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Mehdi Hasan at an art exhibition – Photo courtesy Dawn

KARACHI, June 13: Iconic vocalist and a legend in ghazal singing Mehdi Hassan breathed his last here on Wednesday. He was 85.

Mehdi Hassan was admitted to the Aga Khan University Hospital two weeks back. He was suffering from multiple ailments, including lung and chest infections. His condition worsened on Wednesday morning and he passed away.

The singer’s health deteriorated in 2001 when he suffered a stroke. Diabetes and urinary tract ailment compounded his problems. According to one of the doctors who were treating the great singer, he was admitted to the hospital eight times in 2011 and five times this year. Mehdi Hassan’s funeral will be held on Friday after Juma prayers, as three of his sons (he is survived by six sons and three daughters) who live abroad are expected to arrive in Karachi on Thursday.

Mehdi Hassan was born in Luna village in Rajasthan in 1927. His father Ustad Azeem Khan and uncle Ustad Ismail Khan were renowned classical musicians. Mehdi Hassan acquired early training in music from them. After his family migrated to Pakistan he tried his hand at a few professions but once he started getting acknowledged as a singer, he decided to adopt it as a career.

Prior to entering the film industry as a playback singer, Mehdi Hassan sang ghazals on Radio Pakistan. Shikar was the first film in which he lent his voice and garnered reasonable appreciation. Films Kunwari Bewa, Dosheeza and Ghoonghat followed. But it was the ghazal ‘Gulon mein rang bhare’ from the film Farangi (1964) that shot Mehdi Hassan to fame. The ghazal had originally been sung for the radio and was later included in the movie.

Mehdi Hassan lent his voice in more than 300 films and it is said that in all he sang more than 5,000 songs (film numbers, ghazals, thumri, dadra etc). Some of the famous films in which his singing was widely appreciated are Dard, Bharosa, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Insaaf Aur Qanoon, Daman Aur Chingari and Aaina. His last hit number was ‘Aaj tu ghair sahi’ from the film Dahleez.