Music legend Pankaj Udhas dies at 72 after prolonged illness

In a somber announcement that marks the end of an era in Indian music, the renowned ghazal singer and recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri award, Pankaj Udhas, passed away on Monday at the age of 72 after a battle with prolonged illness. Nayab Udhas, his daughter, expressed the family’s profound sorrow through a social media post, wherein she communicated the news of her father’s demise. Nayab posted on Instagram, “With a very heavy heart, we are saddened to inform of the sad demise of Padma Shri Pankaj Udhas on 26th February 2024 due to prolonged illness.”

Pankaj Udhas, whose mellifluous voice and poignant lyrics have touched the hearts of music lovers for decades, breathed his last around 11 a.m. at the Breach Candy hospital, according to a source close to the family. The community prepares to bid their final adieus as the last rites are scheduled to be held on Tuesday.

Born in Gujarat, Udhas developed an artistry that stemmed from a robust pedigree in classical music – trained extensively in tabla at the Sangeet Natak Akademi in Rajkot. However, it was his honeyed vocal renditions of ghazals, a poetic form of music originating from ancient Arabic verse, that made him a household name not only in India but among connoisseurs of the genre worldwide.

Pankaj Udhas’s career in music was the epitome of determination and perseverance. His initial foray into the film industry was as a playback singer in the film ‘Kamna’. Unfortunately, the film was never completed, which propelled him to contend with years of obscurity before he found his true calling as a ghazal singer. Undeterred by initial challenges, he launched his career with ‘Aahat’ (1980), an album that was just the beginning of a storied career. Subsequently, ‘Mukarar’, ‘Tarrannum’, and ‘Mehfil’ followed, each album cementing his reputation as a master of the ghazal.

His claim to widespread fame came in the form of “Chitthi Ayee Hai” from the 1986 Bollywood film ‘Naam’. The song resonated with audiences, weaving the melancholy of separation with melodic grace, and it catapulted Udhas into the limelight of mainstream cinema and music.

For years, Pankaj Udhas ruled the world of ghazals with his evocative and soulful performances. His voice, characterized by a tender pathos and an innate ability to convey deep emotions, remained unique and instantly recognizable. He popularized the ghazal genre, drawing in fans who may not have been familiar with it and in doing so, preserved a vital cultural heritage.

His contribution to the arts was not solely confined to his music. Pankaj Udhas was also known for his humanitarian work. His dedication to his craft and his generous spirit earned him one of India’s highest civilian honors, the Padma Shri, awarded to him by the Government of India in recognition of his distinguished service in the field of arts.

Beyond his musical endeavors, Pankaj Udhas’s legacy includes nurturing the next generation of singers. His mentorship and influence have paved the way for emerging artists in a genre that demands both technical skill and emotional depth.

The Indian music industry has indeed lost one of its brightest stars. As fans and peers from the world of music and films mourn his passing, they also celebrate the rich legacy of art and compassion that Pankaj Udhas leaves behind. He will be remembered not just for his contribution to ghazal and Indian music but as an artist who brought grace, elegance, and profound sentiment to every note he sang. His timeless melodies remain etched in the hearts of those who found solace in his music, and his indelible impact on the cultural fabric of India will be felt for generations to come.

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