Sunday, October 01, 2006

Master Madan - Hindustani Music's Child Prodigy

This post owes a direct debt to Bhupinder Singh's recent entry on his blog. It has inspired me to bring together some scattered items about Master Madan.

Since his untimely death as a teenage boy in 1942, Master Madan has had a persistent hold on the imagination of music lovers in the sub-continent. The combination of his virtuosic vocal ability, his hauntingly beautiful voice and the tragedy of such a promising career cut short by premature death have given Master Madan a unique place in the sub-continent's musical memory. The surviving recordings of his music (eight in total) provide music lovers a taste of Master Madan's artistry and give some sense for why he became a phenomenon at such a young age. Bhupinder's piece provides links to two of his best-known recordings. The poet is Sagar Nizami and the music is by Master Amarnath (elder brother of the filmi duo Husanlal-Bhagatram).

The six other pieces of Master Madan's extant work were introduced by journalist Khalid Hasan in his article in Dawn entitled "The boy with the golden voice" on December 31, 2001. This article also has a great biographical sketch detailing his family background, musical influences and the sad circumstances of his death. The six forgotten recordings were discovered by Khalid Hasan's musicologist friend M. Rafiq. An essay by Pran Neville on Master Madan was published today in India's Sunday Tribune and includes a rare photograph of Master Madan (above and on Bhupinder's post). A lot of the facts in this essay are the same as the Khalid Hasan article but there are a few new interesting details.

I have listened to all six of these recently discovered recordings on the website . Sadly, for quite some time now the links to these recordings on that website no longer work and I hope they will be fixed so we can enjoy these wonderful pieces of music on the internet. More importantly, these recordings should be published so they can get wider circulation. These six pieces include two Punjabi songs; "Ravi de parle kande ve mitra vasda hai dil da chor" and "Baghaan vich peeNgaN PaiyaN". The other four recordings are "Gori gori baiyaaN" and the three bhajans, "Mori binati maano kanha re", "Chetna hai to chet lai" and "Mana ki mana hi maan rahi". The last bhajan (which the website conjectures is in Raag Soraath) is my favorite and is a beautifully melodious piece sung with devotional intensity.

Update: On a recent search on YouTube I found two of Master Madan's ghazals that have been posted by "Rajan". The first ghazal is titled "YuN na reh reh kar HameiN" and the second is "Hairat se tak raha hai jahan-e-wafa mujhe" (title of the second video on YouTube incorrectly has the word "zamana" instead of "jahan-e-wafa"). Enjoy:

YuN na reh reh kar HameiN:

Hairat se tak raha hai jahan-e-wafa mujhe:

Update II: I discovered all known eight songs of Master Madan on this site maintained by Mr. Surjit Singh.


bhupinder said...

Thanks for the links and the comment on my blog.

I somehow always presumed that the "Master" in Master Madan is in lieu of "Ustad"- it was only after reading Pran's piece that I realized that he was so young when he passed away.

Thanks also for all the additional information on Master Madan !

Fawad said...

Bhupinder, I think the very reason for some of Master Madan's mystique is his death at such a young age and in such unclear circumstances. "What could have been" is a question that can be endlessly pondered for an exceptional talent that dies young.

Thanks for your comment.

deranged_lunatic said...

That's one of the most interesting posts I've read regarding music in a long, long time...I heard some of Master Madan's recordings a few years back. I was quite young so don't remember which ones they were but I do remember that two (I think) of them had been recently uncovered by Khalid Hassan and my father got hold of them through him...and, despite being no music pro, I loved them. And that's when I learnt a little more about the prodigy that he I feel like looking up those recordings again after reading your post :)

Anonymous said...

move on ALREADY!!!

Javed I. Sheikh said...

Everytime I open the page and listen to Master Madan, I cannot control my tears.
How and why we lost such a prodigy

Anonymous said...

For last sixty year I have been listening Indo-Pak music. There are several favourite singers and Master Madan is one of them. Would like that his other six recordings - Bhajan and Granth recital - are reproduced.
Is there any one listening?

M.U. Ahmad.

Anil said...

What baffles me is that at his age he not only sang brilliantly, he understood all those complex “kalaams”. At his age, I was only flying kites, stealing marbles and spinning tops. It is amazing that God compressed so much in Master Madan in so few years. Thanks all for letting me know more about Master Madan, Anil (a Pothowari in Mumbai)

Anonymous said...

In a program at Hyderabad, when an artist sang his famous Ghazal "Yun na reh reh kar hamen tarpaiye. Aaiye aa jaiye, aa jaiye" Another artist sang a Jawabi Ghazal "Dil hai hazir, lijiye, le jaiye. Aur kya kya chahiye, farmaiye" I would appreciate if someone could email me lyrics of this Jawabi Ghazal.
-Ram (

sim sohal said...

All eight of his gems can be heard on my playlist at


Jay Subramanyam said...

There is no doubt that musical instincts are God-gifted, they can be nurtured but not created. But Master Madan belonged to a different class, a different caliber altogether. In 14 years of his singing life, he attained what artistes don't achieve in a lifetime. He can be compared to a resplendent spring flower in full bloom that was plucked away by the cruel hands of destiny. Perhaps, the Almighty too could not resist the spell of his enchanting voice for why else did He choose to call him back at such a tender age?

I still cannot believe that a 14-year old could have sung - 'Yun na reh reh kar...' with so much of conviction, maturity, command and poise.

Talents like Master Madan are born once in century or perhaps, even more. God bless his soul.

Jay Subramanyam

bawa said...

Well, it was known that he died of poisoning, most probably mercury. But how and why or where, accidental or deliberate, was never investigated by the police of the time.

A mystery but it took away a fantastic talent.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that - I'd read a brief article about Master Madan and the iconic status he'd achieved in the 30's and 40's, but never knew much about him. But listening to him sing was fabulous: he took my breath away with the brilliant control he has over his voice. I found it hard to believe this was a child singing!

Fawad Zakariya said...

Thanks to all who have left their valuable comments here on this post. Master Madan was a unique talent but it is wonderful to see how much admiration people have for him even after all these years and only a few surviving recordings. This post was origially written over four years ago but remains one of my most read, thanks to Google search.

Mandar Karanjkar said...

Nice information.
Really, he had a haunting voice. D.V. Paluskar also died at an early age, but 14- 15 is just too much. We missed a great artist.