The music industry in Pakistan was dealt a huge blow when the one and only Shahenshah of Ghazal Mehdi Hassan Khan died after prolonged illness in Karachi. Born on 18th July, 1927 in the Indian state of Rajasthan, Mehdi Hassan began his career in 1957, and was a household name even before he ventured into playback singing for films. His unique style of ghazal singing made him popular, and he continued to succeed in all forms of music.
Be it his patriotic song Yeh Watan Tumhara Hai, his ghazal Ranjish Hi Sahi from Mohabbat, his hip hop number Chalo Yunhi Roothay Raho from Shararat or Mujhe Dil Se Na Bhulana from Aaina, Mehdi Hassan added his flavour to all the numbers he sung. Whereever Urdu is understood, Mehdi Hassan was known and respected. Every musicians – from the golden era of films to TV and radio – had the honour of having his compositions rendered by the great man, who was considered the colossal of ghazal singing. From Sohail Rana, Nisar Bazmi, M. Ashraf, Kamal Ahmed to Robin Ghosh, A. Hameed, Nashad and his son Wajid Ali Nashad, Mehdi Hassan sang for all, and even won numerous awards for his filmi and non-filmi songs.
From the mid 60s to the mid 80s, Mehdi Hassan was one of the top 3 singers of the Pakistan film industry. His competition varied from Ahmed Rushdi to Masood Rana and to Ghulam Abbas in his later years but Mehdi Hassan always made the difference. Nobody else could sing Kabhi Main Sochta Hun from Aaina in a better way than Mehdi sahab, whereas his patriotic songs still evoke nationalism for the way they were rendered. Mehdi Hassan’s ghazal work is not known to the newer generation but believe me, had Allama Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Ghalib and Ahmed Faraz been alive, they would have given him a standing ovation!
Be it ghazal singers of India or Pakistan, all considered Mehdi Hassan their teacher, and tried to emulate his style of singing. Hari Haran, Roop Kumar Rathore and even Pankaj Udhas paid glowing tributes to the man who made a name for himself through his majestic voice. Lata Mangeshkar once commented that Mehdi Hassan has bhagwaan in his throat, which is no small comment coming from the Bollywood nightingale. Jagjit Singh even paid visit to Pakistan a few years back to perform in a concert benefitting the greatest ghazal singer of all time. It is sad that Mehdi Hassan decided to leave this world for the other, because his departure has made millions teary-eyed!