Ghazals formed a large part of my childhood: I grew up at a time when it was the turntable and not the TV that entertained our evenings (this fact rounds the eyes of my daughters in pity and incredulity). I grew up listening to Jagjit & Chitra Singh, Ghulam Ali and Mehdi Hassan, and learned to appreciate Begum Akhtar and Farida Khanam as my musical tastes evolved later in life.
It is a tough ask to narrow down 10 of the best Ghazals of all times and I confess that this is a wholly subjective list based not on statistics or sales, but personal views that base themselves lyrical and compositional merit and the memories attached to each ghazal.
1. Baat Niklegi Toh Phir – Jagjit Singh
Arguably the best known nazm (a modern prose style ghazal) in the world, stunningly rendered by the velvet-voiced Jagjit Singh, this is from the album Unforgettables a 1977 album that in my view is the best ever ghazal album by Indian ghazal singers. Baat Niklegi toh is the crowning glory of an album littered with classics such as sarakti jaye, aaye hai samjhane lo, Dard badhkar fugaan na ho jaye and many others.
2. Abke Hum Bichhde – Mehdi Hassan
While Ranjishi Sahi is perhaps the maestro’s most famous ghazal, in my humble view, this ghazal is superior because of the poignant lyrics of Ahmed Faraz, its brilliant composition and the absolutely masterful rendition by that fluid voiced genius: अब के हम बिछड़े तो शायद कभी ख़्वाबों में मिले
जिस तरह सूखे हुए फूल किताबों में मिले
3. Zindagi mein toh sabhi pyar kiya karte hai – Mehdi Hassan
Mehdi Hassan sang many, many heart wrenching ghazals about love and pining lovers such as Mohabbat Karne Wale and Shola tha jal bujha hoon, but none perhaps that compare to this Kateel Shafai ghazal about everlasting love that extends beyond death; a composition in Raag Bhimpalasi – ज़िन्दगी में तो सभी प्यार किया करते हैं
मैं तो मर कर भी मेरी जान तुझे चाहूँगा
4. Zindagi Jabbhi Teri Bazm Mein – Talat Aziz (Umrao Jaan)
Talat Aziz has been one of India’s most dashing ghazal singers but that is not the reason this ghazal is on this list. The fact is that the movie Umrao Jaan has some of the best ghazals ever composed for Hindi films. In my view, this one has an edge over some of the other ghazals (by Shaharyar, music by Khayyam) such as dil cheez kya hai, in aakhon ki masti and yeh kya jagah hai doston because of the wonder expressed in the lyrics and Aziz’s soulful rendition.
5. Aaj Jaane ki Zidd Na Karo – Farida Khanum
Her voice is as warm molasses in this rendition but it is the beautiful composition in Raag Yaman Kalyan and the longing so beautifully expressed in the lyrics of Fayyaz Hashmi that make this Khanum’s best known ghazal and a classic forever.
6. Aawargi – Ghulam Ali
We tend to think of chupke chupke as Ghulam Ali’s best ghazal; I put it to you that it is not. That vocal gymnast has an absolute fund of spectacularly sung ghazals. I chose this one because though it’s a film ghazal, it is also a quintessential Ghulam Ali ghazal – melodious, quick paced and hauntingly unforgettable.
7. Dil mein ik leher si uthi hai abhi – Ghulam Ali
Ghazals tend to be about doomed love, broken hearts, unfulfilled longings and alcohol soaked despair. This one is not. It is upbeat, optimistic and refreshing. The fact that the Nasir Fazmi ghazal is spectacularly well sung by Ghulam Ali is a plus.
8. Mere Hamnafas Mere Humnawa – Begum Akhtar
This woman was a trendsetter in so many ways. While she is best known for her semi classical tappas, thumris, dadras, horis, kafis and chaitis, her ghazals were quite marvelous too; mere humnafas by Shakeel Badayuni is one of finest.
9. Mausam Ayenge Jaayenge – Ahmed and Mohammed Hussain
It’s a pity that this duo of ghazal singing brothers isn’t better known. It isn’t just that their mellifluous voices sound wonderful together, some of their compositions are outstanding and the way that they create harmonies in their ghazals is quite unprecedented in the world of ghazals. Enjoy this beautiful ghazal: mausam ayenge jayenge.
10.Duniya Jise Kahte Hai – Jagjit Singh, Chitra Singh
This Nida Fazli ghazal is a thought provoking philosophical lyric and one of the best duets by maestro Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh.
By – Reena Daruwalla
Video 1 Courtesy – Khurram Imtiaz, Video 2 courtesy – cheecheepia, video no 3 – nampker, video 4 courtesy – Akram Ramay, video no 5 sudiptakiran, video no 6 Iftikhar Sultan video no 7 & 9 hyderabadee, video no 8 & 10 – Saregama Ghazal