Ahmed Rushdi, SI, PP (Urdu: احمد رشدی: Hindi: अहमद रुश्दी April 24, 1934 – April 11, 1983) was a versatile
Pakistani playback singer who worked in film music and was “an important contributor to the Golden Age
of Pakistani film music.” Rushdi is acclaimed as one of the greatest singers ever lived in south asia and was a natural baritone, yet could sing high tenor notes with ease. Born in Hyderabad Deccan, he
migrated to Pakistan and became a leading singer in the Pakistan film industry. He is considered to be
one of the most versatile vocalists of the subcontinent and was capable of singing variety of songs. He
is also considered to be the first regular pop singer of south asia and credited as having sung the
“first-ever South asian” pop song, “Ko-Ko-Ko-reena.”
In 1954, he recorded the official National anthem of Pakistan with several other singers.Rushdi
has recorded the highest number of film songs in the history of Pakistani cinema in Urdu, English,
Punjabi, Bengali, Sindhi and Gujarati languages. He suffered from poor health during the latter part of
his life and died of a heart attack at the age of 48, after recording approximately five thousand film
songs for 583 released films. Besides popular music, Rushdi also helped popularize the ghazals of
In 2003, 20 years after his death, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf awarded him the Sitara-e-
Imtiaz, the “star of excellence,” an honour given for distinguished merit in the fields of literature,
arts, sports, medicine, or science. A street in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi, also named Ahmed Rushdi
Ahmed Rushdi was born to a religious, conservative family of Hyderabad Deccan in 1934. His father, Syed
Manzoor Ahmed, taught Arabic, Islamic History and Persian at Aurangabad College, Hyderabad, Deccan. He
died when Rushdi was only six years old. From a young age, Rushdi was fond of listening to the
musical programs, including songs, which were broadcast from the radio. He neither inherited music from
any one, nor any body in his family was ever affiliated to music. Ahmed Rushdi’s singing talents
impressed a very close friend of his father, whom he called uncle and who loved him dearly. He enrolled
in a local music academy in Hyderabad Deccan.Moreover, two popular composers of the time, M.A.
Rauf and Iqbal Qureshi, also taught music in the same school. Thus, Ahmed Rushdi learned the basics of
music from the afore-mentioned teachers.
Ahmed Rushdi did not get any sort of formal training of classical music neither before nor after
becoming a successful playback singer but he had an effective command over high and low notes. He sang
his first song in the Indian film Ibrat in 1951 and got recognition. His family moved to Pakistan and
settled in Karachi in 1954, where he began participating in variety shows, music programs, and
children’s programs on radio. In 1954, he recorded his first non-film song, “Bunder Road se Keemari”,
written by Mehdi Zaheer for the popular Radio Pakistan show Bachchon Ki Duniya; the song was a hit and
became the steppingstone for Rushdi’s future.
After the success of “Bunder Road se Keemari”, Rushdi was offered songs as a playback singer for films
and quickly gained popularity. He lent his voice to many hit films like Bara Aadmi (1956), Wah Rey
Zamaney (1957), Raat Ke Rahi (1957), Yeh Dunya (1958) and many more. Rushdi got well recognition for
singing “Mari lela ne aisi” in Anokhi (1956), “Chalak Rahi Hain Mastiyan” and “Chal Na Sakey Gi 420″ in
Raaz (1959). In 1961, he sang the popular song “Chand Sa Mukhra Gora Badan” in the film Saperan, for
which he received his first Nigar Award as Best Male Playback Singer. He further strengthened his
status as one of the top male playback singers in Mehtaab (1962), in which he sang “Gol Gappay Wala
Aaya” for actor Alauddin; they would again be teamed in Susral. In 1966, he sang “Ko Ko Koreena”,
considered the first modern Pakistani pop song.
The film Anchal (1960) was an important film in Rushdi’s career. Music director Khalil Ahmed recorded
an extremely sad number “Kisi chaman mei raho tum” in singer Saleem Raza’s voice but wanted Rushdi to
re-record the song as he was not satisfied with Saleem Raza’s singing. Rushdi did so and the song
recorded in his voice satisfied composer Khalil. Raza’s career as a singer was affected and doomed
later on. After that, whenever Khalil composed music for any film, Rushdi remained his first choice.
The mid 1960s saw the rise of brilliant singers like Mehdi Hassan and Masood Rana, but it did not
affect Rushdi’s career and he kept on leading the film music.
