Singer Ghulam Ali avoided himself being called an ustad as he revealed during a show on PTV. This gesture simply indicated his humility. I know for one thing that Ghulam Ali is a very simple person. He avoids eating meat and naan (baked bread). He likes simple chappati and shorba (gravy). I was witness to it when I recorded his ghazals for Oriental Star Agencies’ (Birmingham, UK) album ‘Khushboo’ at EMI Recording Studios, Lahore. (I had the honour to render the same ghazals too). He mixes well with friends. He is a down to earth person, wears a simple dress and despite him crossing 70, travels widely all over the world for his live concerts. Unlike his contemporaries he has managed his finances well. He told me that he is his own finance manager.
Ghulam Ali has sung songs composed by many music composers of the subcontinent but he composes music also, especially ghazals. His compositions for the poet Nasir Kazmi need special mention. His ghazal “Dil main ik leher si uthi hei abhi” sung for PTV and composed by Altaf Hussain (late) was also rendered by a female singer Tasawur Khanum for a programme in, which both male and female singers used to sing the same ghazal, disclosed Ghulam Ali. This number was an instant hit and later Ghulam Ali started rendering it as a solo item in most of his concerts both at home and abroad. His variations on the word ‘leher’ (wave) through different combination of notes used to establish many shades of waves; quiet and noisy. This craftsmanship used to mesmerise the audience and establish his command on tune, words and rhythm. One of such performances of this ghazal was part of PTV’s show ‘Meri Pasand’ (My choice) produced by Khwaja Najamul Hasan in early 1980s. Though Ghulam Ali has rendered most of the ghazals composed by his assistant Rafique Hussain, his compositions are raag-based and sometimes include a scientific mixture of raags. The music lovers must be aware that a raag is a scientific, precise, subtle and aesthetic melodic form with its own peculiar ascending and descending movement consisting of either a full seven note octave, or a series of six or five notes (or a combination of any of these) in a rising or falling structure called the ‘Arohi’ and ‘Amrohi’. I had observed that Ghulam Ali uses his training of singing thumri in most of his renderings and plays with the rhythm, being a rhythm master himself. Sometimes he uses a ‘bedaar’ (odd) note only to return to the original scale with ease beautifying his composition and performance. The other scion using this quality was legendry singer late Tufail Niazi. The result is touching the hearts of music lovers. Some of the examples that can vouch for this observation are “Aae husne lala faam”, “Apne dhun mai reheta hun mai bhi tere jaisa hun”, “Apni tasveer ko aankhon se”, “Arze gham say bhi faida tou nahain”, “Ye dil yei pagal dil mera kyun bujh gaya awaargi” (Poet: Muhsin Naqvi), “Baharon ko chaman”, “Barsan lagi sawan bundiya raja” (thumri), “Chamakte chand ko tuta hua tara bana dala”, “Chhup chhupa ke piyo”, “Chupke chupke raat din ansoo bahana yaad hei” (Poet: Hasrat Mohani), “Dil buk buk ahro”, “Dil jala ke mera muskuraate hain woh”, “Dil dharakne ka sabab yaad aaya” (Poet: Nasir Kazmi), “Dil mein ik leher si uthi hai abhi” (Poet: Nasir Kazmi), “Fasle aise bhi honge yei kabhi socha na tha”, “Hadaffe gham na kiya sange mallamat nay mujhay” (Poet: Raees Warsi), “Heer” (for Pakistani film ‘Heer Ranjha’ composed by Khwaja Khurshid Anwar), “Hum tere shehr mein aye hain”, “Hum to kitno ko mehzabeen kehte hain”, “Humko kiske gham ne mara yei kahani phir sahi” (Poet: Masroor Anwar), “Hungama hai kyon barpa” (Poet: Akbar Allahabadi), “Itni muddat baad mile ho”, “Jin ke honton pei hansi” (Produced by Khalid Asghar), “Kabhi naiki mein mujhe”, “Kachhi deewar hoon”, “Kesi chali hai abke hawa”, “Kal chaudhvin ki raat thi” (Poet: Ebne Insha), “Kal raat bazm mein jo mila”, “Kehte hai mujhse ishq ka afsana chahiye” (Poet: Qamar Jalalabadi), “Khuli jo aankh”, “Khushbu gunche talash karti hain”, “Khushbu jese log”, “Kina kina timro tasveer”, “Kiya hai pyaar jise”, “Koi humnafas nahi hai”, “Main nazar se pee raha hoon” (Poet: Qamar Jalalvi), “Mehfil mein baar baar” (Poet: Agha Bismil), “Mera kya tha tere hisaab mein”, “Ni chambe diye band kaliye” (film song).
Before proceeding ahead I must talk about Ghulam Ali’s songs sung for Pakistani films. The most notable songs in his voice are by music composer Safdar Hussain. It was in 1972 that Diljeet Mirza produced a movie namely ‘Tha’ in, which Waris Ludhianvi wrote a beautiful song for Ghulam Ali “Pehli waari aj ohna akhian nei takia” picturised on actor Shahid opposite Rozina. Continued
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