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Mehdi Hassan
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Mehdi Hassan,
A sublime voice
Saqib Razaq

Renowned ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan has recently been suffering from ill health caused by a paralytic stroke. Fortunately he is on the road to recovery and hopes to resume his singing career. Saqib Razaq looks back at an eventful career of the artiste who single handedly revolutionized ghazal gayaki.

It is widely considered that the era of the 1950s and 60s was the golden age of radio broadcasting in the Indian sub-continent. It was during this period that a rich and mellifluous voice captured the hearts of all the listeners through broadcasts on Radio Pakistan. The melodic renditions of classical ghazals in a cultivated and cultured manner were its attributes and created a storm amongst the masses, musical connoisseurs and erudite musicians. Almost half a century has gone by and yet it still never fails to captivate. The voice is indeed that of Mehdi Hassan, the unparalleled master of ghazal.

The evolution of the ghazal is a momentous one. Initially written in Persian, it can trace its origins in India during the advent of the Muslim rule in India during the 12th century. Hazrat Amir Khusrau (1253-1324), the eminent poet, scholar, statesman and musicologist is credited with many masterpieces of Persian poetry and can be termed as a major propagator of the ghazal. The pinnacle of the ghazal can be said to have been between the 18th and 19th centuries when Urdu became the preferred language of poetry and culture throughout India, poets such as Sauda, Mir Taqi Mir, Zauq, and Mirza Ghalib penned ghazals which are considered as hallmarks of Urdu poetry. Gradually, during the course of time, ghazals started to be expressed through melody and musicians started to use them as part of their repertoire. Ustad Mauzuddin Khan and Gauhar Jan were the early pioneers who built a reputation in the field and set the initial groundwork. Later, vocalists of the calibre of Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, Mukhtar Begum and Begum Akhtar established themselves as major exponents of ghazal gayaki. However, Mehdi Hassan has added a further dimension to this art form.

Mehdi Hassan was born in 1927 in a village called Luna in Rajasthan, India into a family of traditional musicians. He claims to be the 16th generation of hereditary musicians hailing from the Kalawant clan of musicians. Mehdi Hassan had his musical grooming from his father Ustad Azeem Khan and uncle Ustad Ismail Khan who were both traditional Dhrupad singers. The life story of Mehdi Hassan is a journey of trials and tribulations. After partition the family migrated to Pakistan and suffered severe financial hardships.

Mehdi Hassan during his youth :
To make ends meet Mehdi started working in a bicycle shop and later became a car and diesel tractor mechanic. Despite the hardships, his passion for music didnt wither and he kept up the routine of practice on a daily basis. His struggle ended when he was given the opportunity to sing on radio in 1952, primarily as a thumri singer, this got him recognition within the musical fraternity. At that time, Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, Begum Akhtar and Mukhtar Begum were considered the stalwarts of ghazal gayaki, Mehdi Hassan also had a passion for Urdu poetry and started to experiment by singing ghazals on a part time basis. He cites radio officers Z.A. Bukhari and Rafiq Anwar as additional influences in his progression as a ghazal singer. They gave him ample opportunities to display his mastery over the ghazal on radio. He sang ghazals of all the renowned Urdu poets and soon his innovative style was soon appreciated by both the masses and discerning audiences.

The most important aspect of the ghazal is its theme, themes of most ghazals revolve around unrequited love. They can also be about mysticism, rebellion, yearning and pathos. It is vital that the ghazal singer has a clear perception of what message the poet is trying to convey. The musician faces a further challenge in trying to emphasize the correct emotion of the ghazal through music. Traditionally, ghazals were sung in a thumri like manner and were also composed in raags which were best suited for thumri such as bhairvin, khamaj, tilak kamod, desh and piloo. This somewhat constrained the ghazal composition within a small framework and there wasnt much room to experiment. However Mehdi Hassan pioneered ghazal gayaki by capturing the mood of the ghazal through his compositions. He is a master composer and uses raags which best suit the ghazal’s appeal regardless of whether the raag is khayal or thumri orientated. Most of his compositions are based around the correct structure of a raag and keep the vaadi and samvaadi of the raag into strict consideration.

