Monday, March 11, 2013

Mehfil-E-Rang-O-Noor: My first Ghazal Concert

So here we are

21st March 2013, 7:15pm, Thursday
Pyare Lal Bhawan,
Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi.


A program which features two artists, of whom I shall be singing ghazal and the other one Bhajans.

It took a long time for this concert to happen and a huge amount of changes too. While it started initially as an album release program by the time we came around to it, became a Holi program, with the CD release happening possibly a little later, though certainly not in March. The CD itself underwent a change from being a public art production thing- with largely revolutionary poetry, some of which is also sung with male chorus with me, to a full seven song Faiz album. (Technically this is my debut ghazal concert)

So this concert is about introducing me as a ghazal artist, which i have taken the longest time to acknowledge, as I was unsure what sort of poetry I want to sing. I shall be singing mostly radical poetry which reflects the angst of society, the pain of discrimination, the voices of anger and protest and that poetry which rouses people to unite in a meaningful manner towards social change.

Naturally Faiz is high on preference- with Darbar-e-watan (tarana) having been set to a very strong tune and 'Bol' (nazm) too. For now I would not do a program without the Iqbal Bano- Hum Dekheinge. But since this is NOT a Faiz program alone, it may not be possible to do more than two or three of his. Nasir- badli naa uski rooh kisi inqualab main is among those I am still toying with or so many others are there (which i had composed at the time the Tsunami came in 2004)

Anyhow we are all getting ready, had the first rehearsal yesterday. I will probably have a tanpura in my hand on stage too as this instrument is the backbone of my music. The harmonium artist is very gifted and there is of course Kamaal Ahmed on sarangi, who does not need an introduction. I have yet to meet the tabla-artist for rehearsal, which would happen only next week now.

I do want to share here why i am calling this my FIRST CONCERT though last year that has already happened in Kathmandu. Actually last year I was not ready for it and I got invited just because the person behind it heard me singing Kabir at a small gathering in a friend's home...and upon hearing me invited me for two concerts, since I was on the panel of ICCR. But I was not yet keen to perform ghazal as I felt it needed more honing, more calming down, more discipline. So last summer I worked a lot on this genre. Over those few months my repertoire became bigger, richer and more close to my heart. Of course my efforts at learning  Urdu gave me more confidence, but I have still to take it up again as they got aborted after 8-10 months, for want of adequate resources.

October onward I got back to classical music and in November ghazal was simply not there on the horizon and it was bhakti music again for me. But the pull of the ghazal is too strong and no thanks to the anger on the streets and the angst of the times, I got down to thinking, "What sort of music would I be contributing to this, if i have to?" Can it be bhakti music, can it be khayal? Or should it be something more radical, which is NOT the stereotype ghazal of sharab/shabab- but the sort of poetry which challenges the existing structures- of gender, of state, of what is peace, what is war, what is nation, who are my people ....and so on. That is what my ghazal is all about. Taking the definition of art to 'art for social change'- THAT IS ME.

Last interesting bit is that the master of ceremonies of the evening...belongs to the lineage of Bahadur Shah Zafar!:)- the last emperor of India and the venue is also on a road named after him. For those who will come themselves he would be visible, for I do not want to introduce him here.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Unfolding Faiz Album

We started this recording as part of the Public Art Production. But then several of us felt that the various strands of the recordings were not fitting into one another. So after recording the first eight songs, we decided to go all out and do a full Faiz album.

Faiz is among those poets who are dearest to me, and my personal repertoire of his poetry is quite big. I of course have all the songs sung by others that I like as part of my own repertoire. And upon suggestions the stock keeps on increasing. Fortunately for me several ghazals that I composed long back were also done by musical giants like Begum Akhtar and Iqbal Bano too! But i had not heard their versions before I did mine, else maybe i would not have dared to even touch them. I heard their versions much later.

Long back, I had once recorded Sham-e-firaq and it had to become a part of my first ghazal CD- soz-e-ghazal. But Naseem bhai (the poet who inspired me to sing ghazal in the first place) pointed out a minor error in diction and I held back that ghazal from going into the CD then. That was nearly ten years back. Now at every stage, the diction and everything else is being closely watched, ratified and modified.

Here is a list of the songs that would be part of this first Faiz album of mine. I say first here because my original compositions continue to happen. Already I have about six-seven others that are not a part of this album and yet are equally nice, but recently done ones. In this blog only i had noted a few posts back about new compositions in Bhimpalasi, Shudh Sarang and other ragas.

