In this world, a small number of people do not need any introduction their work become their identity. These are chosen few who excel in their field and when the leave the leave with a huge gap behind that can never be filled. Mehdi Hassan the “Maestro of Ghazal” or “King of Ghazal” is one of them. His astonishing contributions in the field of eastern music have been an identity for him as well as Pakistan. Since he started his career, when he was given an opportunity to sing on Radio Pakistan in 1957 primarily as a thumri singer, he proved to be an exception and remain icon throughout his life.
He was a dedicated person to his work, he was hardworking even when he was a farmer in the fields and a wrestler in the desi wrestling Akharha (arenas), perhaps these two activities has been the reason of his stronghold on breath while singing. Whereas many other Ghazal Singers sing Ghalib he was the only one in sub-continent who could dare to sing the ghazals written by Mir Taqi Mir.
I was introduced with him when 14 years ago i found some audio tapes of his ghazals, while while going through my father’s collection. “Who would listen to this old fellow these days?” was my initial reaction. But when, on someone’s suggestion, I listened to his ghazals and other songs i found them compelling, and realized that what kind of ever green singer he was. Unfortunately a year after this introduction, in 1999, he took retirement from singing due to falling health. He was suffering from lung, chest and urinary tract diseases.
He spent last twelve years in pain and I hope after what happened this morning he might have got some relief from the pain. Mehdi Hassan died today, and a chapter of our music ended with his departure. Throughout his life he entertained us but we never been able to pay back the glory he deserved. He got awards at national level but awards are not enough all the times. Legends and artists are considered to be assets of nation but ironically here we do not value them. Mehdi Hassan was not just a singer, keeping his remarkable work on music aside, his contribution to the promotion of Urdu language and poetry is an achievement that must be acknowledged.
Here to pay tribute to maestro I dedicate this post to him and pray that his soul rest in peace as he spent last many years in pain. Below I am sharing some of the gems sung by Mehdi Hasan from my playlist.