced to him by Emanuel at a Christmas Day function in 2010 where Nayyar performed after a prolonged illness. He was wonderful and he sang at full throttle of his voice all his popular songs and enthralled the audience.

On this occasion, Nayyar sounded very optimistic about future and reiterated his resolve to do something for Pakistani music that was losing its tune and tenor. He was very proud of his plan to set up a music academy where fresh singers could be groomed and trained in different disciplines of classical and semi-classical singing. But he could not translate his dream into reality despite his best efforts. The government denied him any support for the project.

Although he had a short era in the ever-sinking Pakistani film industry, he sang dozens of very popular songs. An estimate puts the figure at 6,200 songs he sang for films, Pakistan TV channels and private albums. He was a gifted artist who could sing in various languages, including Urdu, Punjabi and English. A large number of his Christmas corals used to be played in churches on different occasions.

In 1980, he joined a band titled ‘Avengers’ along with Sajjad Tafoo son of renowned music director Tafoo and remained attached to it until 1990 since he started getting invitations to sing for Pakistan Television Corporation.

A tragedy struck him when his 21-year-old son became an addict and died at the age of 27 despite Nayyar’s best efforts to get best treatment. But it was too late. Nayyar was totally devastated with this shock and remained away from music world and drowned his shock in liquor.

He is survived by three daughters; one of them is in the United States and another in Dubai while the third has just completed her education. Nayyar had been trying for several years that he be bestowed the President’s Pride of Performance Award so that he could arrange marriage of her youngest daughter. But all his attempts fell on the deaf ears of the Punjab and federal governments’ information high-ups. Many times, he termed this callous attitude of the officialdom as ‘the greatest betrayal’.

Nayyar started his career with singing a duet with Robina Badar for film ‘Bahisht’ in 1974. The song was: “Yunhi din kut jayen, yunhi sham dhal jaye”. The music director of this movie was A Hameed. He was the forth Christian singer of our film industry. The other three are: Renowned Saleem Raza, Irene Perveen and SB John.

It may be interesting to note that he became popular when his song for PTV “Beena Tera Naam”. Only close friends know that he prepared this song for his wife who he loved to the core and had nick-named her as ‘Beena’. He started his professional career from the PTV programme ‘Naey Fankar’ produced by Rafiq Warraich.

Nayyar received several offers from India to sing for their films that he blatantly refused on the pretext that India had a lot of talent, why I should not sing for my own country.