Doyen of modern ghazal Mehdi Hassan no more
DOHA THE father of modern ghazal singing is gone leaving behind a vacuum. Ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan, who hailed from Pakistan but was loved equally in India, pioneered modern ghazal singing.
He gave the art its unique modern identity by breaking away from the tradition of thumri style of ghazal singing practiced by thumri exponents like Barkat Ali Khan or Noor Jehan in Pakistan and KL Saigal and Begum Akhtar in India. He was perhaps, the first to realise the importance of poetry in ghazal. Thus, he stressed correct pronunciation of words in ghazal singing and wedded lyrics to appropriate music.
It will be wrong to say, however, that Mehdi Hassan broke away from the tradition of Classical music and made it a lighter genre.
In fact, he based his songs on ragas and did a lot of improvisations with the notes. His improvisations in Raga Yaman-based Ranjish hi sahi or in Mohabbat karne wale kum na honge speak volumes of his rare command over classical singing. His song Paniya bhare re is a typical ghazal in thumri style. Moreover, the sombre note on which he sings, reminds us of his Dhrupad lineage.
Nonetheless, there is no doubt that by attaching equal importance to lyrics and music of his compositions and emphasising correct pronunciations, Mehdi Hassan took ghazal singing to the masses.
Besides, of the three later ghazal maestros – Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali in Pakistan and late Jagjit Singh in India – Mehdi Hassan was undoubtedly the best composer who gave some of the most memorable ghazals to music lovers. His rendition of ghazals like Phool hi phool khil uthe tere paimane mein, Gulon mein rang bhare and Nawak andaz jidhar deeda ye jaana honge remain as fresh today as when they were first composed by him.
His excellence also lay in the choice of fresh tunes. His rich sensibility never allowed him to get typecast in his selection of tunes. Rather, he chose appropriate music for carefully picked lyrics. The freshness of his ghazals, both in terms of music and lyrics, lent them a unique appeal.
The husky streak in his voice, gave his compositions a unique urgency and intensity perfectly suited to the lyrics.
His deep, husky voice accompanied by a rugged style of singing probably sprang from his rich experience as an individual.
Though he won accolades for his inimitable style all over the world and was honoured with several awards both in India and Pakistan, Mehdi Hassan struggled hard in early stages of his life and started his career as an auto mechanic.
However, after getting his first break in Radio Pakistan in 1957, there was no looking back for him. He has sung with many legends and his last album ‘Tera Milna’ was with famous Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar.