Ghazal singing originated in the 6th century Arabic verse. Ghazals are similar to those of the Petrarchan sonnet. It is a genre that is capable of an extraordinary and amazing variety of expression around its central theme of love and separation. It is one of forms which the Indo-Perso-Arabic civilization offered to the eastern Islamic world. The Ghazal is most prominently a form of Urdu poetry, but today is found in the poetry of many languages of the Indian sub-continent. It is safe to say that to have a proper understanding of Ghazal you must also have an understanding of Sufi. Many Ghazal singers like Rumi and Hafiz were Sufis themselves. So, it is not necessary to be a Sufi singer but atleast well acquainted with Sufi ideas.
A Ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. This is mostly in terms of illicit or unattainable love. Even this could be viewed in two contexts. One is in the spiritual context, with the unattainable being God known as “ishq-e-haqiqi”. The other is the earthly love called “ishq-e-majazi”. But, many of them can be interpreted in either context. Ghazal singing is not ‘just singing’. It is the voice of the heart, the voice of your soul. A Ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. This genre of singing requires a certain passion for music. You must have a strong will, a determination and certain zeal not only for music, but for life as a whole.
Traditionally, Hindi Ghazals placed a lot of emphasis on the voice of the performer. Artists like Jagjit Singh moved away from the traditional approach and started emphasizing on the words, lyrics and the music accompanying the song. Today, Ghazals continue to be very popular amongst the masses. The Ghazal song in Sarfarosh was widely appreciated and was considered the best song in the super great movie.
Appreciation of such traditional songs has always been the hallmark of an intelligent and knowledgeable music connoisseur. The growth of the Indian pop industry in the late 80s and early 90s ensured greater visibility for Ghazal artists. Pankaj Udhas, Mehdi Hassan, Jagjit Singht, Hariharan, and others have released albums consisting only of Ghazal songs. These songs have become very popular and such albums have helped spread the popularity of this form of music throughout the country.
What sets these songs apart from all other songs is that it is very easy to capture multitude of emotions by simply repeating the lyrics. Listen to any popular song and you will find that a change in the tone and inflection of the singer imperceptibly enhances the mood of the song. Music composers too have moved beyond traditional Indian instruments and have opted for a fusion of Indian and Western instruments to make these songs more enjoyable.
These songs serve as the perfect tool in the hands of moviemakers to create emotional, romantic, and tragic moods in the movie without any difficulty. The song running in the background clearly enhances the overall effect of the emotion that the director is trying to convey. These developments have made it easier for the masses to appreciate the technical mastery of the Ghazal experts.