Baat Karni mujhay mushkil: Raag Pahadi

Poet: Bahadur Shah Zafar Composition: Mehdi Hassan

Gulon mein rang bharay: Raag Jhinjhoti

Lyrics: Faiz Ahmed Faiz Composition: Mehdi Hassan

Shola tha jal boojha hun Raag Kirwani

Lyrics: Ahmed Fraz Composition: Mehdi Hassan

Mehdi Hassan's gayaki incorporates the subtle elements of both Dhrupad and Khayal. He carefully embellishes ghazals by using behlawas, murkhis, taans and zamzamas. Further grace is given by touches of Rajasthani folk singing. Another important feature of his style is the importance of correct pronunciation, delivery of words are of utmost importance and he never compromises the true expression of a word regardless of the constraints put forward by the musical composition. The mutual bond between melody and the lyrical content is responsible for making the art of Mehdi Hassan so appealing. In addition he has raised the profile of ghazal gayaki which was previously considered a taboo amongst classical exponents and reformed it into a major melodic genre which sits on an equal footing with thumri, dadra, kajri and tappa. His influence was such that some leading classical vocalists of that era took to ghazal singing.

Mehdi Hassan's popularity resulted in his becoming one of the most popular playback singers of the Pakistani film industry from the early 1960s to the late 1980s. Many of his film based ghazals have become classics.

Zindagi mein to sabhi pyar kiya kartay hain

Lyrics: Qateel Shifai Music: Nashad (1971)

Ranjish hi sahi

Lyrics: Ahmed Faraz Music: Nisar Bazmi (1971)

One also has to give credit to music directors associated with radio Pakistan and the Pakistan film industry who composed many beautiful melodies for Mehdi Hassan to adorn. Composers such as Ustad Niaz Hussain Shami, Pandit Ghulam Qadir (Mehdi Hassan's brother), Master Inayat Hussain, Khawaja Khurshid Anwar, Rashid Atray, Nisar Bazmi and Mohsin Raza are additional contributories to Mehdi Hassan's success.

The government of Pakistan has awarded Mehdi Hassan the pride of performance as a recognition to his services rendered to music, and he was also recently awarded a life achievement award by Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation. As with a stature of a person like Mehdi Hassan, he has released many recordings, toured worldwide on an extensive basis and performed in the renowned concert halls around the world. He recently took part in the 50th anniversary of Rajasthan celebrations in India in which the leading artistes of Rajasthani origin participated. He currently devotes most of his time with his family in between Pakistan and the USA.

Mehdi Hassan being presented with the lifetime achievement award by PTV

Despite advancing age, Mehdi Hassan still reigns as the undisputed master of the ghazal. He has left such an indelible mark in the field of ghazal gayaki that almost all the ghazal singers of today are influenced by him. Mehdi Hassan has also been instrumental in training the next generation of ghazal singers. His sons Asif and Kamran are following in their father's footsteps and trying to carve a career as ghazal singers, other prominent disciples are Parvez Mehdi, Ghulam Abbas, Salamat Ali, Asif Javed and Talat Aziz.

History :
Mehdi Hassan was born in the village of Luna in Rajasthan, India in 1927 into a family of rich traditional musicians. He claims to be the 16th generation of hereditary musicians hailing from the Kalawant. Kala means "Art" and Want means "teacher" so he is from family of teacher who taught Kings and Royal families the art of music. Mehdi Hassan received his musical training and grooming under his father, Ustad Azeem Khan and his uncle Ustad Ismail Khan who were classical musicians, well-versed in dhrupad singing. They instructed him in classical music and voice production within the framework of classical forms of thumri, dhrupad, khayal and dadra, from the young age of eight. After the Partition of India, 20 year-old Mehdi Hassan and his family migrated to Pakistan and suffered severe financial hardships. To make ends meet, Mehdi Hassan began working in a bicycle shop and later became a car and diesel tractor mechanic. Despite the hardships, his passion for music didn't wither and he kept up the routine of practice on a daily basis.

