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Melody, wit and Ghulam Ali

The ghazal king Ghulam Ali enthralled the Dehra Dun audience with his ghazals, wit and humour during his performance at Virasat-2004 festival.

HUMOUR IS a universal language, they say. And what happens when it is laced with music and then served on audience, both connoisseurs as well as those with fleeting interest in music? You witness pleased listeners and their more animated response to the renderings of the singer on the dais. And the ghazal king from Pakistan Ghulam Ali knows the art too well. He gave ample proof of this skill at Dehra Dun's Ambedkar stadium this past week where he was part of Uttranchal's national level festival Virasat - 2004 organised by Rural Entrepreneurship for Art and Cultural Heritage (REACH).

"Ghazal main aksar kuch bhari lafz aa jate hain. Agar aapke upar bhi koi lafz mushkil guzre to usse bardarsht karain. He also kept explaining the meaning of many of them. But then he is no angel. "Jab koi baat aapko acchi lage to talian laga kar shirkat karain, par zyada zor se nahin". And turning to a photographer, he says; Ye photo le jayain to sher kahunga".

Goes beyond saying that the atmosphere is set. He begins with a sher; Roz kahta hoon ki bhool jaoun usse, Roz ye baat bhool jata hoon! followed by his famous ghazal, Ye Aalam shauq ka dekha na jaye, then the foot tapping Ye batain jhooti batain hai.

Call it his expertise achieved through training from Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, the maestro has this habit of unexpectedly sliding from the highest kala to the lowest kala, making it difficult for his all-time accompanist on sitar in India Allauddin Khan, to keep pace with him. "Ye zara `pa' se ghabrate hain, the maestro teases jokingly when Khan's fingers err and the audience breaks into peels of laughter. Khan is no less. He gives it back; Aap se sabhi ghabrate hain! This humorous interlude is followed by Khan's rigorous performance on sitar leaving no scope for the maestro to sing. "Ab inke ghusse ka pata chal gaya", he remarks. A hearty laugh by both sets the stage for some popular ghazals on demand; from Hungama Hai kyun Barpa to Chupke Chupke to Dil Main eik lahar and so on. The audience is treated with Ali's novel, 18 ways of rhythmic tunes attributed to the word lahar and a drunkard's way of expressing thodi si jo pee li hai to all clapping, swaying audience.

Singer first

But then, that is one aspect of the singer. He can be extremely blunt, especially to the media. "I am not here to talk to media. I am here to sing. You spoiled my mood," he blurts out to a bunch of journalists. But immediately tries to assuage their hurt feelings, "Actually I am very busy. I have to rush to Mauritius after the performance here. I keep touring all over Europe and Far East. For five months I remain at home only."

He has recently released Khushbu and Aitbar. "Four more albums are pending to be released. They are still not titled," he says.

Mention politics and see creases on his forehead. "I am an artiste. Talk to me about my art, not politics," he warns. But he does not mind speaking about bringing two countries close through `sur'. "We must initiate regular peace programmes through music to bring harmony between India and Pakistan. For that, new but talented singers from both countries should be encouraged to retain class in their music".

Is he getting offers from Bollywood to sing? The maestro evades the query, "Whether offers come or not, it doesn't affect me." Is he willing to take Indian citizenship?

"No, my heart is in Pakistan as my family is there. Yahan to aana jana laga rahe wohi bahut hai.


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