A GREAT era of ghazal singing has come to an end with the death of Ustad Mehdi Hassan Khan on June 13. When, in the early 1960s , Mehdi Hassan had lent his voice as a playback singer to Pakistan’s film industry, other singers like Salim Raza and Munir Hussain could not match the skills and popularity of their counterparts in Bombay’s film industry.
In fact, these two singers tried to emulate the voice and style of Talat Mehmood, who was at his peak in ghazal and ‘geet’ singing for Indian films. Mehdi Hassan’s entry in the film world was so powerful that he even overshadowed the fame enjoyed by Talat, and came up with his own unique style of singing. He captivated the minds and souls of his listeners with his mellifluous voice trained in classical singing.
I heard Mehdi Hassan’s voice for the first time in 1957 at a convention organised by a religious scholar, the late Allama Ghulam Ahmad Parwez, in Lahore. It was a musical rendering of Allama Iqbal’s poetry by Mehdi Hassan recorded at a gathering at Allama Parwez’s residence.
The latter was a great connoisseur of music, and musicians like K. L. Saigol, Mehdi Hassan and ace ‘sarangi’ player Ustad Bundu Khan had great affiliation with Allama Parwez. It is ironical that Ustad Bundu Khan’s son, Buland Iqbal, who also happens to be my music teacher, became a popular film music composer, along with his partner, the late Lal Muhammad.
One of Mehdi Hassan’s best film songs ‘Duniyan kisi kay pyar mein, jannat se kam nahin’ was composed by the duo Lal Muhammad Iqbal for the film ‘Ja’ag Utha Insa’an’ released in 1964.
Mehdi Hassan’s first hit song ‘Mujh ko awaaz de tu kahaan hai, tere bin soona soona jahaan hai’ was sung by him for the film ‘Ghoongat’, released in 1962, and its haunting tune was composed by the maestro Khwaja Khursheed Anwar.
After this breakthrough, there was no looking back for him and even top music directors of Pakistan’s film industry felt honoured and privileged on getting their compositions sung by Mehdi Hassan. He belonged to the golden era of film music in the subcontinent, which had come to an end long ago.
With the passing away of Mehdi Hassan, Manna Day is now the only surviving elite male playback singer, who had enchanted the people with his charismatic voice during that period.
PARVEZ RAHIM Karachi