Career :
The struggle ended when Mehdi Hassan was given the opportunity to sing on Radio Pakistan in 1952, primarily as a thumri singer, which earned him recognition within the musical fraternity. At the time, Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, Begum Akhtar and Mukhtar Begum were considered the stalwarts of ghazal gayaki.

Mehdi Hassan also had a passion for Urdu poetry and began to experiment by singing ghazals on a part-time basis. He cites radio officers, Z.A. Bukhari and Rafiq Anwar as additional influences in his progression as a ghazal singer. They gave him ample opportunities to display his mastery over the ghazal on radio. He sang ghazals of all the renowned Urdu poets and his innovative style was soon appreciated by both masses and discerning audiences.

Mehdi Hassan's voice and unique performance skills in ghazal singing were unmatched in the world of South Asian music. The 60s and 70s can be named Mehdi Hassan's decades, as there was hardly any hero in the Pakistani musical scene on whom Mehdi Hassan’s songs were not filmed.

King of Ghazals :
He is universally acclaimed as the finest ghazal singer of his time, perhaps of all time. His unsurpassable vocal range and his mastery over even the most difficult of raags makes him the undisputed emperor of ghazals. His popularity amongst the masses, appreciation by the masses, and continued success over five decades makes him on par with Noor Jehan and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in the league of the greatest Pakistani singers of all time. The ultimate tribute to his greatness was from the eternal nightingale, Lata Mangeshkar, who compared his songs to " voice of god " . Talat Aziz is one of his famous disciples. [1]

Stepping Down :
Following a severe illness in the late 80s, Mehdi Hassan stepped down from playback singing. Later due to severity of his illness he completely departed from music. He now lives a secluded life in Karachi which he has made his permanent residence. Nevertheless he often visits Lahore where he spends most of his time with his children and other family members.

Trivia :
While he was singing in the Court of Nepal's King Shah Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, he forgot the lines of his song "Zindagi mein to sabhii pyar kya kerte hain". Shah, then stood from his seat and start singing the next line. This was really a great tribute to him.

Awards :
He has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions: the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz granted to him by Gen Ayub Khan; the Pride of Performance bestowed on him by Gen Ziaul Haq; and the Hilal-i-Imtiaz conferred by Gen Pervez Musharraf. Besides the Nigar Film and Graduate Awards from Pakistan, he was presented the Saigal Award in Jalandhar, India, in 1979, whereas the Gorkha Dakshan Bahu Award was given to him in Nepal in 1983. Recently, he travelled to Dubai to receive yet another award.

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Discography

* Kehna Usey
* Nazrana
* Live at Royal Albert Hall
* Andaz-e- Mastana
* Classical Ghazals vol. 1, 2, 3
* Dil Jo Rota Hai
* Ghalib Ghazals
* Ghazals For Ever Vol 1
* Golden Collection Of Mehdi Hasan Vol 1, 2
* Golden Greats
* In Concert
* Khuli Jo Aankh
* Life Story
* Live at Khambays
* Live Concert in India
* Mehdi Hassan
* Mehdi Hassan Ghazals Vol 1
* Sada E Ishq
* Sarhadein
* Sur Ki Koi Seema Nahin
* The Finest Ghazals
* The Legend
* Yaadgar Ghazalen Vol 1

