Biography narrated in his own voice
Mehdi Hassan, a great Pakistani Playback singer, was titled the King of Ghazal by critics & fans. Over a career of more or less 50 years, Khan Sahb sang thousands of songs & ghazals and remained popular till his last working day. He is considered the pioneer of modern Ghazal Singing who inspired many to follow his footsteps. He made Ghazal a genre, even popular in the films. He is considered the one who made ghazal a popular genre like folk or film songs.
Mehdi was born in a family of Durpad Singers, on July 18, 1927, as stated by the Wikipedia. Khan, in his different interviews, said that he was born in 1933. In another interview, he said it was 1934, when he was born. So date of birth is not confirmed. It is assumed that he was born some where @ the junction of 20’s & 1930’s. The family lived in Luna Village of Rajhistan in undivided Punjab before partition.
Mehdi Hassan started singing @ 5 and was picked up by his father Azeem Khan & uncle Ismail Khan. The boy was already burning with fire of talent. Only missing thing was the classical training. The family told him the basic rules & he started performing publicly. In 1937, he performed at Fazilka Bangla. The family was in a good state under the princely state of Jaipur.The genius was in making.
After the partition in 1947, the young Mehdi Hassan with his family moved to Cheecha Watni, a town near Sahiwal. Mehdi, to earn the bread & butter, worked in a bicycle mechanic shop. Over the course of this labor, Khan Sahb became one of the best mechanic of Truck & tractor engines in Pakistan, People narrate. In An interview to Yasmin Tahir for radio in 1970, Khan narrates that before breakthrough, he had taken an agriculture diploma from Faisalabad Institute. Some of his old friends tell that he personally leveled some 100 acres in desert area of Layyah District of Punjab for agricultural use.
In 1953, he was given the debut opportunity in film Shikar as playback singer. Meanwhile, he was invited by the Radio Karachi as A category Artist. Under the supervision of broadcasting genius like Z.A.Bukhari, Mehdi started learning Urdu, a language he could not even speak or write properly. He came to know great poets like Ghalib, Mir & Faiz, and started composing ghazals in pure “Khayal Angg”, the way Ustad Barkat Ali Khan did. Mehdi says Ustad Barkat Ali was the pioneer of modern Urdu Ghazal, people say Mehdi himself is the founder of this genre.
After almost a decade of struggle, He sang Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s ” gullon mein rang bharey, Baad e Nau Bahar chaley” for film Firangi in 1964. The ghazal of Faiz went hit like a film song. It was actually the starting point of playback legend Mehdi Hassan, after he already had become a Ghazal Mastero. After turning point, Mehdi sang for more than 300 films. More than 10 films won Nigar Awards for best playback; including Zarqa, Saaeqa, Aina, Zeenat & Naya Rasta. He kept on singing ghazals of great poets like Mir, Ghalib, Faiz, Faraz & parveen Shakir. Along with playback success, Khan Sahb exclusively made Ghazal cassette a popular item in the market, like any other pop or folk song. This is a genuine contribution from a genuine star!!
Mehdi Hassan won all the major civilian awards of Pakistan including Pride of Performance & Tamgha e Imtiaz. He also won Indian awards like K L Saigol award. The biggest of all was that he won the hearts of millions in India, Pakistan and all over the world, wherever Urdu is spoken or understood. He produced students like Pervaiz Mehdi & Ghulam Abbas in Pakistan who not only continued his tradition but also created their own identity. He inspired many in India to follow his footprints. Once, The Nightingale of Bollywood Lata Mangeshkar admired him and said, ” He has the kind of voice as God speaks through him”.
The last years of Mehdi were disease stricken. After 12 long years of illness, Mehdi departed on 13 June 2012 at Agha Khan Hospital Karachi. The earthly body departed, but his soulful Ghazal singing craft will remain alive till people love to speak & sing in Urdu.