Memories of another day…

The early 70s coincided with my cousin coming to Mumbai from Pune in search of a job. Ravi Gurjar stayed with us for a short period till he could set up base in the metropolis. It was he who introduced me to Ghulam Ali. He was fond of the singer’s ghazals and after I asked him whose songs he was humming (at that moment I was not familiar with any one of these) and at the next trip back to Pune, he came back with a cassette, which was his prized possession. Soon enough I was hooked on to the man’s style and singing. I had heard Mehdi Hassan earlier , thanks to my uncle’s collection and found the style different.

Ravi was a national volleyball player and a role model of sorts for his athleticism growing up for me. He remains one of the fittest members of our clutch of cousins.

It was a happy coincidence today morning that my wise friend from Philly should send me the link to this very song that was probably the second one by Ghulam Ali that I heard. (Hungama hai kyun barpa was the first)

Nasir Kazmi wrote the poem set to tune largely based on Bhairavi by Ghulam Ali. At this point Ghulam Ali was refreshingly different from Mehdi Hassan Sahab. He was also more fidel with the gayaki. Sadly, he gave in to the needless temptation of playing to the gallery and the gayaki actually suffered immensely. I remember actually walking out with a few hundred others halfway through a live concert by the man in Ganesh Kreeda Manch, something which should have actually been unthinkable for a hardcore music lover like me. At that time Ghulam Ali was a pale shadow of himself, he was hardly singing and actually showboating with a few faithful acolytes who fawned on every vocal trick. The whole experience was rather sad and dissatisfying. Ghulam Ali has a very illustrious lineage and musical pedigree, and was a disciple of the great Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and was also trained by Bade Ghulam Ali’s younger brothers- Barkat Ali Khan and Mubarak Ali Khan. Ghulam Ali is considered to be one of the best ghazal singers of his era. His style and variations in ghazal singing were unique and he differed from his predecessor Mehdi Hassan Sahab in that stylised presentation.

His father, a fan of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan sahib, actually named his son after the doyen of the Patiala Gharana. Ghulam Ali was made a disciple by Khansahib after initially declining after Ghulam Ali rendered a thumri to the great man: “Saiyyan Bolo Tanik Mose Rahiyo Na Jaye..”. After he finished, Ustad hugged him and made him his disciple. The greater part of his training happened with Khansahib’s two younger brothers though, Barkat Ali and Mubarak Ali. He has arguably achieved far greater popularity in India than the Shehenshah-e-Ghazal, Mehdi Hassan Sahab. His renditions did figure in mainstream Hindi movies as well.

This ghazal is such a wonderful, meaningful piece of poetry that never fails to enthral.

अपनी धुन में रहता हूँ
मैं भी तेरे जैसा हूँ

ओ पिछली रुत के साथी
अब के बरस मैं तनहा हूँ
अपनी धुन में…

तेरी गली में सारा दिन
दुख के कंकर चुनता हूँ
अपनी धुन में…

मेरा दीया जलाये कौन
मैं तेरा खाली कमरा हूँ
अपनी धुन में…

अपनी लहर है अपना रोग
दरिया हूँ और प्यासा हूँ
अपनी धुन में…

आती रुत मुझे रोयेगी
जाती रुत का झोँका हूँ
अपनी धुन में…

At the end, I would like to include the link to a young upcoming kid that I really admire for sheer guts and her courage not just in her personal life but also in taking on the challenges of varied genres.

A totally different flavour. One should definitely not compare the child’s singing to the maestro. She is at a different stage of evolution of her career than Ghulam Ali Sahib.

Thanks Nick Maneckshaw for reminding me early today of this classic. It will hum inside my head as I go for the 2nd jab today. Stay safe folks, stay healthy. Take the jab

