Popular Playback Singer Saleem Raza Remembered
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

One of the enchanting male voices, which helped Pakistani composers of film songs to communicate their creative melodic ideas to the people, specially the cine-goers in the country during the golden era of Pakistani film industry, was that of late Saleem Raza.

I made his acquaintance in the early 1960s through the courtesy of a mutual friend late Ghulam Masih Albert.

Our relationship soon developed into lasting friendship and I can recall with much nostalgic fondness the contributions made by Saleem to the flowering of film music in the country. I also remember the good old days when together we three used to confabulate for hours on music and the role it played in helping the nascent film industry of Pakistan to successfully compete with a much larger and experienced Indian movie industry, especially in the department of film songs.

An affable but a little shy artiste with an ever-smiling face and possessing a sweet voice, Saleem Raza had to leave Pakistan by middle 1970s in utter frustrations. He felt that he had been completely ignored by the Pakistan film industry that he had helped in prospering with his over 600 mellifluous film songs. Facing hardships and unable to make his both ends meet he said goodbye to Pakistan though not on his own volition. He was fully contended when working for the movies, did not display artistes' ego and eccentricity even when he was at the peak of his Career Like other Asian countries, one of the unfortunate aspects of the glitzy world of entertainment is that even its most sought-after celebrities and heartthrobs of millions are forgotten much sooner than expected.

Those artistes, who used to cast hypnotic spells on their fans and cinema audiences, after a few years of their demise or ceremonial exist from showbiz, fade into oblivion.

Many examples can be cited to prove the point, cine-goers and music buffs after passage of a few years forget the contributions of their favorite stars of the silver screen, singers and composers to our cultural scene soon after their death or exit from the world of  entertainment. Many an artiste has suffered from societal neglect and collective indifference of the people during the past 58 years of our existence as an independent country. Among them were a number of singers associated with Pakistan film industry and the electronic media. Late Saleem Raza, whose tuneful film songs captivated the hearts of millions of music fans in the sub-continent for two-decades ' (1955-1975), is now almost a for-gotten celebrity of Pakistani cine¬ma. The fact that he is no more remembered by film and music buffs offers a sad commentary on our uneven propensity to honour the distinguished sons of the soil, and the scant regard we have (or creative artistes, A playback singer, who provided much aesthetic pleasure to so many cine goers and listener? of Radio programmes in Pakistan should have received better treatment by cultural bureaucracy, ail-promoting organization and, above all, the people of" Pakistan. for his handsome contributions to the melodic culture of the country.


On November 23, 1983 the popular playback singer of Pakistan died in Vancouver, Canada, of kidney failure at the age of 51. Earlier, he had immigrated In Canada in 1975 in search of green pastures after suffering total neglect by the Lahore-based film composers. Young Saleem, who was once the most sought after playback singers of the country, was not treated well after his exit from the film industry. At one time the produce™ and frontline composers used to fall on each other to sign him for their films. He was not getting even one invitation for the recording of a film song in a month when he decided to say goodbye to his country. Had it not been the help of his working wife, Maud, he and his family would have faced starvation. Already, he was suffering from pangs of starvation emanating from poetry.

Born as Noel Dias on July 7, 1932 in Amritsar, Saleem Raza did not come of a musical dynasty -the gharanas, which have produced so many top musicians in the country.

However, he was lucky to have received training and benefited from the melodic wisdom of seasoned composers and musicians early in his youth.

He made his debut as a singer from Radio Pakistan, Lahore, with the acquired name of Saleem Raza. After a brief stint with radio in Lahore as a casual artiste, he caught the attention of composer ,GA. Chishti, who used his voice for the recording of a song in the film Haqeeqatat, which was exhibited in cinema halls in the year 1955, After that eventful recording, and consequent upon a spurt in film industry in Pakistan, Saleem Raza rose to greater heights in popularity within a relatively short period of time. Noticing the potential of his velvety voice, inveterate com¬posers of the like of Khurahid Anwar, Feroze Nizami, Master Inayat Husain and Rashid Attrey skillfully employed his vocals to communicate their melodic ideas to movie buffs.