Liverpool, UK

Ghazals

* Aage barhe na qissa -e -ishq -e- butaan se hum
* Aaj Tak Yaad Hai Woh Piar Ka Manzar
* Aankhon Se Mili Aankhen
* Aap Ki Aankhon Ne
* Aaye Kuchh Abr Kuchh Sharaab Aaye
* Ab Ke Hum Bichde To Shaayad Kabhi Khwaabon Mein Mile
* Ae Raushnion Ke Shahr
* Apnon Ne Gham Diye To Yaad Aa Gaya
* Bhuuli bisri chand umeedein
* Chalte ho to chaman ko chaliye
* Dekh to dil keh jaan se uthta hai
* Dil-E-Nadan Tujhe Hua Kya Hai
* Dil Ki Baat Labon Par Laakar
* Dil Men Toofan Chupae Betha Hon
* Duniya Kisi Ke Pyaar Mein Jaanat Se Kam Nahin
* Dayam Pada Hua Tere Dar Pe Nahi Hoon Main
* Ek Bar Chale Aao
* Fikr Hii Thaharii To Dil Ko Fikr-E-Khubaa.N Kyo.N Na Ho
* Ga Mere Dewane Dil
* Garmii-E-Hasarat-E-Naakaam Se Jal Jaate Hai.N
* Gulo.N Me.N Rang Bhare, Baad-E-Naubahaar Chale
* Gulshan gulshan shola e gul ki
* Guncha-e-Shauq Laga hei Khilne
* Hamari Sanson Men Aaj Tak
* Har Dard Ko
* Ik Husn Ki Dewi Se Mujhe Pyaar Hua Thaa
* Jab Bhi Aati Hei Teri Yaad Kabhi Shaam ke Baad
* Jab Bhi Chahen Ek Nai Sorat
* Jab Bhi Pee Kar
* Jab Koi Piar Se Bulaae Ga
* Jahan Jake Chain
* Kahan Gai Woh Wafa
* Kiya Hei Pyaar Jisse Humne Zindagi ki Tarah
* Kya Bhala Mujhko Parakhne Ka Nateeja Nikla
* Kyoon Humse Khafa Ho Gaye Ae Jaan-E-Tamanna
* Main Hosh Mein Tha
* Mohabat Karne Wale
* Mohabat Zindagi Hai Aur Tum Meri Mohabat Ho
* Mujhe Tum Nazar Se Gira To Rahe Ho
* Naavak andaz jidhar diida-e-jaana honge
* Phuul hi phuul khil utthe
* Pyaar Bhare Do Sharmile Nain
* Rafta Rafta Wo Meri Hasti Ka Saamaan Ho Gaye
* Ranjish Hi Sahi Dil Hi Dukhaane Ke Liye Aa
* Rim Jhim Ki Barsaat Hai Aur Jaage Huye Jazbaat Hain
* Saamne Aa Ke Tujhko Pukara Nahin
* Sahar Ho Rahi Hai
* Shikwa Na Kar Gila Na Kar Ye Duniya Hai Pyaare
* Tark-e-Ulfat Ka Sila
* Tere Bheege Badan Ki Khooshboo Se
* Tere Mere Piar Ka Aisa Nata Hai
* Thah ar Thorri Der To
* Tu Meri Zindagi Hei (Copied by Nadeem Sharavan in "Ashiqi" Hindi Movie India)
* Usne Jab Meri Taraf
* Uzr Aane Mein Bhi Hei Aur Bulaate bhi nahin
* Wo Dil Nawaaj Hei Lekin Nazar Shinaas Nahin
* Yaaro Kisii Qaatil Se Kabhii Pyaar Na Maa.Ngo
* Ye Dhooan Kahan Se Uthta Hei
* Ye Kaghzi Phool Jaise Chahre
* Ye Mojazaa Bhii Muhabbat Kabhii Dikhaaye Mujhe
* Ye Tera Naazuk Badan Hai Ya Koi Mehka Gulaab
* Yoon Zindagi Ki Raah Mein Takra Gaya Koi
* Zindagi Mein To Sabhi Pyaar Kiya Karte Hain
* Zulf Ko Teri Ghataon Ka Payam Aaya Hai

All contents are provided by Muzik Info Inc.