Ghazal in the 21 st Century

Rains pouring, hot tea piping-and all you need is a soulful ballad playing in the background. The romantic in you plays a poignant tune by the Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh. The wafting notes make you think about the future of ghazals. When you think of ghazals the names which pop in mind are Jagjit Singh, Pankaj Udhas, Ghulam Ali, Talat Aziz, Mehdi Hasan, Begum Akhtar and Chitra Singh. All these names are familiar to the 80’s and 90’s generation, but what about the current generation? Over viral videos and live streaming, this generation is
spoilt for choice, but yet ghazal is an evergreen genre and one will find new age singers dabbling in the genre.

Today, new-age musicians are not only singing ghazals, but reinventing the genre with their own new touch. Rashmi Agarwal, trained by Shanti Hiranand who herself was a pupil of Begum Akhtar herself, transforms the ethereal words of a ghazal by merging it with jazz melodies. Agarwal thrives on experimentation and is working on bringing together the improvisation techniques of jazz and ghazals, aiming to create music no one has ever heard
before. Her band is known as the Z Factor and she wants to reach out to as many listeners as possible.

Tauseef Akhtar, another young ghazal maverick has created a completely new genre known as ‘ghazalaw’ which basically mixes ghazals with celtic folk music. He has also released an album ‘Ishq Karo’ wherein he has  experimented with ghazals, basing his music on western harmony, performing across Britain and India.
Rekha Bharadwaj is another singer who has grown up singing and learning the genre of ghazals. Though she is known for her Bollywood playback, her love for ghazals and her support to Khazana is widely known.

Shruti Pathak, who has sung a number of Bollywood numbers is also seen actively performing ghazals with her band. She even had her own YouTube show ‘Guzzler’s Café’ where she attempted to popularize ghazals amongst the younger generation. She wanted to present ghazals with a twist and played new age renditions of ghazals. When talking about new age ghazal singers, one has to mention the ghazal singing duo of Raaza Razaq and
Imthiyas Beegum, who have been engrossed in this genre since childhood and grew up to become ghazal singers. They came together to form the band Raaza and Beegom in UAE which is now in Kerala. The couple currently performs around the country and abroad.

A milestone event in the ghazal arena today is Khazana, organized by none other than Pankaj Udhas which celebrates classical music and is one of the biggest events in the music scene in India. Khazana always puts the spotlight on young talent and the maestro has taken it upon himself to preserve the rich culture of ghazals. The event is supported by the likes of Anup Jalota, Javed Ali, Rekha Bharadwaj and Pandit Ajay Pohankar amongst others. It has in the past highlighted up upcoming ghazal singers like Aishani Banerjee, Rashi Harmalkar and
Varenyam Pandya.

All these young ghazal artists want to promote ghazals but they all stress on one thing. Ghazals are in essence poetry, and poetry can be performed in any way as long as it respects the genre and the words. These young artists are confident of promoting ghazals by not diluting its essence. At a time when ghazal is witnessing a somewhat diminished patronage, these artists are trying their best to keep the magic of this genre alive and making it more
appealing to today’s generation.