Ajai R. Singh MD

Ajai R. Singh MD | Editor, Mens Sana Monographs [2003- ] | At PubMed, PMC, NLM, OCLC etc | Short Bio [For talks] | Monographs, Book and Book Chapters | Lectures, Awards, Orations | Music, 'Musical Embrace' & Ghalib | Music: About the artiste | Poetry | Life and Influences | Contact

Music, 'Musical Embrace' & Ghalib

'The Musical Embrace', Nehru Centre 17th Nov 2015;
'Ghalib: Classical Ghazals', Rangasharda, 14th Feb 2016

'The Musical Embrace', 17th Nov 2015, Nehru Centre



Ajai Singh has been writing and making original musical compositions since 14 Oct 2009.

On 17th Nov 2015, he launched his professional musical career with a full length musical programme of original nazms/ghazals in Hindi/Urdu at Nehru Centre, Worli Mumbai. Called 'The Musical Embrace', it was well received by music connoisseurs from all over the city.

A 2-pack CD set called 'The Musical Embrace', was also released on the occasion.



'Mirza Ghalib', Ranga Sharda, Sunday, 14th Feb 2016 7pm



Ajai Singh plans to follow the Nehru Centre programme with another full length programme called, 'Mirza Ghalib: remembering the Ustad Shair', at Ranga Sharda Auditorium, Bandra, on Sunday, 14th Feb 2016, 7pm onwards. This will be a tribute to Mirza Ghalib a day before his death anniversary.



Why Ghalib?


1. At a time when we are busy erecting superstructures which are just embodiments of our aggrandised egos, whether in the form of business empires, religious monuments and political organizations, it may be wise to recall the dismissive sweep of the master when he said:



Bazeecha-e-atfal hai duniya mere aage

Hota hai shab-o-roz tamaashaa mere aage


(This world is like a childhood sport before me.

I see the same spectacle repeated every day before me.)


2. At a time when no one is ready to wait for the other, and even a second’s delay of a lift causes panic buttons to screech, it may be wise to remember the patience of a Ghalib:



Ye na thi hamari qismat ke visaal-e-yar hota

Agar aur jeete rehte yahi intazaar hota


(It was not in my fortune to get the love of my beloved

However, if I had lived longer, I would have still waited.)



3. At a time when we are so busy making fun of others and shielding our fragile egos from the smallest of barbs, often unintended, it may be proper to remember the tongue in cheek repartee of the mushkil pasand shair, who, after making the profound statement:



Use kaun dekh sakta ke yagana hai woh yakta

Jo dui ki bu bhi hoti to kahin dochar hota



(Who can see Him, for He is matchless and the One

Were there even a whiff of duality, there would have been a face-to-face.)



had the audacity to add a quick rejoinder to himself:



Ye masail-e-tasawwuf ye tera bayan 'Ghalib'

Tujhe hum wali samajhte jo na bada khwar hota



(This discourse on spirituality, and the felicity of your expression 'Ghalib'

We would consider you a saint, if only you were not a wine drinker.)



4. At times when institutions and individuals pounce on any critical remarks to so-called hallowed traditions and must put down any attempt at puncturing inflated egos, the lips twist into a wry smile when we recall the poet saying:



Kahan maikhane ka darwaza 'Ghalib' aur kahan waiz

Par itna jante hain kal woh jata tha ke hum nikle



(Where the door of the tavern, Ghalib', and where the preacher?

But this much I know, that he stepped in as I was walking out!)





5. At times when we live as though we were immortal, hardly aware of the grasp of the great leveler that lays all to dust, and unaware of what we bequeath posterity, it may help to recall the way the poet expected himself to be remembered:



Hui muddat ke 'Ghalib' mar gaya par yaad aata hai

Who har ek baat pe kehna ke yun hota to kya hota

(It's been some time since 'Ghalib expired', but we remember him still.

And his opinion on everything, e.g., what would happen if such and such were the case.)



How did this project originate?



At a visit in April 2015 to Delhi to deliver a talk, I also visited three places:

i) One, the banks of the Yamuna, to see if it inspires any sublime poetry, like the banks of the Ganges did to Gurudev Tagore. Well, it's so polluted, and I was so far from its banks that I could just lament its existence, and for the traffic hurrying past oblivious. (Am waiting for that to inspire any poetry.)

ii} Second, the Gandhi Memorial, to spend some moments of contemplation at the Mahatma's samadhi. Well, there were these tourists shouting all around, hustling wives and children, busy clicking photos with the samadhi in the background. And insisting that the 'He Ram' on the samadhi be clearly visible in the photo. Shouting and laughing and eating chips.

