Ghulam and the ghazal (In Concert)

August 9, 2009

Ghulam Abbas

At the recently organised Ghazal Nite the show literally translated into an evening of sur and sangeet, with the veteran singer Ghulam Abbas treating music aficionados with a flawless rendition of some of the finest ghazals and filmi geets, effortlessly making the show truly unforgettable.

Ghulam Abbas’s voice has acquired him a legendary stature among vocalists. He started his journey as a playback singer from a Punjabi film, but it was the Urdu film, Ajnabi (1975), that proved to be a milestone in his career when he delivered the hit song, Woh aa to jaye magar mera pyar hi kum hai. Under the tutelage of the living legend Mehdi Hassan, he further honed his musical skills and started belting out hits. Aashi, Intekhab, Awaz, Mr Ranjha, Behen Bhai, Pakeeza, Shararat, Mazboot, Hum Donoon and Intikhaab are some of the Lollywood films for which he delivered mega tunes of the time.

Starting off with the semi-classical number Woh Haadsa (from the film Ajnabi; composition by Nisar Bazmi), with Khursheed on the keyboards, Saeed on the violin, Qamar on the guitar, Sajid on the flute, Imdad on the sitar, Mehmood on the tabla and Hasaan on the dholak, Ghulam amazed all and sundry with his command over sur and taal, as well as his expertise in classical music. The next semi-classic offering, Na tarse kabhi khushi ke liye, set the mood for the rest of the evening. With Aise woh sharmaye jaise megha chaye, a song from the film Intikhab (composition by Nisar Bazmi), he struck the right chord with the crowd.

Besides the music, the event had some truly touching moments when Ghulam Abbas said that people approached him, asking: ‘Yeh geet/ghazal bhi aap ka gaya hua hai?’ Had it happened 10 years ago it would have been justified but today with the array of new channels, people are still unfamiliar with the work of our veteran artistes who have given their entire lives to making music.

The thought that is also disturbing is that most of our film directors now outsource music compositions in the presence of local talent. Due to this callous attitude the art of playback singing is undergoing a slow and brutal death. There was a time when Pakistan’s film industry boasted the vocal prowess of A. Nayyar, the late Akhlaque Ahmed and Ghulam Abbas. But with A. Nayyar bidding a farewell to playback singing after settling down in Canada, Akhlaque succumbing to blood cancer and Ghulam Abbas confined to television and private performances, the future of playback singing has literally died and our film industry has still not been able to regain the lost glory of the days of yore.

Ghulam Abbas has been working with unwavering commitment for nearly four decades and it came as a surprise when he divulged that the famous ghazal, Dil mein aik lehr si uthi hai abhi, was originally sung by him for Radio Pakistan in 1974 for the first time.

The repertoire of numbers that were presented that night were mostly by renowned poets such as Nasir Kazmi, Masroor Anwar, Saifuddin Saif, etc. Aisay woh sharmaiye from the film Do Saathi was the high point of the evening, where Abbas gave new dynamics to his rendition in a way that the composition didn’t lose its pronounced sentimental quality. It was difficult for the audience not to be emotionally moved. The other numbers that he weaved into his performance were Mil jata hai yaar magar pyar nahin milta, Kab tak tum na pyar mera pehchano gi, Jaan-i-tamanna, Dekh kar tujh ko mein gham dil kay bhula deta hoon and Hari bhari aabadian geet gati wadian.

Later, talking to Images on Sunday, Ghulam Abbas said that he has recently returned from the UK where he

recorded some programmes for an Urdu TV channel to be aired in August. He lamented the decline of our film music and prophesised, “Jab takhleeq ko zaroorat pay qurban kar diya jaye toh yehi hashr hota hai.” He added that he doesn’t feel comfortable working in the present setup where professionalism hardly has any role to play. “I have not refrained myself from films, in fact even today I agree to render my services but the project should be qualitatively rich. People like me have worked with professionals who would spend months over the composition of a song. Today, hardly any effort or passion is invested into it.”

Ghulam Abbas added that he is working on a few albums that would be released shortly. Ghazal Nite with Ghulam Abbas was organised by the PC Hotel, Karachi, in collaboration with Hum TV.