My list follows. The first three are ghazals, the next two are nazms and the last two are taranas

  1. Sham-e-firaq ab na poochh
  2. Tere gham ko jaan ki talash thi
  3. Tum aaye ho na shab-e-intezaar guzri hai
  4. Bol ke lubb azad hain tere
  5. Hum parvarish-e-lauho-qalam karte raheinge
  6. Darbar-e-watan 
  7. Hum Dekheinge (in the original tune of Iqbal Bano)
As I note this today- three of these are in the final stage- they are already being mixed by the expert. The other four have been recorded just yesterday and the nazm noted as number 6 here is among the latest of my compositions. Just did it last fortnight and completed it last week! A bit close to the recording but that's what life is all about, differently paced at different junctures.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Last year seemed now the debut concert

I was hoping that someday I would sing in Delhi and that too when I was comfortable in my skin as a ghazal performer. Last year when I got the opportunity by ICCR to sing in Kathmandu I was not yet ready for it, nor Kathmandu the place to try out serious Urdu poetry. (Imagine the harmonium-wala telling me that i should sing something in Nepali to win over the audiences!!)

Anyhow, now the time is ready and so am I. On the other hand there is the next album happening- the Faiz one unexpectedly and a concert is around the corner. So now I am ready to share my ghazal gayaki with the world. The reason for this delay is that it has taken me time to think whether this is really the thing I want to do for a long time ahead, and indeed with the sort of poetry i have in mind, this is the very work that I intend doing.  Now it remains to be seen what the response of the audiences would be- not that it worries me, for the ones who like serious poetry would surely like it, and the ones who are there for music would also not find it intolerable. But if someone is thinking I am going to do some sharab-shabaab gayaki...well they are in for a disappointment.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bol ke lubb azaad hain tere

So now that the public art album is actually becoming a different format and one branch of it is evolving into becoming a FULL FAIZ album, it is becoming a seven compositions strong offering- two taranas, two nazms and three ghazals.

One of those nazm is Bol. Lyrics follow-

बोल के लब आजाद हैं तेरे
बोल जुबां अब तक तेरी है
तेरा सुतवां जिस्म है तेरा
बोल के जां अब तक तेरी है

देख के अहंगर की दुकां में
तुंद हैं शोले, सुर्ख है अहाँ
खुलने लगे कुफलों के दहाने
फैला हर एक ज़ंजीर का दामन

बोल यह थोडा वक़्त बहोत है
जिस्मो-ज़बां की मौत से पहले
बोल के सच जिंदा है अब तक
बोल जो कुछ कहना है कह ले

Hum Dekheinge- Faiz Tarana immortalized by Iqbal Bano

Hum देखेंगे
लाज़िम  है के  हम भी देखेंगे
वोह दिन के जिसका वादा है
जो लौहे अज़ल में लिखा है

जब ज़ुल्मों सितम के कोहे-गरां
रुई की तरह उड़ जायेंगे
हम महकूमों के पाँव तले
जब धरती धड़ धड़ धड्केगी
और एहले -हिकम के सर ऊपर
जब बिजली कड़ कड़ कडकेगी

जब अर्ज़े ख़ुदा के क़ाबे से
सब बुत उठवायें जायेंगे
हम एहले-सफा, मरदूद-ए-हरम
मसनद पे बिठाए जायेंगे
सब ताज उछाले जायेंगे
सब तख़्त गिराए जायेंगे

बस नाम रहेगा अल्लाह का
जो गायब भी है हाज़िर भी
जो मंज़र भी है, नाज़िर भी
उठेगा 'अनलहक' का नारा
जो मैं भी हूँ और तुम भी
और राज करेगी खल्के ख़ुदा
जो मैं भी हूँ और तुम भी हो

The first time I heard this tarana in the voice of  Mohtarma Iqbal Bano (of Pakistan)...i got goosepimples. I could never have thought I would one day be singing it myself, what to mention singing it for a new generation. It was completely unimaginable then. But the more I heard the song, the more I loved it and I just hummed it a bit. Then somehow I learnt it up and I found my voice could carry it well. So when I sang it in front of a few friends they also liked it and I gained further courage. I never felt to set it to another tune as this music is the most befitting one for it.

In any case I do believe in artistic respect and courtesy. Just because new artists will come in every generation the old art cannot be completely annihilated. The new must carry the old art and its traditions in respectful manner in their hearts, bring alive those songs for their own contemporaries, yet create newer music and bring newer sensibilities alive. Sadly the most mediocre of art in our country is revived in every generation, not the truly great. Maybe it is commerce, maybe it is playing safe or maybe it is just opportunism. Only the truly great among artists will re-create great art fearlessly again and again, because they would have the humility to acknowledge the greatness of the departed artists and yet their own art would neither be diminished nor threatened by the past. I hope to be an artist like that someday, who can carry the greatness of her own art and that of the other's without becoming insecure about any.

So just today I got the recording- the rough cut, before the final mixing and it is not sounding bad at all. I hope it will accepted by those who have not heard the original and the ONES WHO HAVE HEARD THE ORIGINAL TOO.

My prayers for that.