Vital Signs (POP Band)

Vital Signs

Vital Signs were a Pakistani pop band that formed in Rawalpindi in 1986. The group was formed by Rohail Hyatt (keyboards and guitars) and Shahzad Hasan (bass guitar), who were soon joined by Nusrat Hussain (guitar) and Junaid Jamshed (vocals). They were widely known as Pakistan’s first and most successful pop band and were given the title of “pioneers of pop music”.

The band initially gained prominence from their music video of the song “Dil Dil Pakistan” first aired on PTV. Shoaib Mansoor, director and lyricst, wanted the band to record the song which later on became a critical hit and was voted as the third most popular song of all time by BBC World.

However, Nusrat Hussain, training to become an airline pilot at that time composed the song, left the band and suggested Rohail to have Salman Ahmed at his place. It members were signed to major record label EMI Records and afterwards released their debut album Vital Signs 1 in 1989. After two years the band recorded their critically acclaimed Vital Signs 2 (1991) with their new lead guitarist Rizwan ul Haq, who replaced Salman. The album saw the band to travel to perform in United States and thus becoming the first Pakistani pop act to go abroad on a tour. Vital Signs released their third album, Aitebar, in 1993, which outsold its predecessor, but was the band weakest album. The band asked Assad Ahmed, by then with Awaz and currently with Karavan, to play for their new album as Rizwan ul Haq left the band and his replacement Aamir Zaki. The band found renewed success and popularity with their album Hum Tum (1995) and was the highest selling Vital Signs album of all time.

After the release of their fourth studio album, the band concentrated on their personal projects and Vital Signs drifted away. Junaid Jamshed went on to pursue a career as a solo singer, Shehzad Hasan concentrated on his work as a music producer and Rohail Hyatt formed a production company.


Early years and formation (1986-1988)

Vital Signs Group

The band was formed by two teenagers in early 1986 in Rawalpindi by Rohail Hyatt and Shahzad Hasan, who were later accompanied by guitarist Nusrat Hussain. Surprisingly, at that time the band had no name. Not even when lead vocalist Junaid Jamshed, an engineering student from Lahore at that time, joined. This was the time when General Zia-ul-Haq was reigning supreme as dictator masquerading as a “democratically elected” President. Ironically, it was these political and economic tensions and pretensions, power-plays and economic prosperity that also propelled the gradual expansion of the country’s urban middle and lower-middle-classes. And it was the youth culture that emerged from these classes that launched the first shots of the kind of pop culture, scene and music we now call modern Pakistani pop.

The moment Benazir Bhutto returned from exile in mid 1986 and led a rally in Lahore, the country’s major urban centres saw a quiet but certain outpouring of brand new pop bands who wanted to sound different than the top pop scions at that time. Most of the new acts played at private parties and weddings and at college functions and the Signs by early 1987 were firm favourites in the period’s college function circuit. But unlike their other young contemporaries, the Vital Signs performance also included ambitious and bold covers of vintage Pink Floyd, Rush and a-ha songs, apart from the usual popular Pakistani filmi-pop and Indian films tune of the time.

The band never took it all as seriously as music was just their hobby but all of a sudden they were discovered by PTV producer and director, Shoaib Mansoor. Shoaib asked them to record a national song he had written and wanted to air (as a video) on PTV. The song, of course, was “Dil Dil Pakistan”. By the time the band started to call themselves Vital Signs, inspired by Rush album, Moving Pictures. Nusrat Hussain initially composed the song but was rejected by Shoaib Mansoor at the very first draft as he wanted it to be catchier. Nusrat gave it another go and came up with an intro that was appreciated by the other members. Encouraged by it, especially by Junaid Jamshed, lend in their own in-puts and ideas until the tune was completed, approved by Shoaib and recorded.

It was released in the summer of 1987 as a video (directed by Shoaib), in which the Vital Signs are shown singing the song over what looked like the lush hills of Murree, was an instant hit and later was voted as the third most popular song of all time by BBC World. However, the allure of instant success and the amount of interest Shoaib was ready to invest in the band kept Rohail and Shahzad going and convinced Junaid to hang around for at least the recording of their first album. The band lead guitarist, Nusrat Hussain, left the band and suggested Rohail Hyatt to bring Salman Ahmad as his replacement.

Shoaib’s clout got EMI (Pakistan) interested in helping the band record their debut album. This saw Rohail, Junaid and Shahzad traveling to Karachi. The album was recorded at EMI’s studio, but almost all of it was written and composed at Salman Ahmad’s residence where the band had been lodged. Shoaib did all the lyrics while Junaid and Rohail composed the songs. 

Vital Signs 1 and 2 (1989-1992)

Vital Signs 1

With the release of their first major single, Vital Signs began to achieve recognition in Pakistan. Their debut album, Vital Signs 1, was a success leading a wave of fresh new acts in the country. Most of the new guns were a prominent part of the many “youth festivals” that began to do the rounds in Karachi and Lahore, especially after one such show was specially conducted and televised by PTV in late 1989, (Music ‘89). 

Shoaib Mansoor also directed a mini-drama Dhundle Raste about the true story of the band, in which the band member acted themselves. The band soon went on a tour throughout the country, playing sell-out concerts in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar. Some of these, especially the two concerts held in Karachi in late 1989, were one of the best concerts by the band.

 Salman Ahmad wanted a change in the band’s music and by the time the band was approached by Pepsi in December 1990, Rohail decided to isolate Salman from the band and thus he left to form his own band, Junoon. Pressured by Pepsi to come out with a brand new album, the band then replaced Salman with Rizwan-ul-Haq as their new lead guitarist.

