most popular expression of poetry in Urdu and Persian, the ghazal, is known as
much as a poetic form as it is as a genre of music. The ghazal has roots in
seventh century Arabia and gained prominence in the 13th and 14th century due
to works of Persian poets like Rumi and Hafiz. Indian poets started writing
ghazal in Urdu and Persian in the eighteenth century.
name of the poem is based on the Arabic word, ghazal, which means ‘talking to a
beautiful young lady.’ Ghazal originated in Arabia long before the birth of
Islam. It is a derivative of the Arabic panegyric qaseeda, which
consisted of three sections: the naseeb, the raheel and any
standard form of poetry. The naseeb was the introductory portion of the qaseeda
that dealt with themes of nostalgia, romance and longing. The subject of the raheel
was loneliness and isolated existence in current times. The third section of
the qaseeda described pride in one’s ruler, tribe and morality. The naseeb
developed into the ghazal, which became the most enduring form of poetry
dealing with the themes of love, longing and separation. It separated itself
from the qaseeda and became an independent and important poetic form
during the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750), the second of the four major Arab
caliphates established after the death of Prophet Muhammad PBUH. The
development of the ghazal continued until the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258), the
third of four major Arab caliphates.
early days, ghazal had four main topics: udhari: courtly love, hissi:
erotic love, mudhahakkar: homoerotic love and tamhidi:
introductory couplets for other poetic forms.
ghazal spread to Persia during the Abbasid period and started gaining
popularity among the Persian speaking populace. By the 13th century, the ghazal
had become the most important Persian poetic form, primarily due to the spread
of Sufism. The subject of romantic love and longing was often replaced by love
for the creator and a longing to be connected to the divine. At the same time,
the ghazal spread to India. Ameer Khusrau became one of the first South Asian
poets to write and popularize ghazal. Wali Muhammad Wali Deccani was the first
established poet who composed ghazal in the Urdu language and compiled a diwan
(collection) of Urdu ghazals.
terms of form, a ghazal consists of couplets, each one of which is known as a
sher. A ghazal can consist of any number of couplets, although the number is
generally between five and fifteen. The couplets of the original Arabic ghazal
were linked to each other. This form is rarely used today and most ghazals have
couplets that are independent of each other in terms of subject and theme. A
ghazal in which the couplets are not independent is known as ghazal-e-musalsal.
primary subject of ghazal has always been and continues to be love, or Ishq.
This is broadly divided into two categories: Ishq-e-Majazi, which is
worldly love, and Ishq-e-Haqeeqi, which is divine love. The distinction
between the two categories of love is often vague and subject to interpretation
structure of ghazal is established by a number of factors.
basic unit of a ghazal is the sher (plural ashar) or the couplet. Each
couplet consists of two lines, each of which is known as the misra. The
first line of a couplet is known as misra-e-oola and the second is known
as misra-e-sani. The last word(s) of the misra-e-sani of each couplet
and both misras of the first couplet of the ghazal, is the same. This
known as the radeef. A rhyming word(s) precedes the radeef and is
known as the qafiya. The main rhyme of the ghazal is established by the qafiya,
whereas the radeef serves as the refrain. The first couplet of the
ghazal is known as the matla and the last one as maqta. The takhallus,
or the pen name of the poet, is often included in the maqta.
meter of all the couplets in a ghazal is the same and is known as behar.
It is a specific structural pattern that consists of combinations of
meaningless words known as the rukan (plural arkan) that define
the length of a couplet. The total number of arkan is eight: fa-uu-lun,
faa-i-lun, ma-faa-ii-lun, mus-taf-i-lun, faa-i-laa-tun, mu-ta-faa-i-lun,
ma-faa-i-la-tun, and maf-uu-laat. There is a total of 19 behars:
Beher-e-Rajaz, Beher-e-Ramal, Beher-e-Baseet, Beher-e-Taweel, Beher-e-Kaamil,
Beher-e-Mutadaarik, Beher-e-Hazaj, Beher-e-Mushaakil, Beher-e-Madeed,
Beher-e-Mutaqaarib, Beher-e-Mujtas, Beher-e-Muzaara, Beher-e-Munsareh,
Beher-e-Waafer, Beher-e-Qareeb, Beher-e-Saree, Beher-e-Khafeef, Beher-e-Jadeed,
and Beher-e-Muqtazeb. These behars are broken into two hemi
stiches, except in the case of Beher-e-Rajaz which is trimetric.
qafiya and radeef establish the prosodic structure of the ghazal
known as zameen. All couplets of a ghazal are written in the same zameen.
primitive Arabic ghazal did not have all the features of contemporary ghazal.