Like other seasoned musicians late Saleem Raza too spent long periods of apprenticeship with several well-known musicians of Lahore.

He was known to have benefited from the expertise of highly Talented late Master Sadiq, the  blind pianist Ustad Ashiq Hussain and several other musicians with whom he came into contact during the Innovative yenrs of his film career. For nearly 20years he was associated with world of entertainment filmdom in Lahore and recorded over 600 songs for more than 300 films produced from Lahore, Karachi and Dhaka film studios. He grew from strengih to strengih and reached the pinnacle of popularity in a relatively short span of time. Even at that time, he maintained his contacts with Radio Pnkislnn from where he broadcast songs regularly, despite his frequent recording engagements for the movies. He recorded several war songs, which became very popular during and after 1965 war. Soon after the advent of Iclcvision in Lahore, on November 24, 1964, he participated in TV programmes as and when he was inviled by the new medium.

A large number of film songs recorded in the voice of late Salim Raza had won wide popularity during his lifetime because of the qualify of his vocals and the lilt and cadences of their composi-tions. Another factor, which contributed to the popularity of Saleem Rnza songs, was their jux-taposition on leading film heroes of the time- Santosh Kumar, Darpan, Kamal. Aslam Parvez, Sudhir, Habib and Ijaz Durrani. Included in his uproariously popular songs were:

Jaan-e-Baharan (Azra), AyeDil Kissi ki yaad mein (Tera Sahara}; Bana ke mera nasheman jalaa diva (Do Raastay); Chaand takkay choop choop kay (Ishq-e-Laila)'., Zindgi Mein ek pull hhi chain aye naa (Hamsafar), Aiy nazneen tujh sa haseen (Shamaa), Aye dil kissee ki yaad mein and Aaja pass maire composed by Master Innayat Hussain and Khurshid Anwar respectively.

One of his songs, Yaro nmjhey moaf karo (Saat Lakh), sold over 100,000 copies for which Saleem was prcsented a silver disc, especially cut for the occasion by the gramophone recording company, as a token of its appreciation for his melodic talent. Saleem Raza's tally of awards, received from professional and cultural organizations for artistic excellence, included the Niagar Award in 1960 (and again in l963); the Musawwar Award in 1960; ihc Screen Light Award in 1962; and the Social Services Award in I968. He was also honored for his "Best War Contributions" during 1965 and a gold medal awarded him in 1966 by the Pakistan Arts Council, Lahore, for his distinguished services to the creation and popularization of quality music.

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Two significant influences contributed to the chiseling of Saleem Raza's musical personality. The first came from Master Sadiq Ali, who provided him intensive musical training and Imparting to hint theoretical Knowledge about melodic arts. Being a singer of considerable natural aptitude, the late crooner quickly responded lo ihc instructions of his teachers and soon developed sharp tone perception, musical direction and a sense of purpose.

The second most important influence on Saleem was that of composer G.A. Chishti. who introduced him as a playback singer in Pakistan film industry. It proved a turning point in his career as it opened up a vast new panorama of musical landscape, which Saleem explored fully.

Soon after settling down in Canada, Saleem Raza set up a music academy in Vancouver in which scores of Asian-Canadians learned sub-continental varities of popular music. He also participated in local cultural events, which served as a springboard for him to scale new heights on the popularity chart by participating in privately sponsored soirees in different Canadian cities. His golden voice was well known in Pakistan. His name was magic to the lovers of film songs, who thronged to cinema halls to hear him. His songs are now sparingly broadcast by different stations of Radio Pakistan. He is now known among nnd remembered by his aging friends, now senior denizens, a majority of whom is being readied for their final showdown with Nature.

by Saeed Malik