Talat Aziz speaks about the challenges of holding on to a traditional art form and his efforts to keep ghazal alive through the classic compositions of Mehdi Hassan and Jagjit Singh
With the passing away of Jagjit Singh last year, obituaries for the ghazal were penned too. But the legend's protégé, the proficient Talat Aziz, inconspicuous of late, is determined to make his mentor and the genre live on.
In the 1980s, Talat steadily claimed the attention of music lovers with a voice that blended boyish verve and vintage sophistication. His film recordings and several ghazal albums stirred the charts. He re-arranged his life's priorities, trained hard in Classical music, made an unfamiliar city his home and embarked on an endless creative soul search. His tryst with tunes resulted in the tender and achingly romantic ghazal ‘Zindagi jab bhi teri bazm' from the original “Umrao Jaan”, the soothing lullaby ‘Ghar ke ujiyare so ja re' from Mahesh Bhatt's film “Daddy”, the pathos-filled ‘Phir chhidi raat baat phoolon ki' from “Bazaar”, and live concerts across the world that sent listeners into a flurry of wah wah and farmaishain (requests)!
Taking time out to train young enthusiasts, following his mentor's vision of taking ghazal beyond the genteel soirees of aficionados and not fearing to do away with recognisable clichés, Talat Aziz talks about the challenge of helping ghazal find its niche in the crowded soundscape.
Is there time and space for the restive ghazal in the frenetic pace of life and song?
You need a calm balm today more than ever. In fact, people are constantly on the look out for ways to de-stress. And music is the best! Live concerts are drawing full houses, enthusing artistes to find newer ways to communicate with the audience. Trends may come and go, but traditional genres can never fall silent. The threat is never to the art, it is to the artistes, who have to learn to alter their attitude and approach to fit into the new milieu and widen the listeners' profile.
When music is about dramatic orchestral arrangements, loud vocals and insignificant lyrics, how difficult is it to convey deep philosophies through poetry in ghazal?
Irrespective of the demands and compulsions of the changing time, you cannot take away the spirit and essence of the style. In the case of ghazal, it is poetry. May be the verses could be made more easy-going with comprehensible expressions. The works of many young poets now find a place in ghazal singers' repertoire.
Between cricket and music, why did you choose the latter?
It was just about moving from one pitch to another and changing pace (laughs).I was a fast bowler and later took up coaching too. May be my idol and guru Mehdi (Hassan) sahab's influence was stronger. The decision did not surprise my family or me because I am a second-generation music-lover. My parents were very well-known in the cultural circles of Hyderabad where I grew up. Once, after Jagjit Singh's concert in Hyderabad, my parents invited him home for lunch. He heard me sing and advised me that I should seriously think of shifting to Bombay to pursue my musical dreams.
Why is it that you haven't been performing actively over the last few years? Was it a planned sabbatical?
Actually, there has been no break for me from music. I have been constantly touring across the globe performing concerts. If only television channels thought of us, we will always be in the limelight.
From‘Jagjit Singh presents Talat Aziz', your debut album, which had ghazals composed by the late maestro, to ‘Caravan-e-ghazal' that also featured Sonu Nigam, your recordings seem to track your creative moods and influences.
For musicians, albums signify immortality. How else would you remain in listeners' minds and hearts long after you have hung up the microphones. It's a process of self-discovery, a wide space to put your training to test and your ticking mind to work. But technology has changed it all. The number of clicks and hits determines your popularity. It's now all about free downloads and YouTube. I am waiting to release my tribute album on Mehdi Hassan. But where are the takers? Neither the recording companies nor the artistes want to go through the rigours of recording, pre-release marketing and post-release economics. It is time we all went the ‘i' way.
Talat Aziz will be performing in Chennai on February 5 (6.30 p.m.) at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Hall. Tickets priced at Rs. 1500, Rs. 1200, Rs. 900 and Rs. 600 are available at Odyssey stores or online at www.indianstage.in. For details call 98417 29392.