The Persian ghazal added five features to the origin poetic form: use of radeef,
concept of matla, autonomy of couplets, use of takhallus in maqta
and the option of not having the two misras form a sentence.
ghazal, both structurally and thematically, lends itself very easily to
singing. Individual, recorded instances of the singing of ghazal can be found
as far back as the 12th century. The ghazals of Jalaluddin Rumi and Khawaja
Shamsuddin Shirazi became popular with singers in the 13th and 14th centuries.
India, the tradition of singing ghazal was established by Hazrat Amir Khusrau.
A fixed, melodic composition is known as bandish in Hindustani Sangeet,
the music of Pakistan and North India. It is set to a specific raag (melodic
mode) and taal (rhythmic cycle). The first part of the bandish is
known as asthai and the second as antara. In singing the ghazal,
the matla is used as asthai and the rest of the couplets as antaras.
The arrangement allows both convenience and facility to vocalists. The raags
employed in singing ghazal tend to be popular ones that afford singers the
latitude and ability to explore a wide range of emotions in their song. These
include Bhairavi, Kafi, Khammaj, Pahari, and Pilu.
Ghazals are almost always set to rhythmic cycles of six, seven or eight beats,
known as Dadra, Roopak and Keherwa respectively. The use of the seven-beat
time-cycles in the singing of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s
ghazals is so common that a variant of the Roopak taal, known as
Mughlai, has come to be associated with singing ghazals similar in structure to
first singers of ghazal in recorded history were Meher Afroze and Nusrat
Khatoon. The two vocalists were celebrated singers who sang Amir Khusrau’s
ghazals in the Khilji courts. They were at the height of their popularity
during the 20-year reign of the second ruler of the Khilji dynasty, Sultan
Allauddin Khilji. The establishment of ghazal as a major genre of Hindustani
Sangeet started in the early 19th century. The popularity of ghazal as a music
genre can be attributed to four factors:
establishment of Parsi Theatre
in the courts of Lucknow
changing landscape for courtesans
advent of the recording companies
present times, music shows like Coke Studio and Nescafe Basement frequently
showcase renditions of popular ghazal songs with a contemporary twist.
Promoting this genre through such television programmes has also attracted the
are some ghazal singers who have contributed significantly in the development
and popularisation of Ghazal genre, and have left a mark forever.
called the "King of Ghazal" or "Shahanshah-e-Ghazal",
he was a highly influential figure in the history of ghazal, known for his deep
and husky baritone voice. He is credited to have exposed ghazal singing to a
wider audience with his hauntingly melodious voice. Born into a musical family,
he was naturally inclined towards the art from a young age. He claimed to
belong to the 16th generation of hereditary musicians hailing from the Kalawant
clan of musicians. As a young boy he received his primary training in music
from his father who himself was a prominent traditional Dhrupad singer; his
uncle was also an important early influence. He started performing at quite an
early age and seemed to be headed for a successful musical career when the
partition of India happened. His hard work eventually paid off and he received
the opportunity to sing on Radio Pakistan which gained him considerable fame.
He went on to establish himself as one of the greatest ever ghazal singers and
received much recognition for his contribution to classical music. The
Government of Nepal decorated him with Gorkha Dakshina Bahu in 1983 and the
Government of India bestowed upon him the K. L. Saigal Sangeet Shahenshah
Award. Some of his most famous ghazals are ‘Ranjish hi Sahi’, ‘Baat karni
mujhe mushkil’, ‘Ghazab kiya tere waade pe’ and ’Gulon mein rang bhare’.
to Mushtaribai, a famous singer of yore, Begum Akhtar’s maiden name was Akhtari
Bai Faizabadi. After her marriage to Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi, from the family of
the Nawab of Kakori, she came to be known as Begum Akhtar. It is of historical
importance that Begum Akhtar was accomplished in all forms of semiclassical
music, be it thumri, chaiti, dadra, kajri, baramasa, or hori. She
learnt music through and with various gharanas, the prominent amongst
them being Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan (Kirana), Ustad Ramzan Khan (Lucknow), and
Ustad Barkat Ali Khan (Patiala). Begum Akhtar attained unparalleled success
with her lilting voice, and the unique way of singing in a fast tempo. Her
voice was so imbued with pathos and rhythm that at one time the pain in her
voice echoed the pain of every listener. Anyone who had suffered heartbreak and
betrayal in life found refuge in Begum’s voice. Until then the ‘ghazal’ was
something that was only read – Begum Akhtar gave ghazal an identity and
respectability by adding the dimension of singing to it. There came a time when
every poet, expert or novice, yearned for Begum Akhtar to sing his creation.
