Ghazal Maestro Pankaj Udhas Dies At 79

The news of the legendary singer’s death was shared on social media by the family.

Published On Feb 26, 2024 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024


Leaving behind songs such as Chitthi Aayee Hai, Aur Ahista Kijiye Baatein and Aaj Phir Tum Pe Pyar Aaya (with Anuradha Paudwal), among hundreds of others, legendary singer, Pankaj Udhas passed away on February 26, 2024 at the age of 72. 

The news was shared on Instagram by his daughter, Nayaab Udhas, and according to reports, the singer had been ill for a long while and died at Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai on Monday morning. “With a very heavy heart, we are saddened to inform you of the sad demise of Padma Shri Pankaj Udhas on February 26 due to a prolonged illness,” read the message. 

His death did come as a shock to the music industry as messages began to pour in. Chef Kunal Kapoor, on his Instagram account, said: “Today, we bid farewell to a legend whose melodies touched our souls. Pankaj Udhas may have left this world, but his music will forever echo in our hearts, a timeless tribute to his enduring legacy. Rest in peace, maestro.” Movie critic Taran Adarsh said: “Heartbreaking… Ghazal maestro and #PadmaShri awardee #PankajUdhas ji passes away… Heartfelt condolences to his family… Om Shanti”. 

Born in 1951, in Gujarat, Pankaj Udhas, along with Talat Aziz and Jagjit Singh, was credited for making ghazals more approachable, which is also what pushed him towards Fame when he sang Chitti Aayi Hai in the Hindi film, Naam. From live gigs, playback singing, to independent albums and collaborative projects, Udhas never stopped signing, even though it's been rumoured that while he was definitely interested in music, he'd have liked to be a doctor. 

The youngest among three bothers — his brothers Nirmal Udhas and Manhar Udhas are also singers — Udhas was drawn to music watching his father who used to play the instrument, Dilruba. Soon after, all the brothers were admitted to the Sangeet Natya Academy in Rajkot. What’s interesting is that Udhas began his journey into music with the table and then switched to Hindustani classical music under the tutelage of Ghulam Qadir Khan Sahab. Then he moved to Mumbai to train under Gwalior Gharana singer Navrang Nagpurkar. 

His first tryst with Bollywood was in 1972, in a film called Kamna, and while it didn’t do well, it definitely set his path. As his interest in ghazal grew, he also learned Urdu to become a ghazal singer. But his journey was not without hurdles. Udhas moved to Canada and then to the US, where he sang ghazals at various shows before making his way back to India. 

It was in 1980 that he released his first album and since then has had 40 albums to his name. 

He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2006 to commemorate the completion of silver jubilee in the career of ghazal singing.

Photo: Press Photo