Ghazals with an orchestral twist

A rare Pankaj Udhas concert in the city will feature over 20 instrumentalists

Imagine listening to Pankaj Udhas’s popular ‘Deewaron Se Milkar Rona’ or the late Mehdi Hassan's iconic ‘Ranjish Hi Sahi’ in a different setting.

Rather than the small instrument set-up of a harmonium, sarangi, guitar, mandolin and tabla, there’s a full-fledged string section including the violin and cello. The Ghazal Symphony concert this evening plans to represent the genre in a different way. Featuring singers Pankaj Udhas, Anurag Sharma and Anwesshaa, the performance will be conducted and arranged by Deepak Pandit, once a regular violinist with Jagjit Singh.

Udhas has played similar concerts before, first with Talat Aziz in Hyderabad and later in Dubai. But for Mumbai audiences, it will be a first-time experience. “The idea came from Abhinav Upadhyay of the event company Perfect Harmony Productions,” says Udhas. “He’s a tabla player who has organised shows for Jagjit-bhai and me.” Upadhyay dreamed of organising such a show with Singh, but after he passed away, the plan got shelved.

The challenges

When Upadhyay approached him, Udhas immediately agreed. The challenge was to rearrange the songs for an orchestral setting. “Deepak was given that task,” says Udhas. “A brilliant violinist, he is well-versed with both Indian and Western notation. He selected the musicians and knew exactly how to drive the string section and the orchestra.”

Another issue was selection of songs. “To begin with, I have chosen songs which are more ballads or mid-tempo,” says Udhas. “Secondly, I shall sing in a more set format. In a regular concert, I can take liberties and improvise. But here, I will look at the overall arrangements.” Will he sing his ever-so-popular ‘Chitthi Aayee Hai’ and ‘Chandi Jaisa Rang’? “Of course,” says the ghazal singer. “Only the instrumental interludes will be longer and different from the original.”

The first half of the concert will feature Anwesshaa and Sharma. The former will sing ghazals used in Hindi film music, especially those sung by Lata Mangeshkar and composed by Madan Mohan. “I heard Anwesshaa for the first time at the rehearsals,” says Udhas. “She’s a reality show winner and she’s really good. Her rendition of Lata-ji’s ‘Rasm-e-ulfat’ is amazing.” For his part, Sharma will present popular songs from Hassan and Ghulam Ali. “The basic melody will be the same, but the arrangements are very different,” says Sharma. “I hope to do Ghulam Ali saab’s ‘Dil Mein Ek Lehar’ very differently. I am very excited about this project.”

The Ghazal Symphony will have over 20 instrumentalists. “Besides the strong string section and the harmonium played by the singers, there will be guitar, flute, keyboard, tabla and dholak,” says Udhas. Surely, it will be a ghazal concert with a difference.

The Ghazal Symphony will take place today at Shanmukhananda Hall at 7 p.m. Tickets are available on

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 5:07:40 PM |

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