Are ghazals dying a slow, painful death?

I caught a glimpse of the now ending Ghazal era in my childhood, thanks to music loving parents. While I grew up listening to Jagjit Singh, Chitra Singh and Ghulam Ali, I never got a chance to listen to other artists. May be they were never played at our house. But my parents were pretty keen on listening to all sorts of music. When it was ghazal night at home (our father essentially playing only ghazals that evening) the lights had to be dimmed, there were special lamps that uplifted the ambience by mellowing down the lights. The whole scene changed. And slowly, calmly, Ghulam Ali would start setting the evening through our vinyl player…

While I’ve heard only versions of the ghazalaaj jaane ki zidd na karo by Farida Khanum, I heard the original only a while ago (yes, I am embarassed to admit this). And what brought me to writing this post is the chatter of “wah wah” and “kya baat hai” in the background of this ghazal recorded live.

I miss that era.

When music meant much much more than just beats. When artists were appreciated respectfully and their songs brought meaning to life – somehow. Those ghazals would bring a soothing breeze with them. The lyrics were what mattered and the tune those lyrics were woven into brought magic. I love the ghazal aaj jaane ki zidd na karo, and that is the first song that comes to my mind when I’m humming everyday. I instantly fell in love with the lyrics, the moment I heard it and never stopped since then. We talk about love in this age, but that ghazal brings out the agony of your beloved leaving, so well. Words, sigh!

Kagaz ki kashti by Jagjit Singh is another favourite that fits into our grown up lives so well. Is there anybody who doesn’t get emotional listening to that song? Ghulam Ali’s hungama hai kyun barpa would be a treat for our previous generation, when drinking together with friends was an occasion, unlike an everyday thing nowadays.

What happened to us, I wonder. Does anybody realise that ghazals might very well be one of the dying art forms? It breaks my heart to see music being restricted to only dance numbers with occasional soulful melodies once in a while. To date, what plays after 10pm in my maternal house every night are songs from the black and white era. It never changed and I would never want it to. And those songs are the inevitably our choice whenever we resort to playing songs at night.

I have not been able to identify with songs that are created nowadays. Lately, I find myself going back to numbers that are old and settled in the 90s. But yes, my heart breaks at the thought of our next generation (or for that matter this too) not being able to understand why these slow melodies meant so much and how they were the essence of music – similar to a faint perfume that lingered on. And how I am obsessing over an almost empty bottle that I might not be able to find in the market anymore….