KARACHI: The legendary Mehdi Hassan, revered as the ‘King of Ghazal’, passed away in a private hospital here on Wednesday after a protracted illness, a month short of his 85th birthday. According to his son, Asif, the late Mehdi Hassan had been suffering from multiple lung, chest and urinary tract complications.
With his passing, the sub-continent has been deprived of one of the greatest ever ghazal singers. His following stretches across the entire South Asian region and the beyond, and he has performed in India, Nepal and across the globe to packed audiences.
Mehdi Hassan had been bed-ridden since 2000 after he suffered a paralysis attack. Around 15 days ago, he was readmitted to hospital with complications. His kidneys began failing around 8am on Wednesday morning and his condition began deteriorating. By noon, he was no more.
Mehdi Hassan was born on July 18, 1927, in Rajasthan (India). He had been awarded the Pride of Performance, Tamgha-e-Imtiaz and the Hilal-e-Imtiaz for his outstanding contribution to music.
One of his Ghazals he will be most remembered for is Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s, ‘Gullon Mein Rang Bhare.’ A host of other numbers like ‘Ik Husn Ki Devi Se Mujhe Piyar Hua Tha’, and ‘Jab Koi Piyaar Se Bulaye Ga, Tum Ko Ek Shakhs Yaad Aye Ga’ are also equally memorable. He sang for over 300 films during his musical career.
His ‘Yeh Watan Hamara Hai’, rendered in the early 1970s, is even today as popular as it was almost 40 years ago not only in Pakistan but other countries as well and was sung at international moots by Pakistani delegations.
Mehdi Hassan’s burial, tentatively, is to take place on Friday (today), subject to the arrival of his three sons from the United States. According to a televisionreport, Mehdi’s relatives have sought permission for the singer to be buried in the compound of the Quaid’s Mazar. Agencies add: Hassan’s death has been widely mourned both by figures in show business and others.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani paid glowing tributes to the legendary singer and in their separate messages said that Mehdi Hassan, whose professionalism spanned an era of quality singing, would long be remembered.
The president said Mehdi Hassan was in himself an institution and would always remain a beacon for young artists to learn from his mastery of singing. The prime minister said: “Mehdi Hassan is an icon who mesmerised music lovers not only in Pakistan but also in the Subcontinent for many decades.”
In his condolence message, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar said with the death of the legendary singer, the nation has been deprived of a towering personality whose contribution towards promotion of music.
Others who expressed deep sorrow and grief over the demise of Mehdi Hassan include Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MQM chief Altaf Hussain, ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan and Provincial President Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Senate Chairman Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari and Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch, Leader of the House in the Senate Jahangir Badr and Leader of the Opposition Muhammad Ishaq Dar, National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza and Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid General Secretary Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed and former president Pervez Musharraf.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also expressed deep grief over the demise of Mehdi Hassan. He said the deceased brought the Sufi sensibilities of the Subcontinent to life through his songs. “The influence of his passion for Urdu poetry and initial grooming in the Dhrupad tradition earned for him a special place in the world of music,” said a statement issued on behalf of the Indian PM. “The prime minister extends his condolences to the bereaved members of Shri Mehdi Hassan’s family,” said the statement.
Bollywood music legend Lata Mangeshkar, who is also called ‘Nightingale of India’, and Pankaj Udhas also offered their condolences to the family of Mehdi Hassan.
Sharing fond memories about the singer, Lata said Mehdi Hassan had a unique voice. She rued the fact that she couldn’t share a stage with Mehdi Hassan. “The demise of Mehdi Hassan is a great loss to the music industry,” Lata said while talking to the media. “It’s very unfortunate that Mehdi Sahib is not with us anymore.”
Lata always had admiration for Mehdi Hassan, who too wanted to visit Mumbai or have Lata visit Pakistan to record a song together. However, things did not work out due to various reasons. They did sing a duet but the two singers had recorded their versions separately.
Singer Pankaj Udhas also spoke to a news channel about his long association with the iconic singer. “I have wonderful memories of Mehdi Sahib. It’s a huge loss to the world of Ghazals. He was one of a kind, was like an institution in himself. I’d first met him in London in 1977. Till then, he hadn’t been to India after he left the country. I’d got an opportunity to spend time with Hassan Sahib for about three weeks. He was looking forward to visit India, and then he came to the country in 1978.”
As renowned musicians, singers, intellectuals and experts in Pakistan and India mourned the death of the legendary singer across the world, famous Ghazal singer Ghulam Ali said: “I’m completely shocked to hear about his demise.”
Singer Hariharan tweeted: “Nobody can replace Mehdi Saab. He was a genius. He was a great thinker.”
Sufi legend Abida Parveen said: “It’s extremely sad news; feeling like I’ve lost my elder brother. Mehdi always remained dedicated to Ghazal singing.”
“The title, ‘King of Ghazal’ was not a title fit enough for the late Mehdi Hassan. He was worth much more than that,” said film personality Shahida Mini.
“We have grown up with his music. We have learnt a lot from his style and techniques. It is sad that he is gone. My husband and I met him when we had gone to Pakistan. I will always remember his ghazal – Ranjish Hi Sahi,” Chitra Singh said.
Many others took to Twitter to pay respect to the singer, who sang many soulful numbers. Others who paid glowing tributes to the deceased include Asha Bhosle, Adnan Sami, Gulzar, Hamid Ali Khan, Talat Aziz, Shreya Ghoshal, Anupam Kher, Gurdas Maan, Kailash Kher, Shankar Mahadevan, Madhur Bhandarkar, Kabir Bedi, Manoj Bajpayee and others.