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Legend lost: Mehdi Hassan

Legend lost: Mehdi Hassan

Teri mehfil main hum na hon gay – an enduring melody that stirs the soul with its depth of prophetic meaning. Legends are born, creating a lasting impression on the world and their departure leaves a void rarely filled by another. Mehdi Hassan was one such legend, a Kalawant whose musical pieces are nothing less than intricate works of art.

Darbari Gawayya in a village of Rajasthan India, Mehdi Hassan belonged to a family of musicians and singing was a heredity trait. He was from among the 16thgeneration of singers of the Kalawant clan – Kala meaning art and Kalawanttranslates to artist. His musical training started at the age of 8 by his father Ustad Azeem Khan and Uncle Ustad Ismail Khan. Despite his unparalleled talent, Mehdi Hassan did not become a musical legend over night – his life history is wrought with humble beginnings and a life of financial hardships.

Working in a bicycle shop in Chichawatni after the partition, and later mastering car and tractor mechanics, the financial constraints, long hours and engine grease did not fade his passion for singing – it continued to bloom urging him to practice each day to maintain the soulful quality that is the inherent trait of his music.

His musical break came in 1957 when he was given the opportunity to sing on Radio Pakistan in Karachi. With a fondness for Urdu poetry, from there onward he ventured into Ghazal singing and defined a niche and set a standard that remains unmatched by any other Ghazal singer in the subcontinent. In 1962 his composition, Jis nay meray dil ko dard diya, became the first super-hit of his career and his fame spread throughout the region. Inspired by his mesmerising voice, Lata Mangeshkar claimed, “Bhagwan talks in his throat”. Tera Milana, a duet sang by the two musical legends, Mehdi Hassan and Lata Mangeshkar is a timeless piece of music that merged talent from across the border. Former Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpaee, admitted great respect and esteem for Mehdi Hassan, bearing testament to the fact that not only Pakistan, but India was privy to and inspired by his musical talent.

In the late 1980’s ailing health prevented Mehdi Hassan from continuing playback singing and a few years later he retired completely from singing. On 13th July 2012 he was laid to rest after a protracted lung disease. Mehdi Hassan may have departed, but his music remains a national treasure that deserves to receive the greatest acclaim.

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