The Never-ending Ghazal Wave of India

ghazal wave

Ghazal is a form of poetry. It’s my favorite and I remember listening to this poetry form since my childhood; thanks to my father. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love; despite that pain. But a ghazal has several facets and has been sung in almost all Indian languages.

Ghazals were introduced in Indian cinema in the 1950s and it went on to win many hearts till the 1990s, after which it suddenly faded. I remember many films and TV serials having at least one ghazal in them. Looks like it has now lost touch with Bollywood; but not with the generations!

Gosh! I’m fortunate.

In Pakistan, popular Arabic and Urdu speaking singers like Noor Jehan, Iqbal Bano, Abida Parveen, Farida Khanum, Ghulam Ali, and Mehdi Hassan cast their magic. They were already quite popular with the masses but as time progressed, the public wanted simpler language.

In India, Rajendra and Nina Mehta set the mood for ghazal in the 1960s. They were quite popular on TV also. Those who followed the ghazal wave in the late 1970s and early 1980s would have seen them regularly on Doordarshan. But a paradigm shift happened in 1977 when duo Jagjit and Chitra Singh — who were already getting popular for their style of rendering simple ghazals—launched their first music album. Their ghazals were in simple language with few Urdu words and had a guitar for the first time.

The early 1980s were an entirely different era; for ghazals. Jagjit and Chitra Singh had already become popular in the latter part of the previous decade, and Pankaj Udhas, Ashok Khosla, Anup Jalota, Ghansham Vaswani, Bhupinder Singh, Talat Aziz, Chandan Dass, Penaz Masani and Hariharan made their mark in this genre.

I’d a lot of audio cassettes of all of them.

Sadly, however, the ghazal wave died slowly. Even among singers, repetition began creeping in, and the quality of poetry declined too. Increasing dependence on alcohol-related songs added to the woes of the genre, with some singers trying to catch the attention of bar visitors. Moreover, too many people tried to cash in on the genre. It was said that anyone with a shawl and harmonium wanted to become a ghazal singer.

I remember going to various ghazal concerts as a child and even in my college days. I completed college in 2000, and by that time, such concerts also looked done and dusted. My favorite form of poetry was now on the MP3 player only. This is how life went on till 2015 when I heard about an event called GHAZAL BAHAR.

I got excited and immediately booked the tickets.

To my surprise, the show was fabulous. Some comparatively new singers like Tauseef Akhtar, Jaswinder Singh, Radhika Chopra, Anurag Sharma, and Jazim Sharma along with some old stalwarts, took away my heart. I came back and started searching for more contemporary ghazal singers and I found about Shishir Parkhie and Pooja Gaitionde and a few more.

I was thrilled!

I also came to know about various ghazal concert-going around the country, and I visited them all. The audience was mostly elderly people but nowadays, a lot of youth attend such concerts.

For almost 15 years I thought that the ghazal wave has died but the truth is that it will never.

Ghazals are evergreen. A mesmerizing blend of poetry, intense thoughts, and simple melody, they can never go out of fashion.

Although, my all-time favorite is the ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh — who I consider the undisputed ghazal artist of the modern times my sincere gratitude to all the next generation ghazal singers who are keeping the flame of this burning tradition alive.

Many of the old ones have left the world, some have stopped singing but the wave is going on and on!

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