In the year 2017, Talat Aziz, an immensely revered and popular Ghazal singer told a leading Indian daily that ‘Ghazal may die soon’. He told Hindustan Times, “This may be disheartening for fresh singers.. there aren't too many platforms for them within the mainstream. Albums have gone out of fashion. There isn't enough encouragement. Ghazal gayaki is not dead, though at this rate it may die soon.”
Three years later, Jashn-E-Rekhta has a community of over 100,000 followers on Twitter, close to half a million followers on Instagram and the parent page on Facebook has over 1.2 million likes. The tables have turned, or if we could say, the music is more tuned with the likes of millennials who somehow seem to love Ghazals more than ever. Asian Voice spoke to singer Shilpa Rao who is participating in this year’s edition of Jashn-E-Rekhta between September 5 - 6.
We asked her what exactly a Ghazal is. Shilpa said, “I would just say that there’s a misconception that is attached with millennials and people of my generation that Ghazals are just about heartbreak and being drunk. I’m being very honest here. It’s not exactly that. When it comes to nature, human psychology, behaviour and life lessons, Ghazal is a mix of everything and has the added bliss of being extremely romantic and expressed beautifully. I think it’s all of that. It’s a world of its own. It's a way of life. It’s a thought process.”
With the welcome reception of new music apps like Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube music and more free apps like Wynk (that comes free with an Airtel connection), the discovery of Ghazal has increased remarkably. The pandemic specifically has given a new ground to musicians to experiment with independent music.
We live in the era of unplugged versions, Coke Studio, and other similar formats that have their own mass fan following on the internet. Yet, there is little or no marketing around this genre of music. So how does one discover Ghazals anyway?
Shilpa explained, “There’s one side of me who’d say - listen, if you really want it, you will do anything to get it. If you want to find a girl, you’ll do anything in your power - Google around and find her on the net. All I want to say is that - we are born with a lot of perks. We are born in India and Indian heritage, the clothes that you have - the embroidery, the nakkashi it’s sort of given to us because of our heritage. Every generation has a sort of a duty and responsibility. It’s all on us. So I do feel that an artist has the power and responsibility to put out great music”
Shilpa shared with us that her first childhood Ghazal concert was at Jashn-E-Rekhta. She also puts out a lot of Ghazals through her social media today and gets comments from the youth who love her rendition. “There are a lot of portals who are home to unplugged versions and a Baithak and there are very big platforms where independent work is being recognised. We couldn’t think of all this five years ago, and there are many artists like Neha Bhasin, Shalmali Kholgade, Benny Dayal etc. Everyone is doing their ‘Pasandeeda’ (favourite) work. And it is very important that they do it because at the end of the day the artist can maneuver the crowd. I think the newer generation of artists are quite brave and putting out independent music,” she said.
Shilpa has sung two Ghazals for music director Pritam in Tigers and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Some more are in the pipeline. Her favourite Ghazals are too many to be listed yet she said that some of her favourites are Mehdi Hassan’s Dono jahan teri mohabbat me haar ke and Dil-e-Nadaan by Mirza Ghalib.
This year, Jashn-E-Rekhta will have a session on Ghazal Gayaki: Aathwen Sur Ki Talaash, which will be moderated by Gurmehar Kaur who will be in conversation with Shilpa Rao, Rafaqat Ali Khan & Talat Aziz.