Beloved Indian ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas dies aged 72

Musician who released more than 50 solo albums during his career had been suffering from 'prolonged illness'

Beloved Indian ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas has died at the age of 73 following a prolonged illness, his family said. Photo: @pankajudhas / Instagram
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Indian singer Pankaj Udhas, who was beloved for his ghazals and love songs, has died after a prolonged illness, his family has said. He was 72.

Udhas's daughter, Nayaab Udhas, made the announcement on Instagram on Tuesday on behalf of her family.

“With a very heavy heart, we are saddened to inform you of the sad demise of Padmashri Pankaj Udhas on 26th February, 2024 due to a prolonged illness,” the message read.

Padmashri is an honorific title, used to refer to recipients of the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian award. Udhas received the award in 2006 to mark his 25 years in the music industry.

A regular performer in the Emirates, Udhas last performed in the UAE at the Dubai World Trade Centre in 2022.

“His last concert in Dubai was a night par excellence, filled with melodious and nostalgic moments, his ghazals taking each audience member on a personal journey of their own beautiful memories associated with his songs,” said Osman Osman, the managing director of concert organiser Blu Blood. “Pankaj ji was a consummate professional, gracious and kind-hearted, and his presence always exuded a positive light.”

Born in Gujarat to a musically-inclined family, Udhas first learnt to play the tabla and then began learning Indian classical vocals, which brought him to Mumbai at an early age.

There, he fell in love with ghazals, a poetic form of music, with origins in Arabic poetry. He even learnt Urdu so he could pursue a career in ghazals. After touring for months in Canada and the US, Udhas released his first ghazal album, Aahat, in 1980, which was an immediate success.

His career eventually led him to Bollywood films for playback singing, in which pre-recorded songs are lip-synched by actors in films. Chithi Aayi Hai, from the 1986 crime thriller Naam, would become Udhas's first major hit.

He has since recorded hundreds of songs for Bollywood films spanning decades, his last one being the song Raat Bhar Tanha Raha, for the 2016 film Dil Toh Deewana Hai.

During his career, Udhas released more than 50 solo albums and hundreds of compilation albums.

Bollywood actress Sameera Reddy, whose career in the industry began after she appeared in Udhas's music video for the song Aur Ahista Kijiye Baatien in 1997, was one of the first to pay tribute to him.

Reddy posted: “Today we have lost a legend. Aur Ahista Kijiye Baatien changed my life. It was an honour and a privilege to be part of his era. Thank you Pankaj Udhas Sir for your beautiful songs that have been an emotion for our generation. We will miss you. Rest in peace.”

Udhas is survived by wife Farida Udhas and their daughters Nayaab and Reva Udhas.

Updated: February 27, 2024, 10:42 AM