Shahanshah-e-Ghazal (King of Lyrics) Mehdi Hassan

By Mahjabeen Malik

 Mehdi Hassan was a great legendary lyric and playback singer who was born on 18 July 1927 in a village named Luna, Rajasthan in British India. He was born in a family with an affluent legacy of music. His forefathers were inherited conventional musicians belonging to Kalawant Clan of musicians. They were publically known as “Darbari Ustad” from generation to generation as they were used to perform in the courts of the score of Maharajas, of Indore, Patna, Chhatarpur, and Mysore. Mehdi Hassan’s training as a singer started from his childhood and learned music from his father Ustad Azeem Khan and uncle Ustad Ismail Khan who were expert in Dhrupad singing. Mehdi Hassan started performing as a singer from his very early-hood and his first special performance was in the age of eight years with his elder brother in the venue of Fazilka Bangla. 

Migration to Pakistan

When Pakistan rose up on the map of world Mehdi Hassan migrated to Pakistan along with his family. At the time of partition in 1947, he was pretty young of 20 years old. The family had to face financial problems after their migration to Pakistan. However, Mehdi Hassan started finding a job for livelihood in Ahmadpur East and he got his first job as a mechanic at Mughal Cycle House, later on, he became a car and tractor mechanic. Nevertheless, he kept continued his training and practice as a singer and practised difficult “Raags” (musical pattern) in music.

His Singing Journey in Pakistan

Mehdi Hassan first time in 1957 got an opportunity of performing his vocal as a thumri vocalist on Radio Pakistan. As he was much interested in Urdu language, he continued his practice in Urdu Ghazal in his free hours. Radio officers Z. A Bukhari and Rafiq Anwar assisted him in his passion for ghazal singing. In 1952, he sang his first song on Radio Pakistan and in 1956 he sang his first film song “Nazar Milte Hi Dil Ki Bat Ka Charcha Na Ho Jaye” for the film “Shikar”. Pakistani poet Yazdani Jalndhari wrote this song whereas Asghar Ali M. Hussain composed it. 

In 1965 Mehdi Hassan sang a ghazal written by an eminent poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz and composed by Rasheed Attre “Gulon mein rang bharay, baad-e-naubahar chale” . This ghazal had flown his popularity to touch the height of the sky. Faiz Ahmad Faiz liked this lyric in Mehdi Hassan’s voice and he refused to recite his ghazal in a mushaira and said as a joke that this ghazal belongs to Mehdi Hassan and suggested that audience must listen to this ghazal in Mehdi Hassan’s voice.

Mehdi Hassan stopped singing as a playback singer in the late 1980s due to his disease. In the last tenure of his life, he had to leave the world of music for his severe illness.

Private Life

Mehdi Hassan had married two times. He had two wives and fourteen children. Many of whom have become professional singers and musicians. Here is a list of his sons who adopted music professionally.

  1. Tariq Mehdi Hassan  an eminent Versatile Playback Singer
  2. Arif Mehdi Hassan a Classical Tabla Player & Promoter
  3. Asif Mehdi Hassan  a Playback & Ghazal Singer
  4. Kamran Mehdi Hassan a Playback & Ghazal Singer
  5. Imran Mehdi Hassan  a Classical Tabla Player & Versatile Singer
  6. Faizan Mehdi Hassan a Versatile & Ghazal Singer
  7. Sajjad Mehdi Hassan  a D.S.P Traffic police
  8. Shahzad Mehdi Hassan  a  Ghazal Singer
  9. Waris Hassan Mehdi  a Pop Singer

Mehdi Hassan had sung many duets with Malika-e-Taranum/ Queen of melody Noor Jehaan.

Mehdi Hassan has trained some of the renowned singers as :

  1. Pervaiz Mehdi
  2. Talat AzizRajkumar Rizvi
  3. Ghulam Abbas
  4. Salamat Ali
  5. Afzal, Munni Subhani
  6. Rehan Ahmed Khan
  7. Savita Ahuja
  8. Shamshad Husain Chanda
  9. Shahnaz Begum from Bangladesh)
  10. Yasmin Mushtari  from Bangladesh
  11. Hariharan a known singer

Some musicians had been associated with him for the lifetime like Ustad Pir Bakhsh Tabla Player, Ustad Mohammed Hussain and Ustad Abdus Sattar Tari (Tabla Player).

Tribute to Mehdi Hassan

 The renowned melodious singer Lata Mangeshkar said that her day starts from listening ghazals of Mehdi Hassan. In the praise of Mehdi Hassan Khan Sahib, she said, no one can compete him in Ghazal singing. During a New Dehli concert, she also said, “Aisa lagta hai ke unke gale mein Bhagwan boltein hain”( It seems God is singing through his voice).

 The Demise of the leading singer on 13 June 2012

Mehdi Hassan had been fighting with his lung, chest and urinary ailment for a long tenure of 12 years. He had been admitted at Agha Khan University Hospital in Karachi where he took his last breath on 13 June 2012. In 2005, for ayurvedic treatment, he was sent to India where he was received warmly by A.B Vajpayee, Dilip Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and scores of his Indian fans. On his return from India, he suffered his second stroke which left him dumb and paralyzed until his death.

 Achievements and Recognition

The following civilian honours have been conferred on him, in chronological order

In 1979, he received K.L. Saigal Award in Jalandhar, India by the Government of India.

In 1983, he achieved Gorkha Dakshina Bahu Award by the Government of Nepal.

In 1985, Mehdi Hassan Khan Sahib achieved Pride of Performance Award by Islamic Republic Pakistan.

In 2010, he won Hilal-i-Imtiaz Award by Islamic Republic Pakistan.

In 2012, he won Nishan-e-Imtiaz Award by Islamic Republic Pakistan.

Nigar Awards

 In 1964, Nigar Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Farangi

 In 1968, Nigar Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Saiqa

 In 1969, Nigar Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Zarqa

 In 1972, Nigar Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Meri Zindagi Hai Naghma

 In 1973, Nigar Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Naya Rasta

 In 1974, Nigar Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Sharafat

 In 1975, Nigar Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Zeenat

In 1976, Nigar Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Shabana

In 1977, Nigar Award for Best Male Playback Singer for Aaina

In 1999, Nigar Award Special Millennium Award


Mehdi Hassan had sung more than 54000 songs during his singing career. He is no more among us but his evergreen songs and ghazals will remain among us like melodious songs of Keat’s Nightingale, Wordsworth’s Cuckoo, Shelly’s Skylark and Coleridge’s Nightingale. 

Mehdi Hassan’s melodious songs will always be remembered and played on various occasions.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness;

Mehdi Hassan has indeed passed away but his voice has become immortal and it will have listened to various generations on various occasions and events in the world around. As John Keats says,

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!

No hungry generation tread thee down;

The voice I hear this passing night was heard

In ancient days by emperor and clown:

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