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A grand musical innings came to an end last Wednesday, on June 13, with the passing away of Mehdi Hasan, an icon of this country whose admirers in sheer numbers are greater across the Wagah border. It was torture to see him suffer from so many ailments for the last 11 years, after he was afflicted by a stroke for the first time in late 2000.
Hasan was born in a village in Rajasthan in 1927 in a family of classical musicians. He practised under stalwarts for hours, an experience which stood him in good stead when he gave scintillating performances, live and recorded.

Hasan was given the title of Shahenshah-e-Ghazal in appreciation of his style of rendering the most musical of all forms of poetry. He was a stickler for perfection, who took great pains to learn the correct pronunciations of difficult words. His yen for authenticity was also reflected in his choice of musical notes and their execution.

To say that he was the king of ghazals would, however, limit his excellence to only one genre of music. He was a virtuoso of
semi-classical music too. He rendered thumri with great aplomb. Similarly, he rendered folksongs with equal ease; not just Rajasthani folksongs but those from other parts of the northern Subcontinent as well. His rendition of sufi music was flawless. A case in point is Ki Janan Mein Kaun Bulleya which is guaranteed to stir the heartstrings.

As a film singer, Hasan impressed the masses but none of his popular film ditties can be termed pedestrian. It was not for nothing that he bagged nine Nigar Awards, six of them in a row, not to mention the many other coveted awards he received in the Subcontinent.

– Asif Noorani
The writer is the compiler and editor of Mehdi Hasan: The Man and His Music which is accompanied by two CDs of rare recordings by Mehdi Hasan.

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 17, 2012.