And she did. It remains an example as well as a milestone in the history of
music. Be it the ghazals of Shakeel Badayuni and Jigar Moradabadi or those of
novice poets like Sudarshan Faakir, Begum Akhtar added value to their words
with her voice. In fact, Kaifi Azmi had even confessed that he went back to
reading and writing ghazals in order to get closer to Begum Akhtar. Begum
Akhtar’s voice. Her voice covers a wide range of ghazals composed by poets like
Mirza Ghalib, Meer Taqi Meer and Momin Khan Momin. Her exposure to singing for
films and experience with Indian Classical music allowed her to hone her skills
as a singer.
Rajkumar Rizvi is a highly acclaimed Ghazal singer and represents one of the
few living legends of Raga-based classical Ghazal gayaki in India. As a Ghazal
maestro, he shares his style and charismatic voice with his guru and relative
Rajkumar Rizvi sets the standards for the most popular form of traditional
music. Listening to him in live concerts is indeed a pleasurable and ecstatic
experience to the connoisseurs. His mesmerizing rendition of romantic Ghazals
leave the audience spellbound.His performance and recognition has positioned
him to continue to be a highly respected and a world class Ghazal singer of his
Rizvi was born in Rajasthan into a musical family, and received training from
his father and guru Ustad Noor Muhammad of the Kalawant Gharana. He also learnt
the sitar from Ustad Jamaluddin Bharatiya, a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Ustad Rizvi also has the credit of being the first disciple of Mehndi Hassan,
the legendary Pakistani Ghazal maestro. Ustad Rizvi also has a very distinct
style of singing Rajasthani mand and folk music. The Ghazals that he sings are
based on Ragas and has a unique way of connecting popular music with ancient
Indian music, often drawing the attention of audiences of all ages. His
pronunciation of poetry is precise, emphasizing the aesthetic implication of
the Ghazal and projecting its emotional content. He also his lent his voice for
“Laila Majnu Do Badan Ik Jaan The” in the unforgettable film Laila Majnu in
1976. He also directed the music as well as sang for the Rajasthani film Momal,
which was enormously loved and appreciated by his fans especially in Rajasthan.
Sehgal was undoubtedly India's first superstar whose charisma and magic is
still alive and continues to inspire budding talents. Born in Jammu on April
11th, 1904 as Kundan Lal Saigal, he inspired legends like Kishore Kumar and
Mukesh to copy his style to make their mark in the industry before developing
their own signature tones. His songs are evergreen and are hummed even today. Some
of his earliest films were Subah Ke Sitare, Zinda Laash and Mohabbat Ke Aason.
The songs that showered fame on him were Premnagar Mein Basoongi Ghar Main,
Tadapat Beeti Din Rain and Prem Ki Ho Jai from the first feature film
Chandidas. He was also the lead actor of the movie. More and more offers
started to pour in making him one of the reigning stars of the film industry.
His enigmatic voice only made him even more famous.
year 1935, Devdas was released, which increased his popularity manifold. His
solo performances Balam Aaye Baso and Dukh Ke Ab Din were tagged as immortal.
Saigal experimented with many forms of music and perfected Khayal, Bandish,
Ghazals, Geets, Bhajans, Hori and Dadra in various Ragas. He also sang in many
different languages like Hindi, Urdu, Pushto, Punjabi, Bengali and Tamil.
Saigal always drank before recording and he fondly called a peg Kaali Paanch.
