Book: Mehdi Hasan: The man & his music
Author: Asif Noorani
Publisher: Liberty Books, Pakistan
Before I begin reviewing the book, I would like to reiterate that our nation possesses a very rich musical heritage; classical, film music, pop-rock and now the ever evolving fusion of eastern melodies with western rhythms. The diversity that we enjoy is unparalleled and something to be very proud of. It is rather disappointing that there is a lack of available literary ventures that glorify Pakistan's rich music history; some of the work that has been written remains unavailable to the masses.
Any discussion on Pakistan's music remains incomplete without mentioning Mehdi Hasan's name. Arguably he is one of the finest and greatest playback singers this country ever produced. Veteran journalist and writer Asif Noorani should be applauded for his book Mehdi Hasan: The man and his music as it illustrates the writer's passion in compiling the legend's life.
The greatest purpose this book has successfully achieved is the fact that it makes the reader realise the worth of Mehdi sahab. He was praised by contemporaries in India, Pakistan and even Nepal. To pay homage to this legendary singer, Noorani has included quotes and opinions from Mehdi sahab’s colleagues in the showbiz industry from Pakistan and India. Madam Noor Jehan, Lata Mangeshkar, Jagjit Singh, Javed Akhtar, Dilip Kumar, Naushad, Abida Parveen, Runa Laila, Nayyara Noor, Tina Sani, Robin Ghosh and Nadeem are amongst the many who have shared their views and memories of the living legend. Along with this, fans of Mehdi sahab get to read the description of the grand welcome he used to get abroad during his tours, which also reflects the global respect and recognition he enjoyed.
Besides this, the book also contains a plethora of rare pictures, which in itself are stories that keep the reader visually engaged. One of the pictures in which he was surrounded by his admirers, including ladies, made me realise the extent of his huge fan following, which was equal and perhaps even greater, than that of any other contemporary celebrity.
One of the most remarkable aspects of this book is that it has tried to bring into prominence Mehdi sahab's humility that stood tall against the fame and greatness he had attained. One of the pages mentions how he had earned his living by repairing automobiles during his younger days. During his years of stardom, his harmonium broke and he started repairing it himself, wittingly replying to the people surrounding him that this was a piece of cake compared to the number of engines that he had repaired in the past. This is just one of the many glimpses that takes the reader up-close and personal into Mehdi sahab's life.
A great treat that this book presents to Mehdi sahab’s fans are the two audio CDs that have some of his memorable songs and ghazals.
This book will turn out to be more than a treat for Mehdi sahab's fans and even music enthusiasts in general. Settle down with a cup of coffee and play those CDs whilst reading this book and you will be ready to venture into the ghazal maestro’s life, his experiences and struggle.
Published in The Express Tribune November 7th, 2010.