Mehdi Hassan: Pride of Pakistan, ghazal king of India
General Ayub Khan honoured him with the Tamgha-I-Imtiaz, General Zia-ul-Haq with the Pride of Performance and General Pervez Musharraf with the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, but Mehdi Haasan was not just a ‘shahenshah’ in his country.music Updated: Jun 13, 2012 21:23 IST
General Ayub Khan honoured him with the Tamgha-I-Imtiaz, General Zia-ul-Haq with the Pride of Performance and General Pervez Musharraf with the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, but Mehdi Haasan was not just a ‘shahenshah’ in his country. As singer-composer Lalit Pandit says, “He was Pakistan’s biggest contribution to the world of music for his soulful renditions, perfect pronunciation, ‘hatke harkats’ in his ‘gaayki’ and impressive personality. Like Lataji (Mangeshkar) is to female singers, Mehdi saab was a role model to male singers.”
Lalit, born into the Mewati gharana of Jodhpur, is the son classical exponent Pandit Pratap Narayan and the nephew of Pandit Jasraj. “I met him several times and once he performed all night at our Ganpati baithak. In 2004, my brother Jatin and I were at the press conference in Pakistan he addressed after almost a year,” says Lalit.
VIDEO: Mehdi Hassan passes away
Hassan was born in the village of Luna in Rajasthan into the Kalawant clan. He learnt music from his father Ustad Azeem Khan and uncle Ustad Ismail Khan, traditional Dhrupad singers. Post Partition, he migrated to Pakistan where after working in a bicycle shop and as a car and tractor mechanic, he moved from ‘thumri’ to more commercial ghazals to support his family. “Even after he came to be known as ‘ghazal king’, he continued to have a high regard for classical musicians and loved Rajasthan,” says Lalit.
Sukhwinder Singh was with him yesterday and they discussed him coming to India for treatment. “Today, he’s gone and will always be missed,” sighs the singer-composer. “He gave ghazals its soul while Jagjit Singhji made the genre more approachable to the comman man. With both gone, Ghulam Aliji will have to carry the burden alone unless another Madan Mohan is born.”
Singer-composer Nikhil Kamat who grew up listening to Hassan’s records in the college library insists that the void can’t be filled: “Who can sing ‘Ranjish hi sahi…’ like him. I have tunes in my music bank composed for him that will now remain unsung.”