'Ghazal in trouble'

Tradition

“The media has been aggressively promoting pop music and packaging it in such a way that youngsters do not feel like listening to anything else,” Mehdi,  son of legendary ghazal singer Mehdi Hassan, said.

“If ghazals could be promoted the same way as pop music by the media both in India and Pakistan, with a good visual script and presentation, then the youth would probably return to the genre,” he said.

Mehdi was in India to perform in New Delhi, Lucknow, Amritsar and Hyderabad with several other leading ghazal exponents, including India’s Jagjit Singh.

The concerts were organised jointly by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and a non-profit ghazal promotion platform, Routes 2 Roots, which is liaising between musicians from South Asian countries to revive traditional classical music.

“I am trying my best to promote ghazal in its pure form. I have been in talks with several platforms both in India and Pakistan to help bring more young audiences to ghazal concerts. My association with Routes 2 Roots is important because it will help me promote the music immortalised by my walid (father Mehdi Hassan) and his famous peers like Ghulam Ali, Farida Khanum and Iqbal Bano,” Mehdi added.
Mehdi, whose voice sounds almost like his father, is ready to make his debut in Bollywood.

“There were many offers and I have spoken to several producers and filmmakers. Inshallah! I will be singing my first Bollywood number soon. I have wanted to lend my voice and music to Hindi movies for a long time,” said the singer, who is waiting for the release of his new album featuring 12 ghazals.

“I signed a contract with Sony Entertainment last year and the album will be released across the globe in January 2010,” he said.

“The legacy of my father keeps me alive. Without him, I would be nothing. I first came to India with my father in 1986 to perform. He was my first teacher, along with my uncle Ghulam Qadir, who studied music at the Poona University. I started learning from them at 13 and performed with my father in Los Angeles in 1983 for the first time. I was 17 then,” Mehdi said.

“We hail from the Mandawa district in Rajasthan where we owned a haveli (mansion) in Luna village in the district before Partition. But in 1943, my grandfather left for Pakistan, never to return. Subsequently, the entire family followed him,” Mehdi revealed.

The family, said Mehdi, moved to Sahiwal town near Lahore. “I visited Rajasthan in 1986,” he said.

Like his father, Mehdi is fond of singing nazms by famous lyricists like Mir Taqi Mir, Ahmed Faraz, Katil Shifai, Hafeez Jalandhari and Mirza Ghalib.
“I like the lyrics of Bashir Badr among the new ones. But my message to contemporary young ghazal writers is that they should not write songs that hurt people’s sentiments.”

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