Monday, March 17, 2008

Poised to Soar

tu shareek-e-sukhan nahin hai to kyaa
ham sukhan teri khaamoshi hai abhi

~Tho’ I can’t talk to you anymore/ Your silences speak to me
[My translation]

India and Pakistan are two countries yoked by a common culture. Though there is much bitterness due to past bloodletting, the bonhomie we share with the Pakistanis is unrivalled. That is because we speak the same language, unwind for similar reasons and get the same jokes.

And nothing can get the two together like music. I think the Pakistanis – despite a smaller cultural scene than India – are pretty much evolved in arts. I was part of an elite gathering this weekend that assembled on the lush lawns of the Intercontinental Grand in New Delhi to listen to the iconic Ghulam Ali.

Ghulam Ali is simply put, magical. His style is simple but powerful. It throws you with the sheer beauty of it. The maestro arrived late but the perfumed gaggle waited on. Everyone knew it was worth the wait. Meantime someone from his troupe – which had already arrived --sang a few Ghazals. That served like an appetizer.

I was in row two with my best buddy. A gorgeous lady in her mid thirties with a permanent smile sat just in front. Her argentate saree flapped in the evening breeze. A hundred minutes behind schedule, Ghulam Ali sahib walked onto the stage. My first impression was Oh, so that is how the virtuoso looks like. In a moment the magic began. It soon spread. I have no doubt in my mind – and I don’t readily approve of superstars – that Ghulam Ali is one of the best Ghazal singers of our times.

His voice leaves you completely ensorcelled. The pitch is electrifying and the notes are divine. Even his pauses are an outburst of the soul. For a while you feel like levitated. Bliss pours. You become the music. Ghulam Ali has an amazing connect with the audiences. He speaks in chaste Punjabi and melodious Urdu. The andaaz [style] is distinctly songlike and his expressions purely poetic.

It also makes you compare, as mortals are often wont to: Who is the greatest of the two legends? Ghulam Ali or Jagjit Singh. Both have millions of fans and both are maestros. I’ve attended concerts of both and I think thus: While Jagjit is more popular and easily associated with a sweet melancholy that is timeless, Ghulam Ali -- no doubt -- has more variety. He is liltingly lyrical and continually improvising. That is his forte’.

Music perhaps has this appeal. Auerbach hit the bull’s eye when he averred, ‘Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life’. Ghulam Ali gives you a big reason to feel good. I remember my fav thinker Nietzsche.

Without music life would be a mistake.