KARACHI: Legendary Ghazal singer Mehdi Hassan died Wednesday at a private hospital here. He was 84.
Hassan, who had millions of fans in India and Pakistan, had been admitted to the Agha Khan Hospital some days ago. He had been in a serious condition and was on ventilator.
"My father passed away at 12:22 PM after a long battle against different ailments," his son Arif Hassan said.
Hundreds of fans gathered at the hospital on learning of his death. The Ghazal King was suffering from lung, chest and urinary tract ailments for the past many years. 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. After the Partition of India, 20-year-old Hassan and his family migrated to Pakistan.
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.
Hassan, who has a huge following in the subcontinent, cut back on his performances in the late 80s due to illness. Considered one of the most successful ghazal singers of Pakistan, Mehdi Hasasn was trained in classical music by his father Ustad Azeem Khan and his uncle Ustad Ismail Khan who were both well respected classical musicians.
Hassan tried different styles of music and there was a time in Pakistan's film industry known as Lollywood when a production was considered incomplete without his voice.
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 traveled to Dubai to receive yet another award.
Hassan leaves behind his nine sons and five daughters. He married twice. Both his wives are dead.