6 thoughts on “Memories of another day…

  1. Ustad Ghulam Ali, a ghazal singer belonging to the Patiala Gharana is considered as one of the best ghazal singers of his era. He is also an accomplished tabla player. His style & variations in singing ghazals has been noted as unique as he blended Hindustani classical music with ghazals unlike any other Ghazal singer. Highly popular amongst the South Asian Diaspora, in the USA, the UK & the Middle Eastern Countries, many of his hit ghazals have been used in Bollywood movies. He belongs to a musical family, his father being a vocalist & a sarangi player who initiated Ghulam Ali to music from an early age. His father named him after Bade Ghulam Ali & at age 15, he became a student of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, a master of the Patiala Gharana of Hindustani music. Due to the busy schedule of Bade Ghulam Ali, he was trained mainly by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s three brothers, Barqat Ali Khan, Mubarak Ali Khan & Amanat Ali Khan in Lahore.
    All these distinguished classical musicians taught him the finer nuances of classical music & his solid foundation of classical music was laid by studying Thumri & learning the different Raagas. He initially started singing for Radio Lahore in 1960 & along with singing ghazals, he also composed music for bhajans. His compositions are raag based & he is known for blending gharana-gaayaki into ghazal & this gives his singing the capability to touch millions of hearts the world over. He beautifully sings Punjabi songs too which became extremely popular in both sides of the border. He entered Bollywood with a film by B R Chopra. Apart from singing ghazals he sang Gajalu tee thula thula aankha, Lolaaeka tee thula & Ke chha ra diun in Nepali language with Narayan Gopal, a well known Nepali singer & composer Deepak Jangam.Those songs were written by King Mahendra of Nepal & these songs were compiled in an album entitled Narayan Gopal, Ghulam Ali Ra Ma are popular among Nepali music lovers to date. He feels that ghazal is not facing any competition from any other genre as its forte is its meaningful shayari which can connect with anyone. It is so universal that a person who does not know Urdu can gain pleasure out of it because of the way it is presented for when he got an opportunity of taking ghazals to various parts of the world, he realised that if one does not dilute the way of presentation, which one has received from one’s gurus, then everyone will praise it. Individuality of any art form still stands out. When he was singing in the U K, one of the journalists wrote, “I do not get a single word of what he sings but my ears feel pleasure of listening to it.” This proves that emotions remain the same everywhere & all an artist has to do is to evoke them. The various forms of waves in an ocean are finite but Ghulam Ali, can’t be bogged down by such limitations. His voice can produce as many variants of lehar as time on the stage & as much as his audience permits. It can roll on & on, never repeating. From a gentle ripple to a tsunami – he has them all in his musical armoury. He may be sitting still, cross-legged, with an indulgent smile & twinkling eyes, but his throat is effortlessly indulging in musical acrobatics; powerful, unwavering, honed to perfection by decades of riyaaz, enough for his fans to go ecstatic!
    They find his style, no lengthy preamble by way of an alaap, hitting the ground, scintillating, exciting, exhilarating…
    They love the musical fireworks that the maestro unleashes, adore the way his notes jump from tree to tree. It’s an adrenaline rush & the audience emerge out of the concert with a heady feeling. It is this musical acrobatics & calisthenics that holds the audience mesmerised.
    Ustad recites the shers in his trademark manner without distorting the beauty of the poetry. He knows where to pause & where to stress, so that the meaning comes across. His voice has subtle variations which can convey the entire gamut of emotions his audience wants to connect with.
    For his fans, he is a falcon, not a dove.
    The cognoscenti has their own take on the matter. He is a ‘man of the masses’, they claim. Acrobatics are fine, but there needs to be a gradual build-up by way of an alaap, without which there would be a feeling of unfulfillment in the minds of the discerning listeners.
    The alaap is critical to any Raag-based rendition, including a ghazal. It unfolds & adorns the Raag. Some hold that his ghazals ‘lack’ depth & poise, that they are short of aesthetics. Embellishments are of course integral to any rendition – be it taandaari, sargams, murkees, harkats or khatkas – but they need to be invoked moderately; else they will enervate the essence of the Raag, though they may elevate the mood of the masses.
    This is the dilemma faced by any maestro – does one create & influence the taste of the audience or does one cater to the puritans…
    There is nothing wrong with either & there is a vast audience that savours both the contemplative & the combustible.
    Film songs don’t allow that latitude. It’s only when he does private ghazals that he smashes boundaries.
    Though he talks with the crowds, that’s his singing style, he keeps his authenticity. When singing in private soirees, amongst aficionados, his classical renditions put a smile on the faces of ‘purists’. It’s not that he can’t be tamed. Listen to his album ‘Meraj -e- Ghazal’ with Ashatai. If he has chosen a particular style like that of a trapeze artist that keeps his devoted audience screaming for more, so be it.

    Liked by 1 person

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