Saturday, June 30, 2012

More Mehdi Hassan - "Allah Agar Taufeeq Na De"

We are fortunate that Mehdi Hassan has left us thousands of live and studio recordings of his peerless performances. Even for devoted fans it is not unusual to come across a gem that has never been experienced before. That happened to me today as I was browsing iTunes and saw an unfamiliar live album titled "Mehdi Hassan - EP" that was released in India earlier this year. Here I share the beautiful ghazal "Allah Agar Taufeeq Na De" which is the second recording in that album. The poet is unidentified. The piece is long (34 minutes) but the patience of true fans will be amply rewarded. My appreciation goes out to the person who has posted this on youtube so I can share it in this space. The ghazal's Urdu lyrics below the video have been transcribed by me.

Allah agar taufeeq na dey insaan ke bas ka kaam nahiN
Faizan-e-mohabbat aam sahi irfan-e-mohabbat aam nahiN

Ya Rab yeh maqaam-e-ishq hai kya go deeda-o-dil ka kaam nahiN
Taskeen hai aur taskeen nahiN aaram hai aur aaram nahiN

KyuN mast-e-sharaab-e-aish-o-tarab takleef-e-tawajjoh farmaaiN
Awaz-e-shikast-e-dil hi to hai awaz-e-shikast-e-jaam nahiN

Aana hai jo bazm-e-jaanaN meiN pindaar-e-khudi ko tor ke aa
Aye hosh-o-khirad ke deewane yaN hosh-o-khirad ka kaam nahiN

Zahid ne kuch iss andaaz se pee saaqi kee nigaheN parne lageeN
Mai kash yahee ab tak samjhe thhe shaista-e-daur-e-jaam nahiN

Ishq aur gawara khud kar lay bay shart shikast-e-faash apni
Kuch dil kee bhi un kay saazish hai tanha yeh nazar ka kaam nahiN

Update - May 22nd, 2016:

1) It is always gratifying to read comments on anything I write. Often, in addition to appreciation, you learn something new. A reader corrected the third sh'er and informed me that the correct phrase here is "awaz-e-shikast-e-jaam" not "jaan". From the context "jaam" indeed seems to be the correct word.

2) I don't have confirmation of this from any other source but at least 2 commenters have mentioned that the poet is Jigar Muradabadi.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mehdi Hassan: The "Voice of God" is no more

The legendary Pakistani singer Mehdi Hassan, universally acknowledged as "Shahenshah-e-Ghazal" (King of Ghazal), died on June 13th, 2012 after a protracted illness. The outpouring of grief and the subsequent torrent of tributes testify to the influence of Mehdi Hassan on lovers of music and Urdu ghazal all over the world. The world of music has lost an irreplaceable asset. I wrote a blog post in November 2009 on some of my favorite Mehdi Hassan pieces along with a biographical sketch (I am proud that several people have borrowed facts from that original piece for which I worked hard to dig up authentic information on the maestro's life).

With Mehdi Hassan's passing, most of the formative influences on my musical tastes since childhood have now passed into history with the notable exception of Lata Mangeshkar and Farida Khanum (may they both live long and prosper!). I can never be thankful enough to have been born in a family whose primary mode of interaction to this day are conversation, debate and argument about politics and history and discussion and enjoyment of literature, film, sports and music. This cultural environment and the economic struggles of a "sufaid-posh" middle class family are my dominant memories of growing up. Mehdi Hassan is the quintessential voice of that upbringing. His imbeccable diction, mellifluous voice and sureela-pan will always live in the hearts of those who love semi-classical Ghazal (a genre of which he is a virtual creator).

Here are a few of the obituaries and articles on Mehdi Hassan published since his death. RIP Maestro!! Your music will live forever!

The Guardian - Obituary
Ali Sethi in The Guardian
The New York Times - Obituary
BBC - Obituary
Hindustan Times - Reactions
Express Tribune - News and Initial Reactions
Public Radio International - Tribute

Let's conclude a tribute to the King in the most fitting manner with his immortal music. For the ghazal selection, here is a slightly lesser known beauty. Close your eyes, listen to the words of Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali and the masterful rendition by Khan Sahib. This is an out of the world experience.

Aage barhe na Qissa-e-Ishq-e-ButaaN se hum
Sab kuchh kaha magar na khule raazdaaN se hum

Here's a gem of a film song from the Pakistani movie "Pehchhan". Nisar Bazmi composed the music. My eight year old growing up in a very different time and place loves this song and often requests it in the car. Here is hoping that Mehdi Hassan's music will be discovered and loved by many generations yet to come.

P.S. I will mention it here to remind myself but will write some other time about my passing encounter with Mehdi Hassan when I was a young boy and he stopped his car at seeing my father and I standing by the side of the road near our VW beetle that had just broken down on us!!