I went far away in the shade, and just watched the 'bazeecha-e-atfal'.

iii} Third, the Ghalib ki Haveli in the overcrowded cheek by jowl but quaint streets of Old Delhi. I told the driver to park the car as it was impossible to drive and we took a cycle rickshaw. I insisted the driver accompany me as was wary I might lose my way in the surging crowds. Deep in the caverns of Old Delhi, where only cycle rickshaws or the foot could reach, at the end of lanes flanked with leather goods, the cycle rickshaw wound its way to the haveli.

It was 630 pm. So peaceful, so embracingly dark, so dimly lit. No tourists jostling, no fathers ordering kids and wives to hurry up, no shutterbugs chattering. The guard was pleased to show us around, not that there was much to show.

A few moments of contemplation and peace reading the few shers of the poet engraved on the walls there are some of the best memories of that visit.

The decision to render Ghalib in all his complexity arose out of this visit. The result is before you.



What was the driving force for this project?



1. Firstly, because he was muskil pasand, which also suits my temperament.

2. Secondly, I believe full musical justice has still not been done to his poetic genius. There has been lot of singing of his poetry and singers have dealt with him with great zeal, yet something remains unsaid. The full poetry in a rendition with a pure classical base befitting the purity and classicism of the poet is a vacuum that needs to be filled.

3. Thirdly, I like to accept challenges. At a time when not just the common folk but even poets, who should know better, would prefer to ignore Ghalib, or if at all just pay him token obeisance, I think it's time the genius of his poetry was rediscovered rather than shoved under the carpet under the name of what's mushkil.

4. Fourthy, ghazal is still considered halki gayaki in the puritan classical tradition of Hindustani classical music. For this ghazal singing itself is partly to blame, since it tends to cater to popular tastes by not remaining true to a raga, and often priding itself in so doing. While that makes it entertaining no doubt, and showcases the versatility/virtuosity of the singer/composer, it hardly does justice to the profundity of the poetry of a Ghalib or a Mir.

I believe that a high quality ghazal needs a pure classical major raga to do justice to its poetic genius. Hence, the ghazals have all been set to major classical ragas like Bhimpalasi, Shuddha Kalyan, Puriya Dhanashri, Yaman, Bageshwari, Bhairavi. Needless to say, they are all original musical compositions. Moreover, the full ghazal is rendered, not just a few shers. That's a challenge, but it's taken.

It's almost a truism in music circles that a sung ghazal can have 4-5 shers and should be completed in 5-7 mins. The reason given is because that is the maximum the audience can take. I think the situation is different when we think of a classical ghazal. A full classical rendering of a bada khayal takes 30-45 mins, and there are very few words in it. Discerning audiences settle for nothing less. Why, then, a classical ghazal, which has 8-11 shers, not be rendered over a 18-25 min time frame? In fact, how can one settle for less? Would that not be injustice both to the poetry and the classical form?





Why should you hear this?



Why should people remember Ghalib, why attend a programme of his ghazals, or hear them rendered in a cd?

1. Because we need to stop covering our eyes in the name of 'difficult to understand' [Ghalib], or 'difficult to follow' [Mahatma Gandhi]. Gandhi had a benefactor who made 'Lage Raho Munnabhai'. We need a benefactor to simplify Ghalib too.

2. Because he is difficult to understand, true, but, when understood, a delight to know. Hence his ghazals are will be presented with the lyrics explained in English to help you understand their meaning. Also, in the major renderings, the sequence followed will be that the full ghazal, first recited taking care of the meter and rhyming sequence. Then the ghazal will be musically presented in 2 forms: i .starting with an ad lib of a few shers from the middle of the ghazal (without rhythm) going on to other shers (with rhythm. this is done in the case of Ye na thi hamari quismat and Bazeecha-e-atfal hai; ii) rendering the ghazal in ascending sequence of taal, starting from slow to medium to fast, like the alap, jod and jhala of a musical instrumental presentation. This is done with ghazals like Ah ko chahiye and Hazaron khwahishen.

3. Because he needs to be examined and re-examined in the light to today's life and its vicissitudes. All the points in 'Why Ghalib?' above apply here.



4. Finally, because



Hui muddat ke 'Ghalib' mar gaya par yaad aata hai

Who har ek baat pe kehna ke yun hota to kya hota



(It's been some time since 'Ghalib' expired, but we remember him still.

And his opinion on everything, for example, what would happen if such and such was the case?)









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