long live the king

Legendary classical singer Mehdi Hassan

Legendary classical singer Mehdi Hassan, who captivated the hearts of millions of music fans across South Asia, died on Wednesday after a decade-long illness. He was 84.

Mehdi Hassan, known as Shahenshah-e-Ghazal, or the king of classical singing among Urdu speakers across the world, died at Agha Khan Hospital on Wednesday afternoon.His son Asif told reporters outside the hospital that his father had been suffering from multiple lung, chest and urinary tract infections. Hundreds of fans gathered at the hospital on learning of his death, while condolences poured in from across the world, including India, where the ghazal maestro had a huge fan following.

Mehdi Hassan was bestowed with several awards, including Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Presidential Pride of Performance, Hilal-e-Imtiaz and the Nigar Film and Graduate Awards from Pakistan, while India and Nepal awarded him with the Saigol Award and Gorkha Dakshina Bahu Award, respectively, in recognition of his services to music. He has left behind nine sons and five daughters.

He married twice, outliving both his wives. He will be buried in Karachi on Friday.He was born in Rajhistan, India and migrated to Pakistan during the partition. Hassan struggled for a long time to establish himself as a singer, which included a one-off performance on Radio Pakistan in 1957. The year 1959 was his breakthrough year when he was introduced to a group of people at the Art Council in Lahore by legendary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

And then, no musical score was complete without Mehdi Hassan’s enchanting vibratos.“His voice added so many colors to ghazal that at one of the concerts, Faiz [Ahmed Faiz] sahab stood up and raised his hands in the air and said that this ghazal belonged to Mehdi Hassan, that he had nothing to do with it.

Such was the impact of the man’s singing,” said Sufi singer Abida Parveen. Poet Nida Fazli, a close friend of Hassan who penned most of late Jagjit Singh’s ghazals, said Mehdi Hassan had been an institution for those in India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani described Mehdi Hassan as “an icon who mesmerised music lovers not only in Pakistan but in the entire subcontinent”. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he had “brought the sub-continental Sufi sensibilities to life through his songs”.Iconic Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar also tweeted about King of Ghazal Mehdi Hasan’s passing away. She said she had been “deeply grieved because today, Mehdi Hassan, a very big Ghazal Singer, is no longer with us. He brought a major transformation in Ghazal singing” and it was highly unlikely that such a singer would be born again.

“He was a great classical singer as well and his singing had a fragrance of Rajasthan’s music. I pray to Ishwar to rest Mehdi Hassan’s soul in peace,” she added.Famous ghazal singer Ghulam Ali said: “I m completely shocked to hear about his demise.”He said it was as if he had lost his elder brother.Indian singer Hariharan tweeted: “Nobody can replace Mehdi Saab. He was a genius. He was a great thinker”.Condolences also poured in from former president Pervez Musharraf PTI chief Imran Khan and Indian singer Pankaj Udhas among several others. – PT