The period from 1932 to 1946 is called as Saigal era. Saigal shifted to Bombay
in 1940 and did unforgettable films like Bhakta Surdas, Tansen, Kurukshetra,
Omar Khayyam, Tadbeer, Shahjahan and Parwana. Some of his immortal songs are
Diya Jalao Jagmag Jagmag, Rumjhum Rumjhum Chaal Tihari, Baag Laga Doon Sajani,
Chah Barbaad Karegi, Ai Dil-e-beqarar Jhoom, Gham Diye Mustaqil and the eternal
Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya.
name that truly epitomizes the Hindustani classical music of the 20th
century is that of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Often touted as Tansen of the 20th
century, this musical genius blended the best of classical music and created a
unique style of his own. Khan’s voice was unique. It had a wide range, it was
flexible, and it moved with ease in all tempi. Without exception, his voice
gave his music an unmatched lucidity. Perhaps it could be better described by a
term from Sanskrit Sahitya Shastra: Prasad. This quality enables a work to
express and convey import in an unobstructed manner. Khan’s voice made his
music unambiguous. There was no need to reconstruct or imagine his musical
design to enjoy or assess it, because it was perceived clearly and easily. The
veil of a faulty voice production was totally absent in his musical endeavours.
his works were re-released by music companies in the late 90s. Some of his
album has three recordings that span for nearly an hour. The songs are based on
different ragas like ‘Todi’, ‘Piloo’ and ‘Bhairavi’.
in Time– This album too has three songs and one among them is a Thumri. The
other two songs are based on ragas like ‘Malkauns’ and ‘Bageshwari’.
Heritage –This has songs sung by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Amir Khan. The
album has four recordings including a thumri and dadra.
Classicals: Indian Classical Vocal Music –This album has 19 recordings, all
sung by the maestro himself. This album is a treat to all music lovers as it
covers many ragas including the likes of ‘Bhupali’, ‘Rageshri’, ‘Peelu’,
‘Kamod’ and ‘Paraj’ among many other ragas.
legendary Indian singer C.H. Atma was born in 1923 in Hyderabad Sind (now
called West Pakistan). He started singing as a hobby at college, one of his
first jobs was a Radio Officer in an Airline, and little did he realize at the
time that what started off as his hobby would one day become his career. C.H.
Atma made his debut way back in 1945, with what is probably his best-known song
even today "Preetam Aan Milo". The late Dalsukh Pancholi later gave
him a chance to sing in his film "Nagina", it was in this film that
he scored a big hit with the song "Roun Main Sagar Ke Kinare" under
the music direction of Shankar and Jaikishan. After which he sang and acted in
many films. He successfully developed a wide circle of admirers by his frequent
performances, both India and abroad. The melodious deep and rich voice of the
late C. H. Atma was ideally suited for geets, ghazals and also bhajans. C. H.
Atma was the elder brother of the popular singer Chandru Atma.
Singh was an Indian classical singer, composer, and musician known during his
lifetime as "The Ghazal King." After Ravi Shankar, he is considered
one of post-colonial India's most important and recognizable artists, and
certainly its best-selling due to his soundtracks and scores for film and television,
and his musical interpretation of the works of poets. Including scores, he
recorded over 60 albums during his lifetime. He is known not only for his
ghazals and singing in several languages, but also for Indian light classical
music, including thumri and bhajan.
his wife, ghazal singer Chitra Singh, came to prominence during the '70s and
'80s and revived the style of traditional singing that had languished since the
late '50s. Composing in the Bol-pradhan style (sung poetry and vocal improvisation
over set musical arrangements), he used simple melodies and modes to accompany
lyrics that were considered current and relevant to contemporary life. In 2011,
before a concert with Ghulam Ali, Singh suffered a brain hemorrhage. He passed
away on September 23. He was posthumously awarded the Rajasthan Ratnain 2013,
the highest civilian award by the state government of Rajasthan. Google
celebrated him with a home page doodle that same year. The popularity of
Singh's music has only spread since his death. His recordings and compilations
have been reissued numerous times throughout Europe and Asia.
Udhas was introduced to ghazals and stage singing by his elder brother Manhar
Udhas. He gave his maiden stage performance at the time of crisis during the
Indian-Sino war. He sang the song "Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo". As a
token of appreciation, somebody from the audience gave him Rs. 51. A few years
later, he enrolled at the Sangeet Natya Academy, Rajkot and learned Tabla from
there. After his training in Tabla was over, he began his training in classical
singing under the watchful eyes of Master Navrang. After years of hard work, he
finally got to sing in the film called "Kamna".
his interest was in singing ghazals, he learned Urdu and spent a lot of time in
the US and Canada and did various Ghazal concerts. His confidence was sky high
when he returned. Upon his return, his debut Ghazal album called Aahat released
in the year 1980. After which, he has released over 50 ghazal albums and all of
them are well received. It is difficult though to pinpoint one but his album
Mehak was arguably the biggest hit album of his career. This album’s songs
Chupke Chupke Sakhiyo Se Wo, Mekhane Se Sharab Se and Yu Mere Khat Ka became a
smash hit. His ghazals Na Kajre Ki Dhar, Jiye to Jiye and Mahia Teri Kasam are some
notable mentions. As a ghazal singer, he himself appeared in films such as
Saajan, Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi and Yeh Dillagi.
