The voice of Asia has fallen silent
THE VOICE OF ASIA
As tributes started pouring in one could see the breadth as well, of emotion that always ran pretty deep. Acknowledgment of him as a legend has been unhesitating even in the past. However, the reactions his passing on evoked all across the music fraternity of India as well as Pakistan provided a glimpse of the stature this colossus enjoyed among his contemporaries. For the listener, both lay and discerning, he reigns supreme as he has for nearly half a century. Mehdi Hassan had this great ability to engage a listener straightaway. The lyrics of what he sang could be utterly inane, as they indeed were on occasion - particularly in his earlier Lollywood period, and he could still have you hooked. Such was the sheer magnetism of what Lata Mangeshkar characterized as ‘the voice of God’. Add to that celestial voice rare skill of craft and you had as complete a package as you could imaginably have.
Everybody has a favourite Mehdi Hassan number, and the corpus of work he left for posterity is by no means inconsiderable. His music will continue to feel like the sound of heaven for years to come. But the one aspect that sets him and his music apart from all his contemporaries must be mentioned here. More than anyone else Mehdi Hassan has been ‘the’ singer of the subcontinent. He has given voice to memories and emotions and loves and lives of generations of people from Hindu Kush right up to the easternmost parts of Assam, from Kashmir to Karnataka – indeed the geo-cultural continuum that forms what we call South Asia. It is no surprise that this is the precise geography of Urdu, which is certainly among the more important sub-continental signifiers and definers. The fact that the most significant musical output of Mehdi Hassan is very nearly congruent with the poetic oeuvre of Faiz Ahmed Faiz makes him the standout musical personality of what can be called the ‘Urdu region’ of cultural consciousness, what with Faiz being the pre-eminent contemporary poet of precisely the same region. Faiz has been sung by very many other singers of the subcontinent and quite well too, but it has been just competent singing. Mehdi Hassan brought the poetry of Faiz alive, particularly the poetry of love, longing, loss and lament. The seemingly forlorn feel of words held by the silvery thread of hope woven by the magical voice of Mehdi Hassan is simply not replicable.
Mehdi Sahib was proud of his musical lineage, his Rajasthani ancestry and its traditional outlook. He had his grounding in the Dhrupad Gayaki of Indian classical music which helped him in having effortless control over even the most complicated of musical phrases, due to the sheer rigour of this style. He also had great respect for folk traditions in music of the East.
Mehdi Hassan had a great feel for poetry. Urdu poetry, Ghazal in particular, being naturally multilayered provides great scope for musical improvisation. This Mehdi Hassan did to great effect. His presentations were not linear but richly textured, no two versions of a composition ever being the same. This gave each concert of his a newness that was unique. The same repertoire of compositions could provide for very diverse and richly satisfying concerts. These compositions from the same musical repertoire could throw up other surprises too. Ahmed Faraz, another poet sung often by Mehdi, mentioned humorously – and without any rancour – in New Delhi once how Mehdi was not averse to occasional additions of his own couplets to well-known Ghazals written by Faraz .
Everybody has a favourite Mehdi Hassan number. I love them all. Live in joy Mehdi Hassan – in the hearts of millions like me. You are not going to die – not anytime soon!
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Jun 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Jun 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 14 Jun 2012 00:00:00 IST
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