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A vocal celebration

Having released his maiden album of light songs, Ghulam Abbas is on a high



MAN OF MANY TONES Ghulam Abbas revels in all kinds of musical compositions Photo: Anu Pushkarna

His is a lofty musical lineage. His cousin is celebrated Hindustani vocalist Rashid Khan, his forbears include Ustad Mushtaq Husain Khan, his grandfather, the first Padma Bhushan award recipient. And his father is the eminent vocalist Ustad Ghulam Sadiq Khan. Latest in a long line of geniuses tracing their sources of knowledge right back to Tansen is Ghulam Abbas, young vocalist of the Capital who has just debuted as a composer of light music with the album Maddham Maddham recently launched under the Sagarika Music label.

Miyan Tansen to modern-day ghazals and romantic pop? Abbas, like so many other young classical musicians, seems to be opting for the popular track to stardom. He is frank enough though, to admit it, revel in it and analyse it too.

"It's not today, it's a centuries-old phenomenon. Good artistes, those who make serious music, have always had to struggle. Without wanting to criticise anyone, I've always observed that great ustads teach us first of all, tehzeeb, a genteel attitude: they say, sing well, listen to good music, do your riyaaz. So those schooled in such gharanas feel conscious, constantly in search of perfection. Their whole life is spent in sadhana (penance). In the old days this was good enough. If you were good, you would be recognised and get patronage, so you didn't have to worry about the next meal. But today, after practising 12 hours a day, artistes can't make ends meet, whereas a lesser trained light singer tends to earn in lakhs. It's all a complex result of our education system, government policies and other factors. This is why a lot of classically trained musicians are turning to modern music."

No defeat

But Abbas emphasises that he continues with his classical recitals, performing at prestigious venues like the Malhar Utsav and the Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Yaadgar Sabha, besides international events, and sings a variety of forms, including ghazal, geet and Sufi, because he enjoys them. So Maddham Maddham - for which Praveen More has provided arrangements in contemporary style - is by no means an admission of defeat, nor a potboiler. Inspired by a range of popular artistes from Mehdi Hasan to Mukesh, Abbas, who says his years in Singapore, Australia and other countries have widened his outlook, reiterates, "I want to tell people you should sing all kinds of music. Good music is good music, as long as it is in sur (pitch)."

ANJANA RAJAN

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