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Mehdi Hasan

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Mehdi Hasan: A bridge over the troubled divide

My tribute to Mehdi Hasan published here

He was the musical Midas who transcended borders with the same mastery that he transcended genres

Mehdi Hassan is gone. His devastated fans across the globe will mourn the loss of a voice that ruled their hearts for nearly half a century, a voice in which Lata Mangeshkar said she had found bhagwan.

Mehdi Hassan was born in a family of musicians in the town of Luna of district JhunJhunu in Rajasthan around 1927. Rajasthan is famous for its haunting melodies and the expanse of the desert, which celebrates man’s primal relationship with nature. Reshma is also from this region. Hassan’s father Ustad Azeem Khan and Uncle Ustad Ismail Khan were well known classical musicians and it is said that Mehdi Hassan’s first ever concert was at the Maharaja of Baroda’s darbar when he was just eight years old.

With Partition in 1947 this gharana moved to Pakistani Punjab. A young Mehdi Hassan took up the job of an automobile mechanic, something that he was supposed to have been quite adept at. But within a few years, it was his musical talent to which people began paying attention, and by 1952 he was singing at Radio Pakistan.

Mehdi Hassan remained a prized treasure of Radio Pakistan for nearly half a century. I remember growing up listening to his film songs, ghazals and thumris on radio. The launch of television in the 1960s provided an additional platform to Hassan and some of his memorable performances are from those black and white days of television programming.

Hassan proved to be a musical Midas. Whatever he touched turned to gold — from the poetry of famous Urdu poets to romantic film numbers. […]

July 22nd, 2012|Arts & Culture, Music, Published in The Hindu|5 Comments

Mehdi Hasan: King of kings

mehdi hasanMehdi Hasan died today. There are no words to capture his influence on my generation and the ones before me. I am posting a shorter version of my essay which was published in a volume “Mehdi Hasan: The Man and His Music” (2010, Liberty Books). RIP Khan Saheb. The kesari balam has finally left for his new home..

From Khyber to Dhaka and from Skardu to Deccan wafts a lilting and profound voice that binds discerning lovers of music. The highly trained vocals are none other than Mehdi Hasan’s, which leave music buffs like this writer wondering how Mian Tansen may have sung Raga Darbari, his own innovation, with full-throated ease and with what degree of perfection in Emperor Akbar’s court, be it in Agra, Lahore or Fatehpur Sikri. Listening to Mehdi Hasan’s flawless exposition of what is often referred to as the most royal of the ragas on which is based his composition of Perveen Shakir’s ghazal Ku baku phael gayi, one feels privileged to be living in the melodious age of Mehdi Hasan. But it is not merely Darbari that he excels in; name any other raga that he has garbed his ghazal in and you will not miss his flair for classical music.

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On ‘The Melodious Age of Mehdi Hasan’

A book review published in DAWN mentions my piece on Mehdi Hasan:

… Raza Rumi’s piece ‘The Melodious Age of Mehdi Hasan’ discusses in reasonable detail the socio-cultural impact that Khan Sahib has had on Pakistani society.

Beginning from his birth (in the town of Luna in district Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan in 1927) he touches upon the early struggling phase of his life and then, in lyrical prose, talks about the society that he is a part of and how music in particular and the arts in general are looked upon.

He writes, ‘Our greatest artists, singers, poets and intellectuals have suffered at the hands of a conformist society and state captured by puritans especially since the late ’70s.

It is never too late for the intelligentsia of this country to mobilise public pressure on the state machinery so that it learns to respect cultural diversity and the imperative to nurture a creative, healthy and civilised society.’

Showering compliments on Khan Sahib, Raza Rumi rounds off his article by claiming, ‘Miyan Tansen must be proud of his new age prodigy.’
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October 18th, 2010|Arts & Culture, books, Culture|5 Comments

Mehdi Hasan: The Man & His Music

But this has been our tragic tradition. Our greatest artists, singers, poets and intellectuals have suffered at the hands of a conformist society and state captured by puritans especially since late 1970s. It is never too late for the intelligentsia of this country to mobilise public pressure on the state machinery so that it learns to respect cultural diversity and the imperative to nurture a creative, healthy and civilised society. Tansen taught us how music is a route to immortality. An ailing Mehdi Hasan in 2010 is fighting with death. His longevity is ensured. Tansen must be proud of his new age prodigy

September 30th, 2010|Arts & Culture, Music, Pakistan, Personal, SouthAsia|12 Comments

Three Pakistani film songs

Jab Koi Piyar se Bulaye ga

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October 1st, 2008|Cinema, Music, Pakistan, Personal, Urdu, video|7 Comments