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HIGH NOTES

A song for all occasions

Though he is mainly known as a ghazal singer, Talat Aziz has sung for films, faced the camera and experimented with musical forms. In a chat with ARCHANA SUBRAMANIAN, he recalls the highs and lows of his three-decades in the music field.



Extending musical frontiers: Talat Aziz.

Ghazal and playback singer Talat Aziz hails from an illustrious family, great patrons of fine arts. Born in Hyderabad, Talat was trained primarily by Ustad Samad Khan and later by Ustad Fayaz Ahmed. His first music performance was in Hyderabad but he moved to Mumbai later. Having been in the field for many years, Talat talks about the changes in the music scene, why ghazals are still popular and his stint in movies.

Did you always want to be a ghazal singer?

My journey as a singer started 30 years ago when I cut my first album. I took it up as a hobby. I loved music but I never knew I would take it up professionally. I was exposed to ghazals very early and I loved this genre; that's how I got into singing ghazals.

The music scene in India has changed a lot. Does the ghazal still attract people?

India has seen changes in business, music and other fields. People download music as opposed to buying cd's and cassettes. But the interest for music has grown. There are loyal fans even today; when I performed last month at Chandni Chowk in Delhi about 4000 people were present there. People will follow and listen as long as music has a platform to perform.

What kind of music do you appreciate?

Today I tend to gravitate more towards the purity of sound. It comes to artists as they want to move towards the soul of music. I look at the classical side and also interact with classical artists and get to know more about the musicality of ragas. Sitting, listening and singing help me learn and absorb more.

You sang for movies… was this a choice or just experimentation?

That was the need at that time. Movies were experimenting with music. They are seasonal by nature so, when it came to ghazals, they wanted me to sing. I was lucky because the songs I sang are classics today. And that's keeps me going!

Tell us about your first album. Your inspirations?

My inspiration was Mehdi Hassan saheb. He brought in a revolution in ghazal singing with his unique style of blending classical ragas with ghazals. I was among the first few independent artists to be signed on then. Film music was not doing well and there was a need for an alternative form of music to fill the gap. I asked Jagjit Singh to compose music for me and that's how I went on to cut my first vinyl record.

What makes ghazals different from other genres? Why is it still popular?

Ghazals are a unique form. They have two disciplines: poetry and song. It has a niche audience. It's also a blend of two art forms, as it rises from classical Indian art forms. The beauty is that it's very expressive. Ghazal is the only form of music where the thought is completed in two lines.

Do you also compose?

I started composing when I was 19. This January I released an album with songs I had composed and written. Music also happened along the line. It's all integrated that way. It's not the number of albums that count but the quality.

You also tried acting…

I felt I could do a decent job as an actor... I think I succeeded. Acting is a different medium and also requires dedication and hard work. I enjoyed it while it lasted and am not averse to doing more as long as it is worth it. The reason I am not doing any now is that TV went in a direction that I personally didn't identify with. I did host a couple of TV shows but wasn't too happy with the outcome. I have an offer of a film based on music but in a very nascent stage. If and when it happens, it will be known to all...

The audience reactions in India versus abroad?

They are equal in their love for ghazals. You have to understand that, regardless of the country, a ghazal lover will invariably enjoy the classic ones as well as new compositions depending on the mood. I enjoy performing before an audience, which is vocal in its appreciation.

You are one of the few classical singers who are credited with experimenting when it comes to singing…

True! I have experimented with music as one would like to extend the frontiers as much as one can. I was the first ghazal artist to release a video album, Tasaavur (meaning Imagination), as far back as 1987. I also experimented with fusing different genres like khayal with the ghazal interspersed with blues in 2003 with artistes like Ustad Rashid Khan and Louis Banks. I received kudos and brickbats; you have to be ready for both when you experiment. I will keep trying until my creative juices stop or opportunities dry up.

Talat Unplugged

Film hits
Na Kisi Ki Aankh Ka (Shararat);
Zindagi jab bhi teri bazm mein
(Umrao Jaan); Phir chhidi raat baat
phulon ki (Bazaar); Aaina mujhse meri (Daddy)
Notable albums
Lehren, Ehsaas, Suroor, Manzil,
Dhadkan, Mehboob, Irhsaad
As an actor
Dhun (film), Noorjehan, Ghulam,
Manzil, Sahil, Sailaab, Dil Apna Aur
Preet Parayee (all TV serials)

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