My father was born Ivan Bijoy Bawa on October 4, 1942 in Belgaum, India. His family moved to Pakistan in 1947, where his father Ebenezer Kohinoor Bawa worked as an engineer and his children attended school.
My father loved music his entire life and began singing at home and at school. He received a lot of positive attention at school especially for his beautiful voice. He had a cousin named Lata who also loved to sing, and as youngsters the two of them used to sing duets together, usually songs from Indian movies from the 40s and 50s. His interest in western music began with Elvis Presley; he often said that the first English song that he learned was “Young Dreams” from the Elvis movie “King Creole”. That movie and that song led him to learn guitar (he bought a used acoustic guitar and made his own pickups by winding copper wire around magnets).
He formed a band with friends and relatives and began to perform at parties and functions at locations such as the Catholic Club in Rawalpindi. A couple of people who were in his early bands were his first cousin Faith Derrick (now Faith Slocum), currently living in North Carolina, and Naseem Nasir, now residing in Canada. Both played drums.
In 1966 at the age of 24 after gaining attention around Rawalpindi he was hired to perform at the Flashman’s Hotel. It was there that he first formed the band Ivan’s Aces. The initial members were his first cousin Alan Derrick (El Paso TX, now deceased) on guitar, Melvin Orr on bass, Alan Albuqurque, and Nigel Pushong on drums. Over the next 5 years the band went on to perform at the Scheherazade Hotel in Islamabad, the Intercontinental Hotels in Lahore and Rawalpindi, and the Palace Hotel in Karachi.
Nigel Pushong was replaced by Alam (last name unknown) on drums, and Jerry Lovett joined the band when Alan Derrick left. A female singer named Yvette Fyve performed with the band occasionally at the Intercontinental Hotel in Lahore. The Ivan’s Aces Band also made several appearances on the Pakistan Television variety show “The Zia Mohyeddin Show” around 1970 and 1971.
Also during this time Ivan Bawa was noticed by the famous Pakistani actor and director Syed Kamal, who heard him playing with the band and invited him to sing for a movie he was making. That movie, titled “Roop Behroop”, was released in 1971. Ivan sang two duets with the famous Mrs. Runa Laila for the movie. Kamal, feeling that Ivan’s voice was a combination of the singers Talat Mahmood and Mohammad Rafi, billed Ivan in the movie credits as “Mahmood Rafi”. The movie was a commercial flop but many scenes and all of the songs can now be found on www.Youtube.com; the soundtrack of this movie was released on Columbia Records in Pakistan and is now out of print.
Sometime shortly afterward Ivan and his family left Pakistan, first for Afghanistan, where he performed solo in the M&M Club in Kabul; and then to Tehran, Iran, where he performed for years at the Maharaja Restaurant (with a pair of Iranian brothers named Sarooj and Varooj on bass, drums, and backing vocals) and also on the American Air Base in the Officer’s and NCO Lounges. Returning briefly to Pakistan after Iran, he then moved on to the UAE in 1977, where he continued to perform solo in such places as the Hostess in Abu Dhabi, in Dubai, The Bangkok Cellar in Sharjah, and the legendary Oceanic Hotel in Khor Fakkan.
Ivan and his family moved to the United States in 1981. First landing in Mississippi and then moving to Houston Texas, he performed at a long string of piano bars, hotels, nightclubs, lounges, and country clubs all across these and other states, also including Oklahoma, Wyoming, Florida, Wisconsin, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C.
In 1985/1986 Ivan released a country album of all-original songs on the Country Echo Records label. This album, titled “Here I Am” and released on cassette and 45 RPM, is out of print. For a short time during these years Ivan was also co-owner of his own establishment named “Ivan’s Club”. Ivan also befriended Mr. Udayan Parikh, the well-known singer, and played guitar on his album “Guldasta Ghazals” (out of print).
In the years overseas Ivan played a combination of Hindi and western songs, but when he moved to the US, his repertoire of western songs greatly increased. His first love was always hindi songs and he sang them at home or at parties, whenever possible. He often performed at Indian and Pakistani private parties and also at such notable Indian establishments in Houston at Ashiana, Nirvana, and Bombay Palace, allowing him to sing the indian songs in public once again. He held a long-standing entertainment position at the Pine Forest Country Club in Houston where he performed on a weekly basis and at parties and special engagements.
Ivan had always suffered from precarious ailments through his life but had always made it through them and kept performing. However, in the 1990’s he began to have continuous heart problems which required several surgical procedures, and in 1997 he was diagnosed with emphysema. This greatly limited his singing, and the addition of arthritis in his hands and bursitis in his shoulders made it difficult to play long shows. Around 2005 or so he was forced to retire from performing. He continued to play guitar at home whenever he was able to, and he recorded instrumental songs on guitar, all of which he published to the youtube website. In 2013, living in Richmond TX, he was diagnosed with Advanced Stage Lung Cancer that had spread to his brain. He underwent chemotherapy for his lungs and radiation therapy for the brain. He passed away at home peacefully in the early morning hours of February 14, 2014.
You can visit his online obituary on the Houston Chronicle website here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/houstonchronicle/obituary.aspx?pid=169737140
In addition to Elvis Presley as noted earlier, Ivan loved Neil Diamond’s music and he sang many of his songs. Among many, his notable favorites were the songs “I Am I Said” and “Play Me”. He had also been a fan of the British guitarist Hank Marvin of the group The Shadows, and often played many of their songs, including “Apache”, “Frightened City”, and “Cosy”. In Indian music he loved to listen to Runa Laila, Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar, Jagjit Singh, and Talat Mahmood, among many others.
If you go on www.youtube.com and search for Ivan Bawa you will find many hindi and western songs that he recorded and uploaded. Attempts are currently being made to reprint some of his recordings, and some video live clips will be upload to the youtube website in the near future.