Mehdi Hassan—The Emperor Of Ghazals Passes Away!
He had always been regarded as the most original Ghazal singer. He came into fame in 1957 in Pakistan and dominated the sixties and the seventies with a career ranging five decades. Bad health started plaguing him from the eighties when the masses, particularly in India, started listening to Ghazals and began to admire and love those thanks mainly to the friendlier and popular compositions of Ghulam Ali and Jagjit Singh. But even now, whenever we talk of Ghazal artistes we are told to go back to Mehdi Hassan to relish the essence of pure Ghazals.
Mehdi Hassan was born into a family of musicians in the Indian state of Rajasthan in 1927. Though his ancestors had been traditional singers of Dhrupad and though he had a burning passion for music Mehdi Hassan had the hardest time coming to music. Financially in trouble his family shifted to Pakistan during the Partition in 1947 and there in Pakistan Mehdi worked in a bicycle shop finally becoming a mechanic to help his family.
But Mehdi never gave up on music. Finally, he got a chance to sing a thumri in Radio Pakistan in 1957 and there was no looking back since then. Perceiving his immense talent his mentors encouraged him to sing Ghazals and over time he established his style of Ghazal singing firmly in Pakistan with his soulful voice, pure Urdu lyrics and effortless control over the ragas and gradually his fame spread to different parts of the world. He also did quite a few numbers for the Urdu film industry in Pakistan.
Mehdi Hassan always yearned to visit India—his home country. His dream was fulfilled only in 1978 when he performed in India. But his visits had not been frequent due to his bad health. His last performance in India was in 2000. He wanted to come back in 2008, but the Mumbai terror attack prevented that. Lately he desperately needed to be in India to meet Lata Mangeshkar and Amitabh Bachchan, but his deteriorating health never allowed him to do so.Continued on the next page