Pankaj Udhas Death: The Maestro Who Defined Ghazal Music

Pankaj Udhas, a veteran singer, passed away on February 26, 2024, at the age of 72, after battling a prolonged illness. Renowned for his soul-stirring ghazals and songs, he left an indelible mark on listeners across generations and musical genres.

As a Padma Shri awardee, he was highly esteemed in the music industry, collaborating with distinguished composers, lyricists, and vocalists.

The Early Life and Career

Born on May 17, 1951, in Jetpur, Gujarat, Pankaj Udhas hailed from a family with a rich musical heritage. Inspired by his father, Keshubhai Udhas, a classical singer, and his elder brother, Manhar Udhas, a playback singer, Pankaj embarked on his musical journey at the age of 10.

Relocating to Mumbai to pursue his passion, he marked his playback singing debut in 1972 with the film Kamna. However, it was his association with composer Jagjit Singh’s ghazal album “Aahat” in 1980 that propelled him to prominence.

Subsequently, albums like “Mukarar” (1981), “Thodi Thodi Piya Karo” (1984), and “Aafreen” (1986) solidified his stature as a leading ghazal exponent both nationally and internationally.

Pankaj Udhas also lent his captivating voice to several memorable Hindi film songs, including “Chitthi Aayi Hai” from Naam (1986), “Jeeye To Jeeye Kaise” from Saajan (1991), “Chhupana Bhi Nahi Aata” from Baazigar (1993), and “Na Kajre Ki Dhar” from Mohra (1994), collaborating with eminent music directors such as Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Nadeem-Shravan, Anu Malik, and Jatin-Lalit.

The Legacy and Influence

Beyond his vocal prowess, Pankaj Udhas contributed significantly to the proliferation of ghazal music, embracing diverse styles and themes ranging from romantic to classical, devotional, and folk.

His performances at renowned venues like the Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena, Madison Square Garden, and even the Cricket World Cup underscored his global appeal. Moreover, he distinguished himself as a philanthropist, supporting various social causes, including education, healthcare, environment, and women’s empowerment.

His association with organizations like the Cancer Patients Aid Association, Bharat Blind Technical Welfare Society, National Association for the Blind, and Save the Children India exemplified his commitment to societal welfare.

As a mentor, Pankaj Udhas nurtured and inspired numerous aspiring and established singers, including Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Kunal Ganjawala, and Shreya Ghoshal.

Recognized for his contributions, he received several prestigious awards, including the Padma Shri in 2006, the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Global Indian Music Academy Awards in 2016, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2019.

The Tributes and Condolences

Pankaj Udhas’s demise elicited an outpouring of grief from celebrities and fans alike, who expressed their condolences across social media platforms.

His funeral, held on February 27, 2024, with full state honors, witnessed the presence of notable singers like Shankar Mahadevan, Zakir Hussain, Anup Jalota, and Hariharan. Colleagues and friends shared heartfelt tributes, reminiscing about their cherished moments with Pankaj Udhas.

Some of the tributes include:

Sonu Nigam: “Pankaj Udhas ji was a legend, a friend, and a mentor. He was one of the finest ghazal singers of our times, who had a unique voice and style. He was also a humble and generous person, who always helped and supported others. I will miss him dearly.”

Sunidhi Chauhan: “Pankaj Udhas ji was a master of ghazals, who had a magical voice and a charming personality. He was also a kind and compassionate human being, who cared for many causes and people. He was a great influence on me and many others. I pray for his soul to rest in peace.”

Kunal Ganjawala: “Pankaj Udhas ji was a gem of a person, who had a golden heart and a golden voice. He was a pioneer of ghazal music, who brought it to the masses and made it popular.

He was also a generous and gracious person, who always welcomed and encouraged new talents. I feel honored to have worked with him and learned from him.”

Conclusion

Pankaj Udhas’s mellifluous voice resonated with millions, transcending boundaries of time and genre. As a stalwart in the music industry, he not only entertained but also enriched society with his philanthropy and mentorship.

His demise on February 26, 2024, at the age of 72, leaves behind an irreplaceable void. Rest in peace, Pankaj Udhas. Your legacy of timeless melodies and philanthropic endeavors will endure forever.

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