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2nd September 2007, Pune : It was a dream come true to listen to Ghulam Ali live in concert - and I have been waiting for this opportunity for so many years. I have been listening to his ghazals since last 14-15 years and know almost all of them by heart. I would always feel jealous about the people who had an opportunity to listen to him live and wondered if I would ever get a chance to attend his concert.
The D-day for the Pune concert was 2nd September 2007 and I was ready with my ticket well in advance. He was performing live in Pune after 15 long years - he himself mentioned while talking that last public performance in Pune was almost 15 years ago. He looked a bit tired (as he was traveling from Dubai and didn’t have much rest), but he’s an old charmer - handled all that quite well with his grace! As he mentioned, at that time (some 15 years ago) Pt. Bhimsen Joshi was the one who invited him on the stage and further said, “Aap logo ne to bade, bade logo ka gaana sunaa hai, mai to gaane ka student hoon!“. The charmer started his mehfil there…
The infrastructure at Ganesh Kala Mandal was poor and seating arrangement was pathetic and uncomfortable, and the program started late as well. The concert must have been attended by approximately 2500 people of various age groups. I had booked my ticket quite early in the highest category, but was a bit disappointed to see first 10-12 rows reserved only for VIPs & press - I must have given a jealous stare to each one of them. Anyway! Vaishali Varnekar was the hostess for the concert and though her Hindi was mostly correct, her pronunciation was typical Marathi. I am sure they could have found someone better with knowledge of ghazals to host the show! Doesn’t matter though - she didn’t speak much after introduction anyway! The people who accompanied him on violin, santoor, tabla are his regulars and travel with him everywhere. However, the person who accompanied him on flute in this concert was Milind Date - and if I am not mistaken he is a Pune based guy and he was quite brilliant on flute!!
Ghulam Ali started the concert with Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s “Gori Tore Naina” thumri and it was a great feast after that. Though I felt that his trademark baritone voice is becoming a bit shrill now with age. (Felt the same way while listening to his last album “Zikr”). Maybe, it was his fatigue, poor sound system - but I felt that the bass was missing a bit. Nevertheless, his mastery over his singing was more than enough to keep us engrossed!
The session after that was filled with his mellifluous voice and lovely ghazals and each lasting for 15 minutes or more interwoven with ‘ashraar‘ (plural of sher) that he recited while singing. He even added one sher impromptu in “Dil me ek laher si” as one person from the audience requested it on a piece of paper! He also mentioned how he used to discuss with ‘Nasir Kazmi’ about Urdu Ghazals, the words, their meaning and all that. Then he sang “Kal chaudhavi ki raat thi” and of course “Chupake Chupake” with one lesser known sher (There are many more ‘ashraar‘ and full version is really awesome). The session before interval was full of ghazals of his choice and each lasting for 15minutes or more…and each one them was memorable with his way of singing. Finally, I was experiencing the moments I have been looking forward to for so long.
While listening to him I was also busy trying to capture him with my camera as closely as possible (Lucky were the VIPs & press people sitting in the front rows. Not to mention organizers & sponsors!). Also managed to get some brief video clippings of the concert (one added here) but after a point my camera gave up as memory card was full. Rest - I managed to treasure it in my own personal memories. It was quite thrilling to listen to Ghulam Ali live, someone I have adored so much - and have spent so many hours, days & years listening to his ghazals. I have grown up with them since my teenage and they grew on me. It became all the more special because he hasn’t performed in live in Pune publicly in last 15 years and such opportunities are rare!
The interval was supposed to be for 15 minutes. But there was a constant rush of his fans backstage, and due to that the interval lasted for almost 30-40 minutes and organizers had to make repeated requests to the audience to take there seats so that the concert could resume. I really, really wanted to meet him personally and talk to him for some time. So I went backstage to see if I could meet him - but I couldn’t! Earlier VIPs kept it blocked and by the time I managed to talk to his P.A. through one of the organizers, he was really tired and fade up - because the interval was getting prolonged and he wanted to resume the concert. His PA mentioned that I could try my luck after the concert. She also agreed to give my card and small note to him, don’t know if she gave it to him or not. But it doesn’t really matter much - I had a chance to listen to him live & watch him in person. That was enough for me to stay elated.
In the post-interval session he sang ghazals requested by the audience, as per their ‘farmaaish’. And just to make sure that he gives justice to most of the requests, he decided to sing only few couplets from many ghazals. He sang “Hum tere shaher me aaye hai“, “Mehefil me baar, baar”, “Kaisi chali hai abake hawa”, “Zehal-e-miskin” and of course “Hungama”. Naturally, the most requested ghazals were the popular ones, and the response was maximum to “Hungama“and likes. I was a bit surprised when he sang -
“इरादा था तर्क-ए-मोहोब्बत का लेकिन, फ़रेब-ए-तब्बसुम मे फ़िर आ गये हम,
“इरादा था तर्क-ए-मोहोब्बत का लेकिन, फ़रेब-ए-तब्बसुम मे फ़िर आ गये हम,
from “Mariz-e-mohobbat” ghazal by Qmar Jalvi (told you, I remember almost all of them by heart) - but he managed it well. Maybe, with so many requests and ghazals, it’s difficult for him to remember the exact words of each ghazal. That session was really picking up and time was just flying with audience getting more and more involved. When someone whistled loudly, he sportingly said “Ye sitii bhi raag me hai”, and after 2/3 such incidents he asked to stop it - and crowd was decent enough to obey their beloved maestro! He didn’t sing lesser known but beautiful ghazals like “Shaam-e-firaaq ab na poochh” (just love this ghazal by Faiz), “Abke tajdide wafaa ka nahi“, “Karoon na yaad magar” (one of my favorites), “Faasale aise bhi hoge“, “Koi hamnafas nahi hai“, “Kuchh din to baso” (another favorite of mine), “Dukh ki laher ne” and others. Obviously, time was a big constraint! And after 14-15 such requests, he had to go and got up to leave - but people wanted more!! And he was kind enough to sit down again and sang “Aawargi” before he left and then immediately rushed to the airport as it was already very late for him! And we just couldn’t have enough of him… we wanted more & more!!! He promised to have another concert in Pune soon, let’ s see!
——- oOo ——-
I was just thanking all those music companies for preserving his original ghazal recordings in his wonderful voice on the cassettes & CDs so that we can listen to any one of them whenever we want. Thanked them for keeping his music intact beyond time!
It was the first time I heard him performing live. Maybe his voice was not at its best and the auditorium was substandard to put it mildly, but it was still a thrilling experience for me. It is quite a rare opportunity now to have his public performance in Pune, so I was more than happy to watch him live, someone who has given me so much joy with his ghazals over the years. His ghazals have been with me through so many different phases & moments of my life - and left some wonderful, unforgettable memories. Perhaps, people who have heard him live before were a bit disappointed, but for me it was definitely an evening that I would cherish forever. The excitement of listening to ‘him’ live was good enough to look above all those petty auditorium problems. And if there is another Ghulam Ali concert again in Pune in the near future, I would be among the first ones to book my ticket!
Concert Video - Here is a small video from this concert.
The video quality is poor - but that’s the best I could capture with my Canon S3 IS while people kept moving and I had to adjust my position accordingly. But it should give you a glimpse nevertheless!
BTW, here is Sakal’s coverage (They were Media partners) of this event (in Marathi) aptly titled - “तृप्तीतही हुरहूर लावून गेल्या गुलाम अलींच्या गझला!”