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Interviews |  21 Oct 2008 12:50 |  By chiragsutar

Ghulam Ali - "A singer should keep dance aside while singing"

It's a humbling experience to meet an icon like Ghulam Ali at a public do. The man has toyed with music in its 'pure' form with such ease - experimenting with feel, melody, meaning, and lots of surprises in the form of 'improvisations' Ghulam Ali does that with such ease!

One could play this game - listen to any two or more versions of 'Chupke Chupke' or 'Awaargi' and try to find similarities between them, and always be ready to 'lose'. It's as if Khansaab can cook the same dish in a hundred ways. However, neither he as a cook will get bored of it, nor you, as a gourmet can stop devouring! It's magic you don't want to understand; only experience.

At a recent music launch, Khansaab obliged the media by answering most of their questions patiently  Although he did, in his own mild way, protest, "Arrey ab bas bhi karo, itni toh baat ki humne", he did break into laughter (one supposes, appreciatively) when this correspondent ventured, "Khansaab, aapse kitni bhi baat karo kaam hi hai!"

Chirag Sutar, in conversation with Ghulam Ali


Khansaab, besides being an outstanding ghazal singer, you are a fantastic composer too...

(Laughs) As a composer, one has to pay attention to lyrics, the feel, and the mood of the song. Very few are blessed to be able to sing as well as compose – Allah ka shukr hai, Har koi nahi hota!

How do you find your son's (Aamir Ali) compositions in the new album 'Generations'?

I would rather ask the listeners to comment on how they found his work. But from what I have observed, I feel he has good understanding of sur, taal and laya. But it's all about working hard!

What is your opinion on the present generation of singers?

Aaj kal toh Naach Gaane ka daur hai. However, a singer should try and keep dance aside while singing.

And what do you feel about present day lyricists?

I feel today's lyricists are fearful they fear that if they write a good meaningful piece, the common man may not understand it!

Have you thought of composing or singing for films?

(Smiles) I don't get time, as I am constantly touring, but Inshallah, waqt mila toh who bhi kar lenge! (If I get the time, I might do that too!)

The recording techniques have changed drastically. How do you view this trend?

Well, the advantage during our times was that, no matter what, we had to record the song in one go. As a result, the 'mood' of the song always remained intact. Us waqt, gaane pe zor lagta tha, dimag pe zor lagta tha (laughs) (It entailed a stress on the music, and you needed to tax your brains!).

There aren't many 'young' ghazal singers. What do you think is the reason for this?

Young singers prefer to get into the commercial music scenario, it promises them instant success and popularity. In our times, artists were never desperate for popularity.

You are favourite among many music lovers and musicians  However, who are your favorites?

Ustad Barkat Ali Khansaab, Mehdi Hassan, Begum Akhtar, Hariharan, and Talat Aziz.

How many performances do you give in a year?

(Laughs) I have cut down on my performances but, I don't really remember. I have been singing for the last 56 years.

¦If you are not doing much, how do you spend your time?

I rest, think aaaram karta hoon, soochta hoon, Allah se lagav hai (smiles)

At the Generations launch, you insisted that radio stations should play ghazals? Why?

Well, they should play all kinds of music in the prime 9 am -6 pm slot, listeners should be exposed to all kinds of music I feel it's inspiring 

Don't you think that music has no longer remained an art form; it's more of a commodity?

Well, music directors and composers should focus on creating 'classics' and melodies which are 'timeless'. Today, a film or a music album is ephemeral Log chhe-saat mahine mein bhool jaate hain (people forget in a matter of six to seven months).

Your advice for upcoming singers

Ego nahin hona chahiye, and an artiste should always speak the truth – it shows in the voice, and that makes a lot of difference.


Pic by Mitesh Bhuvad