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King of Ghazal Mehdi Hassan passes away

Karachi: The King of Ghazal and a former playback singer for Lollywood, Mehdi Hassan died at age of 85 in Karachi on Wednesday after protracted ailment.

Mehdi Hassan’s son Arif confirmed the news and said, “My father has been ill for the last 12 years but this year, his condition deteriorated significantly and in the last one month, he was released from hospital for just one day before being admitted again.” Aga Khan Hospital for the last one week.

Hassan, who has a huge fan following all over the world, was suffering from lung, chest and urinary tract ailments for the past many years.

He has ruled the Pakistan film industry along with Ahmed Rushdi. He was honoured with Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Pride of Performance and Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan, and Gorkha Dakshina Bahu by the Government of Nepal.

Mehdi Hassan was born on 18 July 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. Hassan started to perform at a young age and the first concert of dhrupad and kheyal with his elder brother is reported to have been held in Fazilka Bungla[1], near present DC House (1935) of Undivided Punjab. After the Partition of India, 20-year-old Hassan and his family migrated to Pakistan and suffered severe financial hardships.

To make both the 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 didn’t wither and he kept up the routine of practice on a daily basis.

The struggle ended when Mehdi Hassan was given the opportunity to sing on Radio Pakistan in 1957, 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 rendition.

He 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. He is known as the best ghazal singer of all times.

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 Dakshina Bahu Award was given to him in Nepal in 1983. Recently, he travelled to Dubai to receive yet another award.