Remembering A Nayyar


Kaleem Dean

Arthur Nayyar commonly known as A Nayyar, a singing icon of 1970s, passed away at the age of 66 in Lahore on November 11, 2016 after a long cardiac disease. Like S B John, Saleem Raza and Ireen Parveen, A Nayyar belonged to the Christian community who contributed his singing talent to the country. He had a naturally melodious voice, and had not been to any singing academy, but his natural singing talent placed him among the greatest singers of Pakistan.
Since his childhood Nayyar was fond of singing. In his hometown, Rachna cinema was at a stone’s throw, and he used to regularly visit it in his love for songs by Ahmed Rushdi, Mehdi Hassan, Madam Noor Jehan, Kishore Kumar, Talat Mahmood and Mohammad Rafi. At the age of 10 Nayyar moved to Lahore, and completed his matriculation from St Francis High School.
In those early days of his life, being aware of his passion, Samuel Mumtaz, a local pastor and a professional musician and singer, encouraged Nayyar to adopt singing as a career. Polishing his singing talent he taught Nayyar the basics of music. After Nayyar finished school, he studied at the Forman Christian (FC) College; the institution became a platform to showcase his singing talent. His college friends and teachers used to organise singing programmes.
In his early college days of early 1970s, A Nayyar was not aware of the fact that he was going to be one of the greatest singing maestros of 1970s and 1980s Pakistani music industry. In 1973, in his debut, he was given a chance to perform at Naye Fankar, a PTV music show; this was a real breakthrough for him as it ensured his recognition as a singer. In 1974, he debuted as a playback film with the song Yuhin Din Cut Jaye/Yuhin Sham Dhal Jaye, a duet song with Rubina Badar in the movie Bahisht. After that hit song, Nayyar became the new singing sensation of the film industry.
Until 1990, Nayyar remained one of the lead playback singers in Pakistan, and there are more than 4,200 songs to his credit. Among some of his hit songs are: Sathi Mujhe Mil Gaya, Beena Tera Naam, Main to Jala Aisa, Tere Jaisa Yar, Tuj Se Mil Kar and Pyar toh Ik Din Hona Tha. Along with thousands of solo performances, he sang hundreds of duets; he had the pleasure of singing with Madam Noor Jehan, Naheed Akhtar, Tarranum Naz, Mehnaz Begum and Rubina Badar.
Nayyar’s attractive face and physique were qualities that garnered him many offers to perform as an actor in Pakistani movies of his era. But his shy nature restricted him to singing; rather, he believed he was a born singer who was not to be an actor. In recognition to his melodious singing talent, he bagged seven Nigar Awards, eight Graduate Awards and four Bolan Awards.
In one of his interviews, Nayyar said that he loved his country and never wished to sing for Indian movies though he had several offers.
The death of his young son was one of the factors that led to Nayyar’s isolation. He loved to spend time with only his close friends. I remember some of my meetings with him at one of our common friend’s house at the F C College. For hours he used to sit with people but with little or or no conversation. He suffered from depression and other mental challenges.
As a professional singer, Nayyar alays complained that he was not being given proper importance in the industry. In one of my sessions with him, he said that he was receiving royalty of songs and that was not a sufficient amount for a comfortable living. As an additional source of earning he started singing Christian songs and released three music albums: Shireen Kalam, Chamka Aik Sitara and Yasu Ka Jalal. He also released a ghazal, Kabhi Maikhane Tak.
Nayyar’s financial worries were of acute nature, but his patriotism always stopped him from making a place in the Indian film industry. In India he had millions of fans who considered him a second Kishore Kumar. Sonu Nigam, one of India’s most renowned singers, once said, “I always loved to copy Ustad A Nayyar.”
After the downfall of film industry in Pakistan and rise of pop music, there was very little space for singers like A Nayyar. I spent many evenings in gatherings with him. He was truly a harmless soul who never said anything against anyone, but always held himself responsible for his circumstances. I remember one of his favourite songs that he loved to sing: Main toh jala aisa jeevan bhar/Kia koi deep jala ho ga/Na meri subhain, na meri shamain/Mere jaisa is duniya mein/Koi akeela kia ho ga.
As per tradition, at the occasion of A Nayyar’s death, the head of state, politicians and his colleagues have sent their condolences. That is much appreciated but is it not the responsibility of the state to support artists when they need help?.
At the twilight of their life, many artists suffer in this country. The ministry of cultural affairs must recognise the contribution of iconic individuals like A Nayyar who with their artistry bring happiness and smiles to the masses.
There are certain factors of A Nayyar’s life that cannot be discussed, as he never wanted to share his concerns openly, but it is a fact that his suffered silently and died silently. His close friends were able to read his mind and soul. He believed he was the son of Pakistan’s soil, and he served the nation with his talent. He had many questions but he never wanted to raise them. Those questions are still there, and many artists like A Nayyar will face the same fate. Notwithstanding the unfortunate circumstances of his life, Arthur Nayyar will always be remembered as one of the legendary singers of Pakistan.