Recalling the King of Ghazal
Curtains come down on an era of lyricism, melody and poetry in light Hindustani classical music with the death of ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan.
Hassan passed away in a Karachi hospital yesterday after a prolonged illness.
The soft-spoken artiste extraordinaire was the uncrowned king of music for Pakistan's movie industry and further raised the profile of the ghazal, once considered passé among elite exponents of Hindustani classical music.
Hassan gave voice to more than 20,000 songs and, apart from Urdu, also sang in Bangla, Punjabi and Pashto.
Some of his famous ghazals include “Zindagi Mein Sabhi Pyar Kiya Kartein Hain”; “Dekh Tu Dil Ki Jaan Se Uthta Hai”; “Yeh Mojeza Bhi Mohabbat Dikhaye Mujhe”; “Abke Bicchde Khwaabon Mein Miley” and “Baat Karni Mujhe Mushkil”.
His fan following had impressive names -- Lata Mangeshkar once described his voice as the “Voice of God”.
Hassan had intimate ties with Bangladesh. He had worked with Bangladeshi music directors, artistes and imparted music lessons on emerging singers who later went on to attain star status. Some of them spoke to The Daily Star on the 'King of Ghazal'.
Famed Bangladeshi music director Robin Ghosh who had worked extensively with Mehdi Hassan during the heyday of Pakistani film industry was still in a state of shock when he spoke to The Daily Star. Though last month when Ghosh visited the legendary singer at the latter's Karachi residence, Hassan seemed too frail and unable to speak. Death of a legend, no matter at what age, is always an irreparable loss.
Among Ghosh and Hassan's collaboration, the music director recalls “Do Pyase Dil” (from the film “Bandish” and “Jis Din Se Dekha Hai Tum Ko Sanam” (from “Ambar”).
Ghosh and his actress wife Shabnam were in Pakistan recently to be a part of a show organised by Pakistan Television to honour the couple for their contribution to Pakistani films. They visited Hassan during the trip.
“He just kept looking at me and Shabnam. He couldn't speak,” said Ghosh. “After he became seriously ill, he apparently used to ask for me. A journalist from the Pakistani newspaper Dawn would remind him that I had moved back to Dhaka,” he added.
What I remember most about Mehdi Hassan is that he would always insist on rehearsing. When I lived in Pakistan, almost every alternate day we would get together and talk about ghazals and music, in general.
He did playback for almost every Pakistani movie of which I directed music.
Something else I remember about him, which has nothing to do with music, is that no matter how late it'd get when we were recording, and no matter how many times we requested him to have dinner with us, he never did. He would always go back home, cook for himself and eat.
Veteran singer Bashir Ahmed termed Mehdi Hassan “inimitable”. “The way he [Hassan] would effortlessly play with the ragas during his ghazal renditions was a subtle demonstration of his mastery over classical music. Many tried to emulate his style, but no one could,” said Ahmed.
“I had attended many programmes with him in Karachi. He sang a composition by me as well,” he added.
Ahmed also recalled the 'King of Ghazal' recording Bangla songs in Dhaka. Of these, “Harano Din-er Kotha” remains much popular.
Niaz Mohammad Chowdhury
Ustad Niaz Mohammad Chowdhury who had earned much acclaim in Bangladeshi for his prowess in semi-classical music, said, “Talking about a legend like Mehdi Hassan is superciliousness to me.
“Artistes like Mehedi Hassan only come once in a lifetime. Perhaps this is why ghazal diva of the subcontinent Abida Parveen once said, 'a legend like Mehdi Hassan will never be born again.'
“This is truly the end of an era.”