Parveen is a Pakistani singer counted amongst the world's greatest mystic
singers and one of the foremost exponents of Sufi music (Sufiana kalaam). The
versatile singer is primarily a singer of ghazals and sings in several
languages including Urdu, Sindhi, Saraiki, and Punjabi. Born into a family that
boasts of a rich musical legacy, she was introduced to the world of Sufism and
music at a young age. Her father recognized the potential his daughter
possessed and personally trained her in music when she was young. She started
singing when she was three and displayed such a deep love for music that her
father decided to defy tradition and chose her as his musical heir over his two
sons. She went on to receive her higher musical training from the music school
which her father had founded and was also trained by the great Ustad Salamat
Ali Khan of the ‘Sham Chorasia’ gharana. Initially she performed at Dargahs
and Urs before embarking on a professional career with Radio Pakistan.
She brought Sufi music to a new level and proceeded to become one of the
best-known mystic singers not just in her native Pakistan, but throughout the
world because of which she has been dubbed as the Uncrowned Empress of Sufi
Music and Undisputed Sufi Queen. Her most famous songs are ‘Yaar ko Humne’ from
the album ‘Raqs-e-Bismil’ and ‘Tere Ishq Nachaya’ which is a rendition of
Bulleh Shah's poetry.
Ali is a folk singer from Bikaner in Rajasthan. He was born in a small village
called Pugal on the North West frontier of India and belongs to the semi-nomadic
community of Mirasis, who have been the traditional carriers of the oral
tradition of Sufiana Qalam in India. Mukhtiar blends the Rajasthani folk
idiom with refined classicism to sing the poetry of Kabir, Mira and Sufi poets
such as Bulleh Shah. Through the Kabir project, Mukhtiyar was spotted by world
music circuits and made his international debut in July 2007. Since then, he
has performed in Belgium, Sweden, China, Canada, Germany and France. He has
also lent his voice to a few films including Tashan (2008), Bombay Summer
(2008), Kathai (2010) and Delhi in a Day (2011).
years before Partition the more realistic ghazals of the Progressive poets were
enormously influential, and there have also been many 'filmi' ghazals composed
for Bollywood movies. Nowadays most ghazals are either obscure and elite,
printed in small poetry journals, or else simple, widely accessible, and often
very popular. Prior to Ghalib’s unique intervention, Urdu Ghazal’s scope was a
bit limited mainly concerned with love and hatred but Ghalib added an array of
new dimensions of daily lives, though love still being the most important
“Gayaki”, the art of singing or performing the ghazal in the Indian classical
tradition, is very old. Singers like Ustad Barkat Ali and many other singers in
the past used to practice it, but the lack of historical records make many
names anonymous. It was with Begum Akhtar and later on Ustad Mehdi Hassan that
classical rendering of Ghazals became popular in the masses. The categorization
of ghazal singing as a form of “light classical” music is a misconception.
mushairahs too are greatly changed: they tend to be publicly advertised
performances, like concerts, held in large halls and presided over by popular
emcees who adjust the recitations according to the mood of the audience. Women
poets are also very popular nowadays, and fully participate; poems in newer
genres are often recited as well. Modern mushairahs form a venue for the
ghazal that mediates somewhat between the elite and the popular. And now, of
course, 'ghazal' has also become the name of a genre of modern English poetry;
a web search will readily turn up many sites. The classic 'Ghazal on Ghazals'
by John Hollander is an enjoyable introduction; Peter Hook Sahib 'Alone'
composes English ghazals that preserve the formal qualities and mood of the
traditional genre unusually well.
‘A Treasury of Urdu Poetry’ by Faiz
‘'Nets of Awareness: Urdu Poetry and Its Critics’ by Frances W.
as World Literature I: Transformations of a Literary Genre’, by
Geert Jan van Gelder
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