Music experts including Nisar Bazmi, Sohail Rana and M. Ashraf are unanimous that Rushdi’s voice was
best suited for every hero, comedian and even character actor. He lent his voice to
Waheed Murad, Nadeem, Santosh Kumar, Darpan, Habib, Rehman, Ghulam Mohiuddin and was tailor made for
every actor of film industry. Rushdi’s voice was even ideally suited to comedians such as Munawar
Zarif, Lehri, Nirala, Nanha and Rangeela.
Rushdi recorded the ghazal “Shok-e-awargi” written by poet Habib Jalib for actor Syed Kamal in the 1963
film Joker. This ghazal sung by Rushdi, gained popularity amongst music listeners. Rushdi and Jalib
again teamed together for Mohammad Ali in the film Khamosh Raho (1964). Rushdi sang the ghazal “Mei
Nahi Manta” for the same film and gained Habib Jalib country-wide fame. He recorded a qawwali “Madiney
waley ko mera salam kehdena” along with Munir Husain same year.
Actor Nadeem’s first film as a leading actor was Chakori (1967). Rushdi recorded four songs for this
film in the composition of music director Robin Ghosh.“Kabhi toe tum ko yaad ayen gi”, “Pyare
pyare yar humare” and “Tujhe chahein meri bahein”. Same year, film Doraha and Shehnai were released. He
recorded all the songs for these films including “Bhooli hue hoon dastan”, “tumhein kaise bta doon”,
“Han issi mor per” (film Doraha) and “Tujhey apney dil se mei kaise”, “Nazaron se haseen hai”, “Dunya
mei tumko jeena hai agar” ( film Shehnai).
In 1968, Rushdi recorded his first ever Bengali song in the film Notun Name Dako of Dhaka titled “Ke
Tumi Ele Go”, which became a smashing hit in the then East Pakistan. He sang playback hits in the same
year like “Ae mere diwaney dil” (film Jahan tum wahan hum), “Socha tha pyar na karein ge” (film Ladla),
“Usey dekha usey chaha usey bhool gaye” (film Jahan tum wahan hum), “Teri aankhon ke bheegey sitarey”
(film Ma Beta) and many more. Same year, Rushdi recorded a song “Salam-e-mohabbat” for Mohammad Ali in
Khawaja Khurshid Anwar’s composition.
Rushdi sang for Waheed Murad in 1969 film Naseeb Apna Apna.The song “Ae abr-e-kaaram aaj itna
baras” brought another Nigar award for him.The song was composed by Lal Mohammad Iqbal. He also
won different awards for songs like “Dil tumko de diya hai” and “Hum se na bigar aye larki”. Around the
same year, he sang a duet with Mala in the film Baharei phir bhi ayen gi, “Khush naseebi hai meri”.
In 1969, the film Andaleeb was released. Ahmed Rushdi recorded all the songs for Waheed Murad in this
film. The song “Kuch log rooth ker bhi” was a hit. Its sad version was sung by Noor Jahan. Although he
sang for every film hero in Pakistan, his pairing with Waheed Murad proved to be the most popular, in
such movies as Armaan (1966); the song “Akele Na Jaana” from that movie in Sohail Rana’s composition
gained Rushdi another Nigar Award. Well-known hits of Rushdi picturised on Waheed Murad such as “Lag
rahi hai mujhey aaj sari faza ajnabi” or “Kuchh loag rooth kar bi” were composed by Nisar Bazmi, the
legendary composer for Pakistani movies.Ahmed Rushdi-Nisar Bazmi pair and Ahmed Rushdi-Sohail Rana
combination were two of the most successful singer-music director pairs of Pakistan film music.
The 1970s brought new faces like Alamgir, Akhlaq Ahmed, Ghulam Abbas, A Nayyar etc. But Rushdi remained
a leading singer of film industry. Film Bandagi, Naag Muni and Baazi were released in 1971. Ahmed
Rushdi had a playback in all the three films.He also won several awards for songs such as “Aik
albeli si naar” (Naag Muni), “Tum bhi ho ajnabi” (Baazi) and “Poocho na hum ne kis liye” (Intezar).
Perhaps, the song below never rang as true as it did after Ahmed Rushdi’s demise: “Chore chalay hum
chore chalay lo sheher tumhara chore chalay”, film, Phir Chand Nikley Ga (1970) music, Sohail Rana.
Rushdi sung four solo songs and one duet for Waheed in the film Khalish (1972). “Honto pe tera
naam”( with Mala), “Kal achanak jo sar-e-rah mili thi”, “Ghussey mei gulabi gaal” and “Pyar hota hai”.
Music director was M.Ashraf. Around the same year, he sung for Mohammad Ali in the film Mohabbat.
Rushdi recorded three songs in the film including a sad song “Khudara mohabbat na karna”. Music
director was Nisar Bazmi.
