H, leaving music lovers in both India and Pakistan with a deep sense of loss of a shared heritage. He was 84.
Singer Lata Mangeshkar had described his richly-textured voice loaded with meaning and melody as "the voice of god." On Wednesday, a tweet said, "It seems gods have taken a sudden liking to ghazals." Coming after Jagjit Singh's death last year, it wasn't surprising that Hassan's demise had triggered the thought.
"It's a setback to ghazal gayiki (singing). He was a school of singing. Just like Dilip-Raj-Dev influenced a generation of actors, similarly Mehdi Hassan's style influenced most ghazal singers," says Urdu poet Nida Fazli. "Hassan globalised ghazal. He used verses written by poets from both sides of the border. He even brought out an album of ghazals written by Ganesh Bihari "Tarz" from Uttar Pradesh."
Bhimsen Joshi was a great admirer of the ghazal maestro. The feeling was mutual. Once when Joshi arrived at a Hassan concert in Pune, the latter got off the stage and warmly embraced him. Hassan then proceeded to sing one of Joshi's favourites, "Zindagi mein to sabhi pyaar kiya karte hain." Born in 1927, Mehdi Hassan belonged to Luna village in Rajasthan's Jhunjhunu district. It is said his ancestors were once court singers of Amer who later migrated to the Shekhawati region. Later they started performing in the courts of the Mandwa nobles. The family migrated to Pakistan during Partition. It is said he also worked in a bicycle shop and as a car mechanic in his youth. Accounts differ as to who really groomed Hassan into a refined singer - his father Azim Khan or uncle Ismail Khan, the latter a student from Bhatkhande College, Lucknow. Hassan mastered a wide range of vocal styles: dhrupad, khayal, thumri and dadra. He started out as a classical singer on Radio Pakistan in Karachi but soon switched to ghazals.
Singer Bhupinder remembers Hassan not only as a great singer of ghazals but also of Pakistani film songs. "His rendition was refined, the style soulful, and his diction immaculate. Unki aawaz mein taiyaari (mature) bhi thi aur thahrav (stillness) bhi ," he says.Hassan valued the praise he received from Indians. He once said, "Jo haq Pakistanion ko meri ghazlon pe hai, wohi Hindustaniyon ko bhi hai. Unhone mujhe kum pyaar nahi diya."In 2001, Hassan suffered a paralytic stroke. When Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee wrote him a letter praying for his speedy recovery, he expressed his desire to visit his ancestral village. More recently, he had planned to meet Lata Mangeshkar, Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan - a desire that remained unfulfiled. In the last few years, a lung infection had robbed him of his voice. Fazli says, "I saw him at Karachi last year where I had gone to attend a mushaira. He couldn't speak or walk. He silently watched the programme." Hassan married twice and is survived by 14 children: nine sons and five daughters.
SUPER SIX GHAZALS
1. Ranjish hi sahi (Poet, Ahmed Faraz)
2. Patta patta boota boota (Mir Taqi Mir)
3. Zindagi mein to sabhi (Qateel Shifai)
4. Gulon mein rang bhare (Faiz Ahmed Faiz)
5. Dekhto dil ke jaan se uthta hai (Mir Taqi Mir)
6. Abke hum bichhde to khwabon mein mile (Ahmed Faraz)