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Ghulam Ali's India connection

The ghazal maestro says that it is friends who draw him to India than shows.

art and culture Updated: Mar 28, 2007 19:50 IST

Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali, who is in India to meet up with some friends, finds this country an ideal place for "good songs and singing".

"India is an ideal place for good songs and singing. Every visit of mine is a pleasure," Ali, a singer of the Patiala gharana, told IANS in an interview.

"People love me immensely in India. So nowadays I come here more to meet my dear friends than for shows," said the singer who was born in 1940 in Kaleke village, Sialkot - then in India, now in Pakistan.

On India-Pakistan ties, he said: "I think relations between the two countries must improve. Peaceful relations between neighbours come above everything else. I'm glad to see we're slowly working towards that goal. Indian artistes are loved in Pakistan as much as Pakistani artistes in this country."

To Ali, "peace and love between the two countries is imperative".

"I've been trying to build a bridge between the two countries in my own way through music. I first came to India in 1980 and never stopped coming since then. I must have been in India a hundred times, I feel very comfortable over here."

Excerpts:
You keep coming to India.
I really enjoy working with talented musicians like Aadesh (Shrivastava). I don't come to India just for concerts and performances. I've lots of friends here. People love me immensely in India. So nowadays I come more to meet my dear friends than for shows. I've done quite a number of charity shows in India recently. Koi bhi ho, kissi ki musibat, apni hi hoti hai (Somebody else's pain is our pain).

Is friendship between India and Pakistan feasible?
Why not? Both countries want it. On a cultural level, we've been trying to bring the two countries together for a long time. I think the relations between the two countries must improve.

Peaceful relations between neighbours come above everything else. I'm glad to see we're slowly working towards that goal. Indian artistes are loved in Pakistan as much as Pakistani artistes in this country. 'Pyar-mohabbat to badhni chahiye, yeh ghatne wali cheez nahin hai.' (Love must increase; it is not something that decreases.)

What did you think of Yash Chopra's India-Pakistan romance "Veer-Zaara"?
'Ussmein bahut achi baat kahi hai.' (That said a very good thing). Peace and love between the two countries is imperative. Even I've been trying to build a bridge between the two countries in my own way through music. I first came to India in 1980 and never stopped coming since then. I must have been in India a hundred times, I feel very comfortable over here.

Where do you think the traditional ghazal (Urdu poem) fits into the contemporary music scene?
Today's music is far removed from the ghazal. Ghazal ek apna muqaam rakhti hai. (Ghazal has its own status.) It's not just a genre, it's a thought, an attitude and a way of life. When a ghazal is featured in a film, it acquires exceptional longevity. My ghazal "Chupke chupke, raat bhar" in "Nikaah" is remembered to this day. I've sung many ghazals in films. They're all loved to this day.

Do you still feel satisfied singing ghazals?
My love for my work remains undiminished. I never gave up singing in the style and mood that I had adopted from the start. That's what keeps my love for my art alive. One should love and respect one's own work. I never sing at a venue where my musicians and I aren't comfortable.

What do you do with rowdy members of the audience?
Unko meri baat man-ni padti hai, tabhi main gaata hoon. (They have to listen to me, only then I sing.) I prefer live performances to studio recordings. I like to relate to my audience directly.

Do you prefer to sing your own compositions?
Ninety-five percent of my songs are self-composed. But if others compose something good, I'm happy singing it. But yes, I've become used to singing my own songs.

Tell me what you think about the musicians in Mumbai?
I remember recording an album 'Meraj-e-Ghazal' with Asha Bhosle in the 1980s. During that recording, I met nearly everyone from the music industry. I've continued my association with Mumbai's music industry, including an album of Punjabi songs with Kavita Krishnamurthy. I might be working with Lata Mangeshkar soon.

She's a one-woman authority on sur (melody) and music. I'm her big fan. 'Badi hi sureeli artiste didi hain hamari, bahut pyar karti hain mujhe.' (She's a melodious singer and likes me very much.)

What is your next project?
This visit to India is to meet some Australian friends in Pune. Soon I will leave for Pakistan. India is an ideal place for good songs and singing. Every visit of mine is a pleasure. I sing in every part of the world. Lekin Pakistan aur Hindustan mein doosra hi mazaa aata hai. (But singing in Pakistan and India gives me a different kind of thrill.)