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NRIS! Do you know?
Rahim Paracha: A Passion for Music
The Atlanta based promoter is in the spotlight for bringing the forthcoming Adnan Sami show, his biggest venture to date.


(Top) Rahim and Michelle. (Bottom) Fozia, Natasha and Kamran.

I first met Rahim Paracha way back in July1993 under the most melodious circumstances. He was hosting legendary ghazal maestro Mehdi Hasan in a cozy concert and I was invited to cover it for a magazine I was editing at that time. Even then Rahim was all class and dignity. He welcomed me with great courtesy and arranged for a memorable interview with Mehdi Hassan. While the maestro was getting ready, Rahim, the poet Farhat Shahzad and I had a long conversation that I still remember with affection. His adorable little daughter Natasha kept chiming in from time to time. I moved out of state for sometime and was very touched when Rahim said to me recently that he would often see the video he had made of that afternoon as I sat interviewing Mehdi Hasan, and wondered where I had disappeared. Reconnecting with him again after so many years was like the years in between had never happened, except that his little daughter has just graduated from college and he has two more additions- daughter Fozia and son Kamran.

Rahim comes from Peshawar in Pakistan and says he had a great passion for music and the arts for as long as he can remember. One of the best gifts his father gave him was a business in music called “Teen Beat”. “ We were a retail store for music recordings. People would come from all over because they knew that this was the place where they would find any and every information on music. At times someone would show up with just a song in his mind. I would research it and tell him who sang it and which album had it and then get that album for him.”

Media and television in Pakistan was not as it is today in the 1970s but stars like Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali were very popular and Pakistani television played a big role in showcasing and promoting the arts. Rahim got his first taste of showbiz at 17, when he helped organize a live concert with Ghulam Ali and some other artists. This started happening on a regular basis in Peshawar and gave Rahim a first hand feel of the sound, production, content and organization that went in presenting such events. “ It may seem strange, but even then I was never interested in the financial angle. I was just so passionate about good music that for me just showcasing and presenting such artists to music lovers itself was reward enough.

This passion for music made Rahim enroll in a program in recording engineering at Southern Illinois University. He planned to return to Pakistan and establish his own studio. Rahim found himself getting attracted to broadcasting and enrolled himself in a university program in TV and Radio broadcasting as well. He remained active in the community organizing concerts along with his work on the university radio station.
Rahim realized very soon that with his accent, and the fact that broadcast journalism was not as encompassing and open as it is today, he would not make much headway. He also realized that the technology and equipment that was available at the University level was far superior to what he would find in Pakistan even on a commercial level, and then Rahim Paracha decided to also fall in love! Any intentions of moving back to Pakistan permanently were laid to rest as he married the young lady, Michelle and joined the hotel industry to pay his bills. “ I started as a maitre D at a restaurant and then climbed up the ladder to senior management eventually.” The hotel industry has undergone the same cycle as the airline industry according to Rahim. Both used to be the domain of the elite and their impeccable service reflected that. “Over the years both industries have bowed down to the demands of the budget conscious and transit travelers and you see the deterioration in their services as well. There are barely 4-5 hotels that retain the grandeur of the old days and have become a dying breed.”

Rahim and his family moved from city to city until they arrived in Atlanta in early1993. Rahim says he promised his wife that they would now settle down. “ I just liked the way Atlanta was placed geographically and also the fact that the Olympics were round the corner.” Rahim had continued organizing concerts and private shows wherever he lived and was still settling down when the Mehdi Hassan show was offered to him by Farhat Shahzad. That was followed by concerts with Ghulam Ali, Kavita Krishnamurthy and Kumar Sanu, Bankim Pathak’s first tour, and several concerts with Jagjit Singh and Pakistani artists as well. The crowing glory was the concert with music legend, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Mehdi Hassan was a scholar of music says Rahim. “ His knowledge of his craft was immense. He was also the same on and off the stage. Money was the last thing on his mind when he performed and perhaps that is why he is in financial straits today. I still remember one time at a sold out concert in Chicago, amongst may be thousand people, Mehdi Hasan saw me walk in, stopped midway through the ghazal and welcomed me lovingly. It speaks volumes about his graciousness and class. Ghulam Ali is very humble, and talented but he learned his music in the bazaar. He is not a scholar like Mehdi Hassan but his music is wonderful and I could joke with him whereas my relationship with Mehdi Hassan was a bit more formal.”

Jagjit Singh, has different personalities on and off stage according to Rahim. “On a personal level I have found Jagjit Singh to be a very kind and thoughtful friend, but as soon as he gets on stage, his entire personality changes and he has rubbed many organizers the wrong way, to the extent that some of them have refused to host him.” Perhaps the most gratifying concert for Rahim was when he hosted Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. “ I had a hall with a capacity for 600 people. I realized how popular Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was when I was inundated with calls from CNN International, New York Times and other mainstream media wanting to cover the concert. Eventually we had 1300 people show up. It was also amazing to see this man who was such a superstar remain so soft spoken and humble in person.” Rahim went on to do several other concerts including the super successful concert of the world famous Pakistani band “Junoon”.

When asked how he has seen showbiz change, Rahim says the key still is the way you plan, market and present a show. You need to do it over and over again, to be able to understand the dynamics well. “ The best way is to start with smaller concerts and gradually build up to the big ones.” Rahim acknowledges that with the rise in Bollywood popularity world wide the cost of hosting such glitzy mega shows has become pretty expensive business. “There is a huge South Asian population in Europe that turns out in large numbers for Bollywood shows. In India too you can pack a stadium with 50-70,000 people for big events, but there are only four or five cities in the US that can generate such an audience. In Atlanta for instance no matter how exciting the concerts may seem, at the most you can get about 2-3 thousand people. The stars and national promoters feel they can ask for any price and get away with it, but today many of these shows are not being picked up by local promoters because of the huge sticker price attached to them Still when marketed and presented well, even mega shows like Temptations, that cost a lot to produce have made big bucks for every promoter.” Bollywood has cast its spell on the Pakistani community as well. “Unfortunately there isn’t much coming out of Pakistan to attract the younger Indian audiences today but you will see a huge Pakistani turn out at most Indian Bollywood concerts. I think the most wonderful thing about music is that it breaks all cultural barriers. So many people have come forward to help me just for the love of music.” Rahim began traveling to and from Chicago to Atlanta on work after 1996 and chose to do private concerts on a smaller scale for a few years as it was getting hard to organize things long distance. He returned again for good to Atlanta in 2003 and has taken on the Adnan Sami show, perhaps his biggest venture to date. It will be followed by shows with Sonu Nigam in early July and the highly acclaimed Pakistani bands Fusion and Strings. The focus, says Rahim will always be on quality shows. Asked what his family has to say about his “junoon” for music, he laughs and answers, “I have been promising my wife for years that as soon as I chip in the last 10 grand into a show from my own pocket I will quit, but the fact is music is my passion and not my business and I’m not sure I can give this up that easily.”

For more information on the Adnan Sami show “Kucch Dil Se” go to or


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