The voice behind soul-stirring ghazals like, 'Patta Patta Boota Boota' and 'Ab ke bichhde', belongs to the legendary singer, Mehdi Hassan who played an instrumental role in making the ghazal genre popular amongst the ardent classic music followers and common people alike.
All you need to enjoy Hassan's miraculous singing is a pure heart and love for music, and be rest assured, that all your heartaches will be cured, your frayed nerves will be calmed and your tired mind will magically, rejoice!
Honored with the title, Khan Sahib and also known as, “Shahenshah-e-Ghazal” (English: King of Ghazals), Mehdi Hassan was a world renowned ghazal singer and a former playback singer for Pakistani Films.
Born in the village known as Luna in Rajasthan, India in 1927, Hassan's family consisted of rich traditional musicians, and he himself belonged to the 16th generation of hereditary musicians. Hailing from Kalawant family, (kala-art, want-teacher), he was from a family of teachers who taught Kings and Royal families the art of music. Mehdi Hassan received his musical training and grooming under his father, Ustad Azeem Khan and his uncle Ustad Ismail Khan who were classical musicians, well-versed in Dhrupad and Khayal singing. They instructed him in classical music and voice rendition within the framework of classical forms of Thumri, Dhrupad, Khayal and Dadra, from the young age of eight.
Partition and the change in Hassan's Destiny:
After the Partition of India, 20 year-old Mehdi Hassan and his family migrated to Pakistan and suffered severe financial hardships. To make ends meet, Mehdi Hassan began working in a bicycle shop and later became a car and diesel tractor mechanic. Despite the hardships, his passion for music didn’t wither and he kept up the routine of practice (Riyaaz) on a daily basis.
The struggle ended when Mehdi Hassan was given the opportunity to sing on Radio Pakistan in 1952, primarily as a Thumri singer, which earned him recognition within the musical fraternity. At the time, Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, Begum Akhtar and Mukhtar Begum were considered the stalwarts of Ghazal Gayaki (genre).
Mehdi Hassan also had a passion for Urdu poetry and began to experiment by singing ghazals. He cites Z.A. Bukhari and Rafiq Anwar, renowned broadcasters and producers of radio Pakistan as additional influences in his progression as a ghazal singer. They gave him ample opportunities to display his mastery over the ghazal on radio. He sang ghazals of all the renowned Urdu poets and his innovative style was soon appreciated by both masses and discerning audiences.
Mehdi Hassan’s voice and unique performance skills in ghazal singing were unmatched in the world of South Asian music. The 60s and 70s can be named Mehdi Hassan’s decades, as there was hardly any hero in the Pakistani musical scene on whom Mehdi Hassan’s songs were not filmed.
He was universally acclaimed as the finest ghazal singer of his time, perhaps of all times. His unsurpassable vocal range and his mastery over even the most difficult of raags made him the undisputed emperor of ghazals. His popularity amongst the masses, appreciation by the masses, and continued success over five decades makes him at par with Noor Jehan and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in the league of the greatest Pakistani singers of all time. The ultimate tribute to his greatness was from the eternal nightingale, Lata Mangeshkar, who compared his songs to ” Voice of God ” . Talat Aziz as well as Indian ghazal singer Jagjit Singh are amongst his famous disciples.
Following a severe illness in the late 80s, Mehdi Hassan stepped down from playback singing. Later due to severity of his illness he completely departed from music. In his last days, he was reportedly living a secluded life in Karachi. Nevertheless he often visited Lahore where he spends most of his time with his children and other family members.
The greatest ghazal singer breathed his last at a Karachi hospital on June 13, 2012.
According to reports, Mehdi Hassan's last wish was to see India and Pakistan united during his last visit to the 12 century shrine of Khawaja Gharib Nawaz at Ajmer.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions:
- Tamgha-i-Imtiaz granted to him by Gen Ayub Khan;
- The Pride of Performance bestowed on him by Gen Ziaul Haq;
- The Hilal-i-Imtiaz conferred by Gen Pervez Musharraf.
- Besides the Nigar Film and Graduate Awards from Pakistan, he was presented the Saigal Award in Julandhar, India, in 1979, whereas the Gorkha Dakshan Bahu Award was given to him in Nepal in 1983. Recently, he travelled to Dubai to receive yet another award.
Mehdi Hassan in a live concert singing- Ranjish hi sahi. Enjoy!