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Remembering Mehdi Hasan

Siraj Khan

Time flies. Its been a full year since the uncrowned Shehenshah-e-Ghazal left this world to go into the other, at the age of 84. Mehdi Hasan was loved in India as much as he was in Pakistan. Artistes like him belong to the whole world, where no barriers or boundaries of nationality exist. It seems as if the Creator sends them to us for our collective joy of souls and spirits.

Boston remembered Mehdi Hasan on June 15th – and how. To pay homage to the great man. LearnQuest presented a program aptly titled Music Beyond Borders. The performance was a collaborative blend of local artistes from Pakistan, India and Nepal, along with a unique presentation by Dr. Pooja Goswami Pavan from Minneapolis, all of whom joined hands to pay tribute to the legendary ghazal singer, each in their own delightful style, leaving a deep impact.

Trying to sing from the collection of somebody whose voice has received the compliment from no less than Lata Mangeshkar as “the voice of god”, can be overwhelming in itself. But the love for the artiste usually is the ultimate winner and Boston was no exception. Mehdi Hasan continues to be the yardstick by which all the well-known exponents of ghazal singing are judged.

Pankaj Shah set the mood for the evening with the delightful Robin Ghosh composition Pyar bhare do sharmile nein. Shua Khan Arshad followed next and mesmerized the audience with two classic ghazals highly acclaimed for their lyrical beauty. Ja kahiyyo unse naseem-e-sehr of Bahadur Shah Zafar with Dagh Dehlvi’s Uzr aane mein bhi hai aur bulate bhi nahi. Shua not just rendered the ghazals in the original format, but creatively improvised many of the finer nuances of the poems in her rich voice, which greatly enriched the final deliverables. Not surprisingly she received a tremendous applause from the knowledgeable audience.

Narendra Pyasi, who hails from Nepal, came next with two of Mehdi Hasan’s ghazals which have found a permanent place with the populace due to their orientation in films. Composer Sohail Rana’s Mujhe tum nazar se gira to rahe ho and Ranjish hi sahi, penned by Ahmed Faraz, without which no ghazal event is ever considered complete. Narendra sang with a lot of feel and his performance was well received. Pradeep Shukla immersed himself next with Ek bus tu hi nahi and Nasir Kazmi’s Woh dilnawaz hai lekin and captivated the audience with his easy flowing style.

Until now Dilip Acharya had been providing a superlative stage support while accompanying on the harmonium for all the performers. It was now time to show his vocal exploits. Hame koi gham nahi tha is basically a film song penned by Fayyaz Hashmi but Mehdi Hasan had given a creative ghazal color to it in its rendition, in Raag Ahir Bhairav. Dilip did a splendid job in representing this relatively less heard gem, which was followed by Faraz’s classic Shola tha jal bujha hoon. One could not expect a better way to end a session than this poetic beauty, which symbolizes the departure of both the poet as well as Mehdi Hasan, perhaps more than any other ghazal I know.

Amit Kavthekar on the tabla and and Ilina Shah on the acoustic guitar provided a lively support to the vocalists, which the audience generously applauded.

The special presentation followed the short break. Dr Pooja Goswami Pavan, the visiting thumri artist from Minneapolis then cast a spell on the audience with her Begum Akhtar style gaeki, which came through both in her semi-classical as well as ghazal renditions. The versatility in Pooja’s repertoire was evident. Mere humnafas mere hamnawa, Ae mohabbat tere anjaam pe rona aya were from the top drawer and when the audience was unable to quench their thirst, her captivating Jhoola did the rest. Pt. Ashis Sengupta on the tabla and Pt. Sanatan Goswami on the harmonium were ideal accompanists and were both absolutely fantastic in their respective roles.
Starting at 7.30 pm it was midnight by the time the evening came to its closure, providing the attendees with a good dose of spiritual nutrition.
Jawed Wahid provided the sound and Malik Masood Khan weaved around the vocalists with interesting introductions, leading to their presentations. Sunil Barot was the high-spirited event coordinator, with his family members providing splendid support in bringing about an engaging ghazal evening, to remember a master.

I cannot simply come to closure, without a mention of anything better than this duet, an absolute priceless gem, which symbolizes the spirit of Aman ki Asha from the HMV album Sarhadein. One can imagine what sparks can fly when greats Lata Mangeshkar and Mehdi Hasan come together, both recording this well in their twilight years. Please take a few minutes and enjoy the true magic of Music Beyond Borders. Tera Milna Bohat Achha Lage Hai. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjL6QmkLZ9g

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