In 1973, he recorded a qawwali “Dil torney waley” for the film Mehboob mera mastana. Ahmed Rushdi also
recorded a romantic number ”Teri jabeen se chodhwin ka chand jhankta rahey” (film Nadan) for actor
Rehman. He recorded a sad song “Angara mera mann” for film Jaal which was released same year. He was
also fond of acting and appeared in thirteen films as an actor including Anokhi (1956), Kaneez (1965),
Saat Lakh (1967) and Dekha Jaye Ga (1976). He also composed a music album in singer Mujeeb Aalam’s
In 1974, film Anhoni was released. Waheed Murad and Aliya were in leading roles. Music director Lal
Mohammad Iqbal recorded two songs in Rushdi’s voice. “Hai kahan who kali” and a sad number “Mei tujhey
Nazar kia doon”. In the same year he sang for actor Shahid in film Dharkan. He recorded a romantic
number “Rangat gulabi chehra kitabi” for Shahid.
In 1975, Ahmed Rushdi recorded “Dil ko jalana hum ne chor diya” (Film Mohabbat Zindagi Hai). This song
was picturised on Waheed Murad and gained country wide popularity. He sung another song “Mashriqi
rang ko chor ke” for the same film. He recorded many songs for Pakistan television including “Dil mei
tu hai”, “Han issi mor pe” and “Bheegey hue mousam mei”. Rushdi was not only singing for films, but he
was equally a busy figure for Radio and Television also. He remained a leading singer between 1954 and
1983. He sang for all the famous actors of Pakistan film industry. Rushdi recorded his last song “Ban
ke misra ghazal ka” in 1983 for film Hero, which was picturised on Waheed Murad and the song was a hit.
He recorded a large number of duets in many languages with Runa Laila, Mala, Naheed Niazi, Noor Jahan,
Irene Parveen, Naseem Begum and Naheed Akhtar in his thirty-three-year sining career.
Since 1976, Ahmed Rushdi was a heart patient and his doctors advised him to abstain from singing but
Rushdi refused by saying that music was his life. When he had a second heart attack in 1981, he was
composing a musical album in the voice of singer Mujeeb Aalam. On the night of April 11, 1983, he
had a third heart attack. He was immediately taken to the hospital but pronounced dead by the doctors.
He was 48. Rushdi was buried at Sakhi Hassan Graveyard, Karachi. His last non film song was “Aaney
walo suno” which was a duet with Mehnaz.
On his death, actor Waheed Murad said. “Today I have lost my voice.” After Rushdi’s death,
Waheed Murad as well as other friends and singers had appeared on a show to pay him a tribute; many of
those same people appeared on the show six months later, reminiscing about Waheed as he also died.
Popularity and influence:
Ahmed Rushdi has changed the sound of film music in subcontinent and his impact has also been felt to
the Indian and Bangaladeshi film industries. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest singers
ever lived in south asia and was effective in every genre of singing including ghazals and qawwalis.
Once music director Nisar Bazmi in an interview said, “Ahmed Rushdi and Mohammad Rafi are amongst
those few singers in the subcontinent, whose voices did not form ‘cones’, as they rose and touch the
higher notes. Their volumes rose up without getting squeaky!” Bazmi also quoted the song “Aisey bhi
hain meharban” (film Jaisey jantey nahin) to prove that Rushdi was also a master of serious singing. In
another interview he said, “I was happy and amazed to find a Chinese group rendering this song on one
occasion. People from abroad also sing Rushdi’s songs which clearily indicates his popularity and
influence. Indian playback singer Kishore Kumar, being an admirer of Ahmed Rushdi, paid him a
tribute at Royal Albert Hall London by singing Rushdi’s one of the songs “Aik urran khattola aye ga
kisi lal pari ko laye ga”.
Many of his contemporaries compared his music with that of classically trained singers, although Rushdi
never had any influences from any classical singer. He is famously known as Magician of voice and his
popularity also turned traditional classical singers against him but did not affect his fame and his
death is termed as irreparable loss to the industry. Actor Waheed Murad declared Rushdi’s song,
“Bhooli hui hoon daastan”, his favorite song. Music directors like M.Ashraf and Nisar Bazmi also
hold centaury partnerships with Ahmed Rushdi and they have composed hundreds of songs for him.
According to complete songography, M.Ashraf composed 734 songs in 211 films for Rushdi but available
figures indicate a composition of 132 songs in 100 films for him. The first film of this pair was
Speran in 1961 and the last was Hero in 1983. Ahmed Rushdi influenced many singers in music
industry including A Nayyar, Mujeeb Aalam, Naheed Niazi and Runa Laila.