Article Hindi

Valentine’s Day special: Memorable 1990s Indipop to celebrate old school love


From Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's 'Afreen Afreen' to Shaan's 'Love-Ology', we revisit some of the memorable numbers that defined love in the 1990s and continue to invoke nostalgia.

Mayur Lookhar

The Hindi film industry is hands down the biggest platform for lyricists, musicians and singers to shine. The pretty lip-syncing actors dance their way to glory, often overshadowing the song’s creators.

The 1990s brought a unique rush to the music industry with the rise of Indipop music videos. The influx of privately owned music channels like MTV and Channel [V] exposed Indian audiences to the best of international music.  This was an ideal platform for independent Indian musicians to shine too.

Pakistani siblings Nazia and Zoheb Hassan joined hands with Indian composer Biddu to become the first pop stars of the Indian sub-continent. It wasn't until the private music channels flourished, that we saw new pop stars emerge.  

Desi hip hop artiste Baba Sehgal was perhaps the first one to lead the wave of Indipop artistes. Punjabi artistes like Daler Mehdni, Sukhbir and Malkit Singh popularised Punjabi pop, while Pakistani pop rock bands such as Junoon and Strings brought their own brand of desirable music.

Sehgal provided a different experience from the standard music that Bollywood offered then. The Nadeem-Shravans, Jatin-Lalits catered to the masses, while AR Rahman was the lone maverick composer.

Pop music struck a chord with the youth. The colours and imagination offered a refreshing experience. This Valentine’s Day we revisit some of the memorable romantic Indipop numbers of the bygone era.

'Afreen Afreen' — Sangam (1996) by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Javed Akhtar

This song epitomised how classical and folk music could be fused with contemporary pop music. It is a maiden cross-border collaboration between Pakistani great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Indian lyricist Javed Akhtar. Akhtar penned this soulful Sufi romantic number, which meant praiseworthy. Lisa Ray, on whom the song is picturised, is worth every word of praise. Khan’s music was a fine fusion of folk music and pop tunes, while his effort behind the microphone was simply exemplary. 'Afreen Afreen' remains a classic number.

'O Sanam' (1996) by Lucky Ali

Thousands of music lovers were all ears for Lucky Ali’s maiden album Sunoh, which translates to 'listen'. The marquee and the biggest hit number in Sunoh was 'O Sanam'. The song is shot in the pyramids of Egypt. The lyrics by Syed Aslam Noor are nothing extraordinary, but it is the soothing music and singing that made 'O Sanam' a love anthem in 1996. Co-composer Mikey McCleary’s contribution to the album must not be forgotten. Often great things are born out of simplicity and 'O Sanam' is a shining example.

'Love-Ology' (1997) by Shaan

All it took was a wink, and that million dollar smile and the ladies were bowled over by this bespectacled loverboy Shaan. He even had a crush on his teacher. Incredibly, Nida Fazli was one the lyricists here. Ram Sampat’s fun and delightful score, Shaan’s playful voice and the quirky visuals combined to make 'Love-Ology' a fairly desirable subject among pop music lovers.

'Ho Gayi Hai Mohabbat' (1998) by Aslam and Shibani Kashyap

Early in her career, Shibani Kashyap sang the signature tunes of AIR (All India Radio) and Amul India. In 1998, she launched her maiden album Ho Gayi Hain Mohabbat Tumse. She picked little known Pakistani singer Aslam for the title track, which was about love at first sight. With lyrics by Roop Jauhari, and Aslam’s refreshing music, the song stole many hearts. Aslam's chiselled body warmed the desi hearts.

'Pyaar Ke Pal' (1999) by KK

People can drift apart but the memories remain eternal. It’s the little moments that trigger nostalgia.  Lyricist Mehbood gave Krishnakumar, better known as KK, the Pal of a lifetime.  The simplicity of the lyrics, Lesle Lewis's magical score and KK's breathtaking voice cast a spell on everyone. The look and feel of KK’s 'Pyaar Ke Pal' was in the mould of the Bryan Adams hit '(Everything I Do) I Do It For You'. With 'Pyaar Ke Pal', Indian fans could proudly say here is a music video that can match the best in the world.

'Ahista' (1998) by Pankaj Udhas

Of all the genres, it was ghazal that was difficult to sell if you were not a Jagjit Singh. Pankaj Udhas made a mark in the Indipop space with a slow, beautiful romantic number 'Ahista'. Sameera Reddy became a household name through this song. The simple lyrics and Udhas' pleasant voice lifted your spirits.

'Chandni Raatein' (1998) by Shamsa Kanwal, Hardip Sidhu

Great Pakistani singer Noor Jehan’s 'Chandni Raatein' was set in an altogether different time and era. Decades later, composer Hardip Sidhu gave a different spin to Musheer Kazmi and Arsh Luckhnavi’s golden lyrics. Although this is a ballad about a woman missing her beloved, Sidhu gave it a mesmerising, delightful pop score. The woman's hurt and pain is reflected in Shamsa Kanwal's voice. It has a quality to lull you into sleep, in a good way.