Globalisation taking purity out of ghazals: top Pakistani singer

August 19th, 2009 - 11:38 am ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) Tina Sani, one of Pakistan’s most popular classical and semi-classical ghazal exponents, feels that globalisation, the widespread culture of pop and rock music and the end of royal patronage are taking their toll on the popularity of ghazal in south Asia.

“Not just the pop and rock culture, globalisation to some degree has taken the purity out of ghazal. Musicians now want to play to the gallery and are commercialising ghazals to cater to popular taste.

“Ghazal as a musical genre peaked under the patronage of the Muslim rulers, who funded poets and classical Urdu and Persian musicians to further their vocation,” Sani, who is in India to perform in three cities, told IANS in the capital.

Moreover, “more than 60 percent of the subcontinent’s population is young and contemporary sounds appeal to them”, Sani explained.

The musician, who sings “nazms (free-flowing verse)” by poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmed Faraz, will perform with Penaz Masani at the Siri Fort auditorium in the capital Aug 20, followed by concerts in Chandigarh and Hyderabad.

The programme is a collaboration between the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Routes 2 Roots, a non-profit culture forum, as part of a culture exchange initiative to foster better ties between India and Pakistan.

Karachi-based Sani shot to fame in the mid-eighties in Pakistan when she became the youngest musician to set Faiz’s poetry to music and sang it at the “Faiz Mela” in 1985.

“That was the turning point in my life. I was in my early 20s and I realised that my music was being taken seriously. Till then, my tastes ran to lighter music like rock and contemporary pop. But after my brush with Faiz onstage, I honed my Urdu and returned to pure ghazal. Faiz helped me resolve several of my growing-up dilemmas with his universality of thought and the basic goodness of soul,” Sani said.

The singer, who has trained under Mehdi Hasan, feels that “it is easier to perform ghazals live in Pakistan than in India because of the difference in audience.

“India is a country of multiple languages and it is difficult to carry the words to people. The purity of traditional ghazal is compromised. But in Pakistan, almost everyone understands Urdu and I do not sing in any language other than Urdu,” Sani said.

The musician has been trying to popularise Urdu ghazals in her country and abroad. “At a concert last year in Pakistan, I distributed English translations of the ghazals that I was singing to school children. The translations were by Khushwant Singh.

“On October 23, when I perform ‘Shikwa’ and ‘Jabab-e-Shikwa’ in Muscat, two famous poems by Muhammed Iqbal, I will once again use Khushwant Singh’s translation of the poem in English for the audience to understand,” she said.

Sani has grown up listening to taped versions of Indian classical music.

“I love Raag Durga. When I was a kid, my father, who is a classical music buff, once bought me a taped cassette of sitar maestro Ajoy Chkaraborty’s rendition of Raag Durga. Inspired by it, years later, I began my recital with a ‘bandish’ in Raag Durga at a concert in Pakistan. It was a kind of a bridge between the two nations,” she said.

But the problem is that the listeners’ base in Pakistan is very small, confined to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, she rued. “In comparison, India has a much wider listeners’ base,” she said.

Sani’s favourite musicians include M.S. Subbalaxmi, Shubha Mudgal, Amjad Ali Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Allah Rakha, Pandit Jasraj and Hariprasad Chaurasia.

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