Eye to eye: Finally decoded

Taher Shah has become an internet phenomenon. The once completely unknown singer who released a song and video ‘Eye to Eye’ two months ago, recently found himself becoming an overnight sensation.

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A number of theories have been doing the rounds about Shah’s sudden fame. But it is the lyrics of his soft, romantic ditty that have been (and still are) the central focus of curiosity among millions of listeners and viewers who continue to watch the video and listen to the song over and over again.

Taher remains to be a mystery. He’s in his late 40s and by the looks of it seems to be an accomplished singer and songwriter. But the question is where Shah was when Pakistan’s pop music scene was booming in the 1990s?

The Shah phenomenon suggest that Shah is a trained composer, songwriter and vocalist who somehow missed the boom that Pakistan’s pop scene witnessed in the 1990s when Shah was in his 20s.

When, after a long wait, we did manage to get through to Shah (on the phone), Shah claimed: ‘Now’s the times of love ripe patience beholds precious time.’

As is apparent, his response is as enigmatic as the much debated lyrics of his mega hit song, ‘Eye to Eye.’

Though Shah continues to withhold the details of his background and life from the press, saying ‘it’s a private part of my life,’ we finally managed to get two of his close associates to reveal a few but vital aspects of Shah’s personality and life.

But they insisted that their names should not be published because Shah would then definitely fire them from his entourage of musicians, photographers, video cameramen and wardrobe designers.

‘He is a very private man,’ one of the two assistants that we talked to told us. ‘Even his closest friends rarely see him. He spends most of his time in his sprawling study doing research on love, spirituality and the human anatomy. Then he plays the saxophone deep into the night.’

According to his assistants, Shah was born in Mirpurkhas in the Sindh province of Pakistan sometime in the early 1960s. He comes from a family that struggled to make ends meet.

The assistants weren’t sure what kind of a childhood Shah had but added that he had to wait tables at roadside restaurants in Mirpurkhas to supplement his studies at school and college.

‘He would work at these restaurants from morning till afternoon, attend evening school and then college where he studied biology,’ one of the assistants informed us. ‘He would then read books on agriculture and botany at home and play the tuba deep into the night.’

There are also rumours about Shah being arrested in July 1977 when military General, Ziaul Haq, toppled Z A. Bhutto’s government.
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Tahir in late 70s

‘We have heard that as well,’ the assistant said. ‘But Shah doesn’t talk much about that episode. He says at the time of Bhutto’s Saheb’s fall, he (Shah) was busy playing the flute deep into the night.’
‘It’s a very touchy subject for him’, the other assistant added.

Another rumour doing the rounds is that Shah played the saxophone on some songs recorded by Pakistan’s seminal pop vocalist Alamgir in the early 1980s.

‘All we know is that he moved to Karachi in the 1980s,’ said one of the assistants. ‘He used to wait tables at a restaurant in the Tariq Road area of the city to supplement his studies at the Karachi University where he had enrolled as a student of alternative psychology.’

The assistants, however, confirmed, that Shah did play the saxophone as a sessions musician on some songs recorded by famous Pakistani pop singer of the 1980s, Tehseen Javed.

‘Javed looked a lot like Alamgir,’ said one of the assistants. ‘Maybe that’s why some people think Shah Jee played with Alamgir. But it was on a few songs recorded by Javed that Shah Jee played the saxophone. He wanted to quit waiting tables and supplement his studies and research as a session musician.’

But we come back to the same question: ‘Where was Shah when bands like Vital Signs, Junoon and The Strings were kick-starting a major pop wave in Pakistan from the late 1980s and across the 1990s?

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