Ghazal lovers have lost Mehdi Hassan forever. The news of his demise will perhaps never sink in. Hard to believe that the deep voice that enthralled audiences for decades will never resonate again.
For me Ghazal singing and listening was always associated to Mehdi Hassan. My formative years of
taleem in Ghazal depended a lot on ‘copying’ his style of Puritanism. Although female voice was not so akin to his guttural style, the rendition was something that inspired me time and again.
Mohabbat karne waale kam na honge
(There won’t be scarcity of lovers)
Teri Mehfil mein lekin hum na honge…
(Only that I won’t be there)
The very first ghazal class that I took from my music teacher (Dada) was:
Ranjish hi sahi dil hi dukhane ke liye aa
(Let it be distress, still come to torment my heart)
Aa phir se muje chhorr kay jaanay kay liyay aa
(Come, even if to leave me again)
The last couplet of this ghazal,
‘Maana tujhe aate hain naa ane ke bahane, aise hi kisi roz naa jane ke liye aa’ has remained an all-time favourite for me. The entire ghazal holds a special place in my heart. First, the
mausiki (music) of course, and secondly the fact that it was written by my favourite shayar, Ahmad Faraz, makes it all the more soulful.
Based on raag Yaman Kalyan, this ghazal became a daily evening affair till I mastered it (however, Dada was never satisfied). I would spend hours listening to this ghazal and then many more hours of
riyaz(practice) would follow with the aim of getting a “good” from my dada. It took me almost a year to get his “good”.
With Mehdi Hassan’s demise, the dream of hearing him live also gets buried today. But maybe the heavenly abode will hold him till the time we reach there.
Ab ke hum bichre to shaayad kabhi khwabo mein mile
(Maybe we’d reunite in our dreams if we are separated this time)
Jis tarah sookhe huwe phool kitabon mein mile
(The way dry flowers are kept in books — a metaphor of union and separation)
Mehdi Hassan is the man who kept the nuances of ghazal alive and at the same time didn’t compromise with the touch of classical notes. His rendition was pure and so was his understanding of the underlying lyrics. Like they say-
Ghazal mein bandish-o-alfaz hi kaafi nahi hai, Jigar kaa khoon bhi chahiye. (Only music and lyrics are not important in ghazal, you have to put in your blood into it)
Mehdi Hassan’s rise followed that of Begum Akhtar and Barkat Ali Khan. His era was also dominated by Bollywood music. Although Begum was not a pure ghazal singer — she was more of a semi-classical/thumri singer. But Mehdi Hassan’s meteoric rise was always compared to that of hers. However, the puritan aspect of Mehdi Hassan’s
gayki(style of singing) will never be compared. The reason was perhaps because he mastered all forms from folk,
khayal to more intense forms like
A friend of mine still remembers listening to Mehdi Hassan on radio:
Gulo mein rang bhare baad-e-nau bahar chale, chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka karobaar chale. He says he still hasn’t been able to discern if it was Mehdi Hassan’s singing or Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s writing that remains etched in his heart.
The penchant for good music and good lyrics drew me close to Mehdi Hassan’s style. Being from Lucknow Gharana, it was natural for my ilk to opt for Begum Akhtar. We would fight with other music students over Mehdi Hassan. I know this is neither the platform nor the right time to compare the two. But whenever sentiments would overflow, we would sing the following lines in sync:
Ek umr se hun lazzat-e-giryaa se bhi mehruum
(Have been deprived of the pathos of longing for a long time)
Aye raahat-e-jaan mujh ko rulaanay kay liyay aa
(Come my love, if only to make me weep again)
Ab tak dil-e-khush-feham ko tujh se hain ummeedain
(I rely on hope even now, I am sure)
Ye aakhari shammain bhi bujhaanay kay liyay aa
(Come to slay even the last candles/ray of hope)
Despite the melancholy, this day is ironical for me too. Don’t know if to celebrate or to mourn. While I’ve lost an inspiration, it also happens to be my Dada’s birthday today!
(The views expressed by the author are personal)