Bhupinder Singh and Mitali Singh are two of the most popular ghazal singers in the country. Incidentally, Bhupinder also has many Bollywood hits — like Ek akela is shehar mein, Dil dhoondhta hai and Do deewane shehar mein, among others — to his credit. After a gap of two years, the husband-wife are now set to release a new ghazal album at a concert in the city on May 26. We talk to them about their musical journey, working with Lata Mangeshkar and Gulzar, and more.
Bhupinder, is it true that you didn’t want to become a musician?
Bhupinder: (Laughs) Since there was always so much music at home, I didn’t want to do anything that was related to it. My father, Nathaa Singh, was a music professor in Amritsar, Punjab. My older brothers were instrumentalists. As a teenager, I thought I won’t be respected if I become a musician, and that I wouldn’t have a career in music. So, I gave up singing. I picked up the Hawaiian guitar instead, and started playing the most difficult film songs and classical music on it. I think I started singing again due to the guitar.
You introduced the Spanish guitar, bass and drums to ghazals. How do you think these western sounds have helped the genre?
Bhupinder: I think the use of western instruments enhances the tonal quality of the sound of a ghazal. But you have to be careful while using them; a ghazal mustn’t sound western.Mitali, your collaboration with Gulzar for your album, Chand Parosa Hai, was a huge success.
How was the experience of working with him?
Mitali: Bhupinder introduced me to Gulzar saab in 1980. I bonded with him over Bengali. I was amazed to learn that he knew so much about Bengali literature and music. His Bengali is quite fluent too. Gulzar saab is like an ocean of knowledge.
Why did you move away from Bollywood playback singing?
Bhupinder: I was a playback singer for many years, but I could not spend my whole life inside the four walls of those studios. I had composed music for so many albums by then, but I was not performing live. Coincidently, I met Mitali around the same time. She was already an accomplished ghazal singer. We got married, and I started performing with her on stage on public demand.
You have recorded several songs with Lata Mangeshkar…
Bhupinder: My first duet with Lataji was ‘Beeti na bitai raina’ for the film, Parichay (1972). As a new singer, it was very difficult for me to concentrate on a song with Lataji standing next to me. But she was soencouraging that I managed to finish the recording in time. I am very thankful to Lataji.
You both are coming out with this album after a gap of two years.
Mitali: It takes a lot of time to select the right poetry, and compose music for an album. There are many factors involved in the making of an album, which is why we have been working on our new record, Dil Ki Zubaan, for a while.
When you are on stage with Bhupinder, are you just his collaborator, or does the wife element also play a role?
Mitali: When I am on stage with him, my focus is our performance in totality. That includes the selection of our ghazals, nazms (genre of Urdu poetry), etc. But yes, the wife element comes in when we’re finding the songs for Bhupinder, and reminding him to add some shers in between.
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