Ghulam Ali doesn’t need an introduction. One of the most revered ghazal performers on the circuit and the voice behind gems such as ‘Awargi’ and ‘Hungama hai kyon barpa’, his popularity knows no borders. At the launch of his biography penned by Bhavesh Seth and Sadhana J recently, he talked about the future of the ghazal scene and his chemistry with good pal, the late Jagjit Singh.
Ghulam Ali and late Jagjit Singh at a concert. (HT Photo)
How did you choose to become a ghazal singer?
It was my father’s (Ustad Daulat Ali Jafferi) dream. He named me after the ghazal legend Bade Ghulam Ali saab, under whom I was fortunate enough to train. I have been practising since the age of nine.
How has the journey been so far?
Thaqawat mein toh raha hoon par safar bohot khushnuma raha hai (It has been tiring journey but pleasant nevertheless). I’ve received love wherever I’ve gone. Even at places I visit for the first time, I’ve got people’s love and appreciation.
Have the traditions of ghazal singing changed? What do you feel about its future?
Ghazal isn’t changing; people are forcing it to change. Words are accorded a special, deep meaning in this genre and I feel it’s the responsibility of the singer to preserve their essence. Today, the direction of music has changed. Singers are in haste and want instant fame. But it’s not just the singers who are to blame. Even listeners don’t have the time and patience to understand the genre. But if you ask about the future, I think the art will live on. There will always be ghazal admirers and singers.
Do you find differences when it comes to audiences in India and Pakistan? Which are your favourite performance venues in both countries?
I don’t see any difference as I receive love everywhere I go. I enjoy performing in Lahore as it has intelligent listeners, who understand the nuances of the art. I also enjoy performing in Kolkata. Even though people there don’t understand the complex poetry, they have a good understanding of music.
As an artiste, have you
ever faced the brunt of the problems that prevail between India and Pakistan? Not really. I have always been loved and respected in both the countries. Though there have been some instances that were upsetting, it’s been unfortunate for those people, not for me. I’ve been coming to India for the past 35 years and each visit has been memorable.
Which are your favourite compositions?
The closest ones for me are the ones that are admired by my listeners. To name a few: ‘Gaye dino ka sur aag le kar’, ‘Dayam pada hua tere dar par’and ‘Shaam kos ubh-e-chaman yaad aai’.
You shared a close bond with late Jagjit Singh.
He was my brother and will always be very close to me. I am still very shocked by his sudden departure. We have been like a family since 1976 and I really feel his absence. We had performed together at several international and charity concerts.
Tell us something about the biography.
It’s written with a lot of love and dedication. My fans can get an insight into my career, the ups and downs of my life by reading this book.
When are you performing next in Mumbai?
Next month, most likely.