Nazia Hassan was born in Karachi and from an early age showed interest in music. Nazia began singing during the late 1970s, when she appeared on several television shows on PTV as a child artist. Her professional career started at the age of fifteen when she provided the lead vocals for the song “Aap Jaisa Koi” from the 1980 film Qurbani. Nazia was introduced to the film's director Feroz Khan by his friend Biddu in the United Kingdom. The song was a huge success in India and despite Nazia being a Pakistani, she gained overnight fame there. In 1981, Nazia won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback for “Aap Jaisa Koi”.
After the success of “Aap Jaisa Koi”, Qurbani became a big hit and Nazia collaborated with Biddu, a UK-based Indian music producer; who was also the composer of “Aap Jaisa Koi”, on numerous other projects. In 1981, Nazia became the first playback singer to release an album. Her first album was “Disco Deewane”. The album broke record sales in Pakistan and India and even topped the charts in the West Indies, Latin America and Russia. This album became a mega-hit and Nazia became an established pop singer in Pakistan. The album also had vocals by her brother, Zohaib Hassan.
After the release of “Disco Deewane”, Nazia and Zoheb were offered the chance to act in a movie by Biddu, but they refused to act and chose singing. Nazia's second album “Star/Boom Boom” was released in 1982. The soundtrack of the album was used in the movie Star. Nazia made an appearance in the film, singing the film's title song, “Boom Boom”. The film did not do well at the box office but the album was successful and increased the popularity of Nazia and her brother Zoheb in Pakistan and India.
Nazia's third album, “Young Tarang” was released in 1984. It was the first album in Pakistan to feature music videos, which were made in London by David & Kathy Rose. The album sold over 40 million copies. The album became Nazia's most famous and one of the most popular in Asia. “Ankhien Milane Wale” was the most popular song of the album. After the release of “Young Tarang”, Nazia returned to singing for Bollywood movies as a playback singer.
Nazia's fourth album, “Hotline” was released in 1987. Aa Haan was the most popular song of the album.
By the end of the 1980s, Nazia had become the most popular pop singer of Pakistan. In 1988, Nazia and her brother Zoheb appeared with music maestro Sohail Rana in his television program, “Sung Sung”. In the following year, Nazia and Zoheb hosted the groundbreaking show Music '89. The show was produced by Shoaib Mansoor. It was the first-ever all pop-music stage show to be aired on television. The show launched the careers of many new rising bands and singers and became popular in Pakistan. Nazia hosted another show, “Dhanak” on PTV in the same year, 1989.
In 1991, Nazia and her brother Zoheb recorded her fifth album, “Camera Camera”. Before the album's release, Nazia and Zoheb announced during a launching ceremony that it would be their last album. The album was released in 1992. It was not as successful as Nazia's previous albums and received only average reaction. After the album's release, Nazia left her singing career to focus on her personal life.The composer of her albums, Biddu composed a song, “Made in India” and he wanted Nazia to sing it. But the retired Nazia refused to sing a song that might offend Pakistan.
Pakistan's vibrant contemporary music scene owes itself to Nazia Hassan's redefinition of pop. In fact, the biggest nineties bands, including the Vital Signs and the Jupiters, got a platform on "Music '89".
Nazia also had a seismic impact in India. "India Today" magazine voted her as one of the top 50 people who helped change the face of India. She has contributed to the development of the present isomorphism of Bollywood music and pop: “She set - well ahead of its time - the personal album trend in India”, spawning the likes of Alisha Chinai, Lucky Ali and Shweta Shetty. After the huge success of their music, Nazia and Zoheb were signed by EMI Group and were the first South Asian singers to be signed by an international music company.
Besides music, Nazia had the honour of starting the noble trend of working for the under privileged and poor. All the money earned from music was spent on charity. Nazia supported the “Inner Wheel Club” of India and helped raise funds for them. In Pakistan, she established the organization “BAN” to fight against the curse of narcotics. She belonged to many charity organizations and worked with her mother Muniza Basir in the low income areas of Karachi to help the needy and sick. Nazia worked with Javed Jabbar, former Information Minister, to raise funds for children in Rajasthan. She went to a very large number of schools to collect toys for poor children and gave talks on the subject of social awareness for the under privileged. Nazia never forgot the love and support of all the schools and always spoke with great affection for them.
Surprisingly, music was only a hobby for Nazia and though her achievements in this field were anyone’s dream come true, she lived away from the glitzy world and led a secluded and simple life. She completed her education in the UK, got a law degree and then worked in the United Nations in the Security Council. Nazia continued her social work even in New York and worked for children from UN platform.
She is known as the "Sweetheart of Pakistan". Nazia Hassan is still the symbol of grace, sacred beauty and innocence and is frequently compared to Princess Diana, as she was known to possess a heart of gold. Nazia spent her teenage years between Karachi and London.
Nazia was the daughter of a well-known businessman Mr. Basir Hassan and an active social worker, Mrs. Muneeza Basir. She had two siblings, a brother Zohaib and a sister Zahra, both of whom became singers. Nazia was married on March 30, 1995 to Mirza Ishtiaq Baig. They had a son, Arez, on April 7, 1997. But they got divorced on August 4, 2000, ten days before her death.
Nazia died of lung cancer in London on August 13, 2000 at the age of 35. She was admitted to North Finchley Hospice three days earlier when her condition deteriorated. She showed signs of mild recovery the day before she died and it was thought that doctors would allow her to go home. But early Sunday morning, her mother, Muneeza Hassan, was called to the hospital where her daughter had started coughing heavily at around 9:15am. She died within minutes. Nazia is buried at the Muslim Hendon Cemetery in London.
The Government of Pakistan has conferred upon Nazia Hassan the highest civilian award “Pride of Performance”. The award was presented to Mrs. Muneeza Basir, mother of Nazia Hassan, by the President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf in an official ceremony held at Islamabad on 23 March 2002. In 2003, Nazia's family established a charitable organization Nazia Hassan Foundation, named after her. The organization was established to continue her life-long charitable and social efforts to make the world a better place to live in for all, irrespective of religion, caste or creed.