Ghazal emperor departs to meet in dreams

One is not very sure how much Mehdi Hassan will be missed in Pakistan, but the vaccum which his passing away has created will be certainly felt by music lovers in the country of his birth. Khan Sahib to his admirers, Hassan, 84, passed away in a private hospital in Karachi on Wednesday after a prolonged illness. He had retired from active singing in 1999, following a lung problem.

At least two decades before the thaw in the Indo-Pak relations started to happen diplomatically, Hassan broke on the Indian music scene with Rafta rafta woh meri hasti ka saamaan ho gaye. The 1970s also witnessed the rise of the Indian duo of Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh, who worked hard to revive the dying singing form of

With passing away of the music director Madan Mohan, there were not many left in Mumbai in 1970s to promote ghazals in films. The credit for creating a space for ghazals outside Bollywood goes to Hassan, and also to Jagjit Singh, who passed away earlier this year. Both maestros, however, must have noted with satisfaction that their style of singing came to be integrated with Bollywood music.

Hassan was the pioneer among the Pakistani ghazal and sufi singers who gained both popularity and fortune in India. He preceded the likes of Ghulam Ali, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Farida Khanum and Abida Parveen among others. Hassan won over the Indian music lovers with the unforgettable rendition of
Kesariya balam mohe
. He sang this Rajasthani folk song with unparalleled command on the classical notes, bringing out his long training in Hindustani music.

Born in Rajasthan to a family of musicians, Hassan was trained initially into dhrupad, the more difficult of the Hindustani music form by his father and uncle. Post-partition he migrated to Pakistan with his family, where poverty and difficult times awaited them. It is said that a young Mehdi even worked in a bicycle shop to make ends meet but kept his riyaaz going.

He got his first break on Radio Pakistan in 1957. In 1964, he got the chance as playback singer in Lahore. However, it was in India where he found the true connoisseurs for his
. Patta, patta, boota, boota, hal hamara jane hain became a rage among the youth in the late 1970s and early 1980s. So did Ab ke hum bichhade to shaayad kabhii khwabon mein milen (If we part now, we may meet in dreams). His other ever popular ghazals were Dil-e-nadan tujhe hua kya hai and Dil ki baat labon par laakar.

Though he received several sobriquets and awards during his long career, Hassan for certain was the living ambassador of the shared culture of India and Pakistan. Khan Sahib and those who followed him would have left the music world poorer had they not ventured to sing in India, bringing with them best of the Hindustani music tradition.
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