Ghulam Ali

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Biography

Ghulam Ali was born in 1940, at village Kaleke, district Sialkot, which is now a part of Pakistan. (India and Pakistan became two separate countries in august 1947). He belongs to a musical family, his father was vocalist and sarangi player who trained him earlier, he also learnt from Bade Ghulam Ali Khan's brother Ustad Barkat Ali Khan who is another great singer. He is usually known as a disciple of one and only Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, an unparalleled legend of classical music. Besides him, he was trained by Bade Mubarak Ali Khan. All these great teachers of classical music taught him finer details of classical music, making him one of the best classical singers of all times. And his solid foundation in pure classical music, raagas, thumaris is very apparent in all his singing, making is style unique and inimitable. He started singing at Lahore radio during 1960.

He sings his ghazals, thumaris and nazms in the live concerts in many countries. He is selective about his foodstuffs and avoids anything that could harm his voice.

While experimenting with classical singing, melodies, raagas, he realized that music lovers usually enjoy semi-classical or classical based ghazal more as compared to pure classical music. Also, he came under the association of a master poet whom he has called Sufi Sahab. He guided Ghulam Ali to enter into the realm of the heart and aesthetics of ghazals. Sufi Sahab taught him how to recite the shers effectively without distorting the beauty of the poetry. He told him where to stop and where to stress so that the words remained crystal clear.

His Inimitable Style

Ghulam Ali has a heavy, baritone voice, and while rendering ghazals he creates an effect which is simply out of this world. He has a very subtle vibrations in his voice which he uses very beautifully, to convey a whole range of emotions through it. He could make it sound hopelessly romantic, he can make it sound melancholy, he can make it sound anything that he wants almost effortlessly owing to his relentless riyaaz (practice).

Ghulam Ali is equally sensitive about the rhythm and technical virtuosity of the ghazals. He recites each word very clearly, making sure that the meaning of the ghazal is conveyed effectively. He could recite same sher (couplet) five times making it sound different each time and conveying a new meaning each time with his amazing flair. It's sheer bliss to listen to his ghazal which has only a few shers but goes on for about 15-20 minutes enjoying his voice modulations. Recall his rendering of "Tez hawaaaaaaa ne muzse puchha, ret pe kya likhate rahete ho..." from "Itni muddat baad mile ho" ghazal, you'll know what I mean. IMHO, the only other person who can make 15 plus minute long ghazal sound equally beautiful is Mehdi Hassan.

It's his classical style of singing combined with soul & emotion of the ghazal without compromising clarity of reciting the words makes Ghulam Ali so unique. Many music critics and experts unanimously agree that Ghulam Aliís compositions are very tough, and it's next to impossible to imitate them.

For his live concerts, usually the accompanying musical instruments are harmonium and tabla. He himself plays these instruments quite well. The musical instruments such as sarod, sitar, santoor often complement him, but it is his voice which rules, and not the instruments.

Popularity, Inspirations ...

Despite of his classical based ghazals, he is very popular among critics as well as music lovers giving him rare adulation in various countries besides his own. Due to this very reason many music labels such as HMV Saregama, Music India, Polydor, Venus, Tips, T-Series, Navras Sony across the globe have produced numerous compilations of his ghazals. That is the reason why I have not mentioned any particular album for most of his ghazals in the site database, instead it mentions "Various" in the album column.

Again, owing to his immense popularity, some of his ghazals have been used in the Indian hindi movies. His popular ghazal "Chupke chupke raat din.." has been used in the movie Nikaah featuring Raj Babbar and Salma Aghaa. Moreover, many of the hindi film songs have been "inspired" from some of his ghazals. "Thodi si jo pi li hain, chori to nahi ki hain" from Namak Halal (Ghazal - Hungama hain kyon barpa) as you would recognize, is one them.

It is indeed surprising why there's not much information available about him and his songs on the internet. As far as I know, he doesn't have a fan site yet like jagjitsingh.com, the search on google for his name usually gives links of sites like teenstation.com or musicindiaonline.com which features some of his songs in ra and mp3 format. Anyway, I hope this micro-site grows into a decent information site about Ghulam Ali.

New Releases

(June 2007) Times Music has released an album of new ghazals (as of June 2007) called Zikr sung by Ghulam Ali. I rushed to Planet M to get my copy, and was eager to listen to the maestro himself with all new ghazals!!! Though it hurts like hell to say this - this album is rather mediocre. The music by Nayab Raja is too ordinary & lyrics are just about average! Worse still, Ghulam Ali's voice doesn't sound too good either!!! Nothing hurts more...I hope we'd get a chance to hear something better by him soon!

Earlier, in Sept 2001, he had released an album Visaal with famous Indian poet Gulzar. This indeed is a great news because some of his latest albums did lack good poetry to match his earlier classics, I hope he makes more albums with great poets like Gulzar. Unfortunately this album is not available in India these days (June 2007) and I hope SaReGama will do something about it.

Also, he sang live at Swar Utsav, which was conducted during 23 - 25 November 2001 at India Gate, New Delhi. A recording of this live concert has been made available on cassettes and CDs by Music Today.

Other Sites

The sites which I believe visitors of this site will be interested in visting are -
  • Urdu Poetry - You may find lyrics of many of the ghazals which are listed here.
  • Their Words, Their Voice - Ever growing collection of ghazal lyrics by Jaya Jha. She has put this all in "devnagari" script, so even if you're no famliar with Urdu script, you can still enjoy the lyrics. Long live unicode!!! :)
Also, I have compiled a list of other Ghulam Ali sites which is included in the Links To Music Artiste Sites page of Music section, you can also browse through them.