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Music for the soul: Beyond time & borders 
He goes an extra mile to translate Arabic and Persian words for uninitiated listeners. Still, he feels that ghazals do transcend the language barrier for lyrics have feelings which can be communicated without understanding the language.
Nonika Singh 

Ghazals may come and go but the monarch of ghazal gayaki Ghulam Ali stands as firm as ever. As does the swarm of his aficionados. Young, old, men, women, connoisseurs and the not-so discerning, the tribe of his listeners, yes in India too, which he calls his "second home", refuses to dwindle. No wonder, he quips, "There will never ever be a void in the world of ghazal singing." Yes, after ghazal maestro Jagjit Singhís untimely demise too. Says Ali, who was in Chandigarh for a concert recently, "Nature is omnipresent and omnipotent and has a way of filling up a gap. So donít think that after me ghazal will be no more."

Ghulam Ali To further ensure that the ghazal lives forever, he is planning to open up music schools in India, Pakistan, USA and Canada. He already has disciples all over the world. So what does he tell his shaagirds,to sing like him or forge their own paths? He is candid enough to admit that there is no harm in singing like ustaads for, "you have to begin somewhere." but goes on to add, "You canít be a Xerox copy either." Himself a disciple of greats like the doyen of Patiala gharana Ustaad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, after whom he was named, and later Ustaad Barkat Ali Khan, how much does he owe to his masters? More pertinently, did he ever think of becoming a classical singer? He shares, "Actually I had trained under the stalwarts to make a mark as a classical vocalist only. But when I would hear Ustaad Barkat Ali Khan who would sing thumris, dadras and ghazals, I was smitten by the beauty of ghazals and chose to be a ghazal singer." Of course, years of classical training has held this son of a vocalist and sarangi player in good stead for "basics lay the ground for a singerís real grooming and blossoming." Today, as he sings ghazals in his pure inimitable style the classical embellishments like harkat and behalava, are more than palpable. He remarks, "The idea is to present ghazals that I compose in Hindustani classical ragas, with all the nuances intact. But my endeavour also is to make it sound simple." In fact, till date he has not forgotten the advice of Ustaad Bade Ghulam Ali who told him, "When you sing on stage do so effortlessly not as if you are writhing in pain. Enjoy yourself and make others partake in the pleasure. Singing should be a natural process." Is that why he is against singers who jump back and forth on stage like acrobats as he has reportedly said before? He replies, "I have nothing against any genre of music. All I want to say is pop is not our music. We have imported it for there is no custom duty on it. Still at the end of the day all music is universal."

But in ghazal gayaki is it difficult to reconcile the dichotomy that while music has no language ghazal is all about shayari`85.?. He agrees that the import of words canít be undermined. Thatís why he goes an extra mile to translate Arabic and Persian words for uninitiated listeners. Still, he observes that ghazals do transcend the language barrier for lyrics have feelings which can be communicated without understanding the language. He muses, "How else would a Punjabi song sung in Kolkata demand an encore, why would listeners across the seven seas sit with rapt attention during a ghazal concert?" Besides, having sung all-time greats like Ghalib, he has also rendered the poetry of many a contemporary poet. He has teamed up with lyricist Gulzar and is all praise for the poet with a difference and says, "His poetry is refreshing yet based in tradition."

Personally, not only ghazals with dard and soz appeal to him, but also those which stand out for its lafzon ki jadat. Tune kuch bhi na kaha ho jaise mere hi dil ki sada ho jaise`85. only when words such as these are touched by his melodious voice, the allure not only multiplies manifold but becomes timeless. Thatís why the words of his forefathersó remain steadfast in your belief and crowds will come to you of their own volitionóhave proved to be prophetic. That is why his die-hard fans remember most of his ghazals like Faasle aise bhi honge, Dil mein ek lehar si oothi hai, Itni muddat baad mile ho by heart.





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