“Mehdi Hassan was my ruhani,” says singer Hariharan, using the Urdu word for spiritual guide. The 57-year-old singer will pay tribute to the legendary Pakistani singer, who passed away last month, in Abke Hum Bichade, a concert featuring some of Mehdi Hassan Khan’s most popular ghazals.
Hariharan was initially trained in Carnatic music under the tutelage of his mother Alamelu, but soon began training in Hindustani music as well. “I was inspired by Mehdi Hassan’s ghazals,” says Hariharan, who trained under Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan. “He would often guide me,” he adds.
The singer says that he received regular feedback from Khan, whom he learnt Khayal music from. Recalling one of his fondest memories with the singer, he says, “Once he invited me over to his house in Andheri. One of my ghazals was on television, he saw it and said he liked it. He started to talk about music and soon said, ‘baaja lao’ and a baithak started.” The singing would go on from 9.30 pm to three the following morning. “He was taking requests from people and thoroughly enjoying the session. He made sure we got food and by the time we stepped out it was 4.30 am,” recounts Hariharan, adding, “He was a very simple and very warm person.”
Forty days after Mehdi Hassan’s passing, Hariharan visited his home in Pakistan for a performance, which he found to be a moving experience. Ask him if he misses Hassan’s guidance and he pauses for a moment. “I do miss him, but his music is there. When I recently visited his resting place in Pakistan, I felt complete.”
The essence of Ghazals
The singer who has also dabbled in Bollywood and fusion says that when it comes to choosing his favourite genre, Ghazals are closest to his heart. “I have spent a lot of my life trying to master this form. It is extremely soulful. It combines rhythm, beats, poetry and a lot more. It’s like clay that absorbs different things.”
Treasure trove of ghazalas
Ghazal lovers are in for a rare treat on Friday and Sunday. Khazana, the annual two-day ghazal festival, now in its eleventh year, will feature well-known names from the ghazal world, including Pankaj Udhas, Bhupinder and Mitali Singh, Anup Jatola, Talat Aziz, Ahmed Hussain, Mohammed Hussain, Pt Ajay Pohankar and Hariharan. The aim of the festival is to raise money for cancer aid and Thalassemia awareness. The Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA), the Parents Association Thalassemic Unit Trust (PATUT) Mumbai will be associated with the event.
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