The mere mention of the word ghazal, draws an image of heartbroken lovers listening to a song about love and pain. This preconceived notion can be attributed to Bollywood movies, which incorporated a ghazal to portray pain and separation. But there is a lot more to it.
Ghazal traces its origin to the Arab lands. It is believed to have travelled to India along with the Mughals. It was in the courts of these kings that it grew in prominence. Ghazal is a merger of poetry and music and is categorised as Light Classical music in India. It consists of a series of ‘shairs’, each symmetrically divided into two half-verses ‘misra’. The emotions in a ghazal are almost always expressed from a male towards a female.
Traditionally male singers have held the bastion of ghazal gayaki. There have been female singers but few in comparison. One such female singer is Neha Rizvi.
Hailing from the ‘Kalavant Gharana’, Neha is the daughter of Ghazal maestros Ustad Rajkumar and Indrani Rizvi. Being born in a musically inclined family, she was always surrounded by diverse music. This is a boon for an aspiring artist but at the same time can be challenging too. The pressure to prove yourself is omnipresent as people have more expectations from you.
“I do not mind it as I feel music is not a competition. It is a spiritual journey and a form of meditation for me. It has helped me be a better person,”
Learning the tricks from the Ustads
Though hailing from a traditional gharana style of singing, she was exposed to various genres of music from an early age. Her music education started under the watchful guidance of her parents. It was not a modern ‘2 hours a day’ approach to learning for her. It was a full time process. Neha would accompany her parents to their performances and note down the finer nuances of becoming a ghazal singer.
“The artist has to educate himself as to what ghazal is, how to perform and sing it. You have to explain the tough Urdu words as some in the audience might not understand. This is what you learn from the Ustads,”
The presentation of a song is of utmost importance. The artist has to connect with the audience and be a bridge between the song and them. It is all about implementation. An artist should be aware of his limitations and still try to create something that is out of the box. This makes it difficult as one is constantly in a battle of improvising and improving.
“I make a homework about what I am going to perform. The kind of audience that can be there and how will I interact with them. I have to show the audience I can entertain you with my classical gayaki. While singing ghazals, I prefer getting the audiences’ attention. I traverse between different raags. This shows my versatility to the audience. A fan can tell by listening to the ghazal singer how well trained the artist is,”
Innovations in Ghazal
Ustad Rajkumar Rizvi is known as an innovator in the ghazal universe. Many of his compositions have a jazz and RnB feel to it. Neha has taken from her father and is keen to introduce her signature style, ‘Ghazal Pop’. Ghazal had been associated with the tabla and harmonium since forever. A typical set up would have a singer, at times playing the harmonium too along with a tablachi. Legends like Jagjit Singh and Hariharan added different dimensions to it. Jagjit Singh in his inimitable style was regarded as a complete package. While Hariharan introduced western instruments to the genre. Today you the more freedom to experiment as the audience is now receptive.
With shorter attention span and a younger set of audience, Neha’s idea might provide the flip the genre needs.
“You are the creator, the channel through whom the music is reaching to the audience. I would like to involve western instruments but at the same time I would incorporate Indian instruments too. There has to be an equal balance,”
Music is a prime source of entertainment. The fans are keen to lend their ears to new sounds and one cannot have control over their likes and dislikes. There is also a sect of audience which still prefers the old style.
“It is not easy to carry on with the traditional legacy. One should be ready for the challenges. One should be dedicated to their art to a level that they live it and the art lives through them,”