KARACHI: Renowned harmonium player Ustad Idrees Hussain passed away after protracted illness on Friday morning. He was 77. He leaves behind his wife, seven sons and four daughters.

According to his son Munawwar, Mr Hussain was born on Jan 1, 1944 in Aligarh, India. After independence, his family immigrated to Pakistan. He passed his intermediate examination from Islamia Commerce College.

Mr Hussain was one of the finest harmonium players that Pakistan has produced. Although he usually accompanied vocalists and eminent instrumentalists on stage and in recording studios, his individual skills as a musician could not be overlooked. His love for the instrument that he played was evident from the fact that whenever he used it, he never gave the impression as if he’s trying to do a job. He was in love with the harmonium, and his fingers moved on its keys swiftly but with a gentle touch like the strokes of a watercolour artist.

Mr Hussain regularly featured in concerts held by the All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC) and Tehzeeb Foundation. On March 2020, just when the pandemic had begun to take its toll on Karachiites, he took part in the 17th edition of the APMC at Frere Hall and rendered raga madhuvanti. It was a delightfully presented composition.

Talking to Dawn, Ayla Raza, who runs the APMC, said, “He was a senior harmonium nawaz, one of the very few who could play classical on the instrument. He was at least last in Karachi. Now, we’re going to have to look for [replacements]. He had performed with all the great artists of the country. The thing to be acknowledged here is that a harmonium player has his own challenges: he should know the finer points of music as well as understand the mood and vision of the artist that he’s playing with. Idrees sahib did that very well. The sad thing is that the second tier of musicians is far behind.”

Sharif Awan of Tehzeeb Foundation said, “Idrees sahib was the most senior musician. He was unwell for the last six months. He was a master at what he did, be it as a solo performer or as an accompanist. Recently, his brother Khursheed Hussain, the famous tabla player, also passed away. They were students of Master Sadiq Pindi Waley. The tragedy is that artists from their generation are passing on and there is no succession plan in place.”

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2021

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