Friday, October 10, 2008

Ghazal, Gazelle and Tina Sani


by Nayyar Hashmey

   Ghazal is a poetic form that uses couplets; and these share a rhyme and a refrain. Each line must share the same meter. Etymologically, the word refers to "the mortal cry of a gazelle". 
   The structural requirements of ghazal are more stringent than most other poetic forms usually used in Urdu, English or other languages. In its style and content it is a genre that has proved itself capable of an extraordinary variety of expression around its central theme of love and separation. Many consider it as the principal poetic form which the Persian civilization offered to the eastern Islamic world.

   In the subcontinent, ghazal spread in the 12th century under the influence of the new Islamic Sultanate courts and Sufi mystics. Exotic to the region, it is indicated by the very sounds of the name itself; when properly pronounced as ġazal, with its very un-Indian initial rolled g. Ghazal is the most prominent form of Urdu poetry. Today, its style and pattern influences the poetry of many other languages as well.

   Ghazal uses couplets in a single rhyme (aa, ba, ca, da etc.), sometimes mentioning the poet's name in the last couplet. Ghazal often provides the basis for popular love songs in Urdu poetry. Its usual subject‐matter is amatory, although it has been adapted for religious, political, and other uses too. 

   A full understanding of the classical ghazal poetry, however, is not possible without at least being familiar with some concepts of Sufism. All the major historical ghazal poets were either avowed Sufis themselves (like Rumi or Hafiz), or were sympathizers of Sufi ideas. Most ghazals can be viewed in a spiritual context, with the beloved being a metaphor for God, or the poet's spiritual master. It is the intense divine love of sufism that serves as a model for all the forms of love found in ghazal poetry. 

     Many artists have been singing ghazals and some have earned a great name in the history of ghazal singing. These include the classical, semi classical as well as the popular singers of the movie world. However, when we talk of ghazal in music, it needs to be emphasized that ghazal singing is a distinct art from classical singing, for skilled classical singers are not necessarily good ghazal singers as well. 

    And when we take rendition of lyrics into the art of ghazal singing, among the contemporary artists perhaps nobody can do it as perfectly as that sober and husk-voiced lady Tina Sani. 

    With her melodious voice, she throbs the heart of millions of Pakistanis and is country’s undisputed Queen of Melody. The years she has progressively rigoured herself as a ghazal performer, there are now a few who can compete with her. An important reason for Tina's success as a performer is her ability to communicate; even while singing the likes of Zauq, when she does not lose the audience – a skill, which, in fact is integral to the art of ghazal and classical singing. 

   Besides enthralling the music lovers with countless ghazals and audio / video songs, she inspires everybody, the elite, common urbanite as well as the rural folk alike. 

   Tina always sings in her own rhythm. Not inclined to follow in anyone's footsteps, she ushers in an era of ghazal singing where she is the real queen of lyrical singing in Pakistan. 
   Around the time Tina met the composer Arshad Mahmud, her real forte came to reverberate in the air. Arshad Mahmud has been her friend and guide. He began to work with Tina on her interpretation and rendering of the poetry of Faiz Ahmad Faiz. By singing Faiz, Tina feels that she is taking his message to the people, who have been wonderfully receptive to her efforts. 

   And she is a skillful ghazal singer in the traditional Punjabi style as well. Her debut rendition of a Punjabi song, “Akhiaan Chham Cham Waseeyaan,” became an instant hit. Later, she tried singing pop selections and traditional naghmas, eventually graduating to ghazals. Tina Sani was lucky enough to achieve nearly instant acclaim and is very popular among younger music buffs.

[Special thanks to Akanksha Joshi for some info used in this write up]
*On top and on bottom are YouTube videos in Tina’s melodious voice. Here she resonates with typical wailing of a gazelle. I have chosen these songs because no other rendition could do justice with the subject of this write up on Tina.            



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