In 1991, the band released their second album Vital Signs 2. The album was a departure from the first album’s more upbeat ways. The resulting sound emerging from such emotional turmoil and uncertainty was heavily melancholic and introverted (“Rahi”, “Yaad Kerna”), suddenly jumping towards thumping anger with the powerful, “Aisa Na Ho”. This was perhaps the most political album by the band. The album had more maturity, versatility and was a commercial success. This led the band to perform in United States on a tour thus making them the very first pop act to do so on a tour. The tour also changed the way the band looked and the band saw the emergence of grunge and a revival of interest in ‘70s music and fashion were the instigators. The change also saw Rohail, Shahzad and Junaid moving to Karachi (Rizwan decided to stay back in Islamabad), as Rohail started constructing a brand new studios in his Karachi apartment.

After performing a number of concerts managed by Rohail’s brother, the group headed out with director Shoaib Mansoor to film Guitar ‘93, a Pepsi-financed venture featuring videos shot all across Pakistan.

Aitebar (1993-1994)

In 1993, Vital Signs began work on their third album in Rohail Hyatt’s studios, Pyramid Studios. A few months later they released the album Aitebar, which soon outsold its predecessor, Vital Signs 2. Vital Signs then toured the country to record the Shoaib Mansoor directed Geetar ’93, a compilation of videos of Vital Signs’ biggest hits thus far, shot across the four provinces and financed by Pepsi. Made for PTV, Geetar ’93 was an entertaining document of by the band progress as one of the best pop acts in Pakistan.

In 1993, the band also played the most number of concerts. The biggest taking place at the KDA Stadium in Karachi, a mega-concert headlined by the band and also consisting performances from the Milestones, Awaz and the newly formed Arsh. The presence of former member, Salman Ahmad, in the audience and the fact that it was after this concert Rohail first started to show signs of agitation regarding his growing dissatisfaction with Rizwan-ul-Haq’s playing. Later the same year Rizwan-ul-Haq left the band to join Awaz and was replaced by Aamir Zaki. Later the band travelled for another tour to United States but this time they went without Rohail Hyatt as Rohail refused to go and Junaid agreed upon going with Aamir as he suggested to him. Soon after, Rohail announced his departure from the band. On returning, Juniad reproached Rohail and along with Shahzad coaxed Rohail to rejoin. The meeting did not have Zaki, and when the Signs were interviewed in a TV show in mid-’94, here too Zaki was missing from the line-up. But Aamir Zaki was still there with the band when they finally started work on the new album. The process was broken when the Signs flew to Dubai for a couple of concerts.

They returned to Pakistan but the recording was interrupted again when they went to England with Awaz. Aamir Zaki left the band and the band asked Assad Ahmed, by then with Awaz and currently with Karavan, to play on their new album.

Hum Tum (1995-1998)

During 1995, Vital Signs began work on their fourth album, titled Hum Tum. Assad Ahmed featured on all tracks except for “Jeetain Gaye”, “Teray Liye” (Unplugged) and “Aitebar” (Unplugged), on which Aamir Zaki played. The album was the highest selling album of all time by Vital Signs and was one of the best albums produced in the local pop scene.

The aesthetic and commercial success of the album wasn’t enough as Rohail and Shahzad were ideologically and aesthetically drifting away from Juniad Jamshed and Shoaib Mansoor. And though the band demise was never officially announced, by 1998 when the band were offered a deal by Pepsi for another album, Rohail declined, signalling the end of Vital Signs. Junaid Jamshed went on to pursue a career as a solo singer, Shahzad Hasan concentrated on his work as a music producer and Rohail Hyatt formed a production company.

Reunion (2002)

On Saturday 9 March 2002 at the Nazia Hassan Tribute Concert, held in Karachi, the classic line-up of Vital Signs performed together on stage—for the first time in almost 7 years. The concert was attended by an enthusiastic audience and it was their original line-up which went up on stage, a line-up that hadn’t played together ever since mid-1990, but still stole the show. The Vital Signs reunited for a nostalgic 30-minute-stint at the high-profile Nazia Hassan Tribute Concert. The band realized that though a whole new generation of pop fans has grown up and their brand of pop music is still well remembered. After the Nazia Tribute Concert, the pop industry was rife with speculations that the Vital Signs were set to record their long-awaited fifth album but these speculations were denied by the band.

Musical style

Vital Signs are most heavily influenced by Pink Floyd. Musically and lyrically, they have also cited bands such as a-ha, Rush, The Scorpions, Duran Duran, Radiohead, The Police and Led Zeppelin as their major influences. The band was one of the first bands in Pakistan to insist on playing live music where most music was sampled and programmed synthpop. They were the widely also known as Pakistan’s first and most successful pop band and were given the title of “pioneers of pop music”.

Their music has been one major force which has truly kept the national spirits high amidst the prevailing social woes which have surely worsened in the last three decades, such music included songs like “Dil Dil Pakistan” and many more.

 Several bands and artists have cited Vital Signs as an influence or inspiration, including Abbas Ali Khan, Haroon Shahid, Atif Aslam, Jal, Kaavish, Aaroh and Fuzön.

Other Songs:

Yeh Shaam

aankhon ko aankhon ne

Na tu aaygi

Saawli Saloni Se

Hum hain Pakistani


Share this:
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • email
  • RSS