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|July 4, 2000|
A dash of the traditional
There are ghazals and then there are ghazals.
The Urdu word meaning 'poetry for the beloved' has provided mellow relaxation to many in India. Though ghazals have undergone a metamorphosis of sorts in the latter part of the century, the demand for the poignant, sometimes dolorous, well-sung verses with lilting tunes remains insatiable.
What started off as classical, authentic ghazals based on ragas slowly turned pop, stressing on the soulful aspect, relying on modern music and softer beats. But the new variety lacked the range and depth of the old.
Bringing about a revival of the classical ghazals based on bandishes and ragas is Rajkumar Rizvi.
Rizvi was born in Rajasthan, India, and later moved to Bombay -- the current home to the country's music industry. He was recently in Toronto, rendering ghazals in select settings, where thumri, dadra and bandish were sampled and relished by music lovers.
"I prefer to sing for small crowds of people who want to get away from the loud, glaring film and pop music. The audiences I have performed for in Chicago and Toronto this year are music aficionados and lovers of the classical form of ghazals," says Rizvi.
He belongs to the Kalawant gharana of Rajasthan, which has produced singers like Mehdi Hasan, Jagjit Singh and others. "We are all from the same village of Mandwa," says Rizvi proudly.
Rizvi renders verses of the classical Urdu poets like Iqbal, Ghalib, Mir and Daag and the other more modern crop, Javed Akhtar and Nida Fazli, with admirable felicity.
Audiences may remember that he sang the title song of Laila Majnu, starring Rishi Kapoor and Ranjeeta. Besides this, he has sung with stalwarts like Asha Bhosle and Anuradha Paudwal. And the Disha Arts Academy has been organising his concerts in Toronto for the last three years now.
"Singing is in my blood and the Kalawant gharana has a rich heritage of singing. My father, Ustad Noor Mohammed, sang at the durbars of rajas and maharajas," says Rizvi.
He remembers playing with his father in the golden sand dunes of the Rajasthan desert while his father was teaching him the intricacies of classical singing. "My father used to tell me to recite alaaps for hours on end. But I was very playful then and used to resort to pranks. I realise what a great singer he was and now try to imbibe his method, concentration and riyaz," says Rizvi.
He remembers performing with his father in his growing years. "The young men of Mandwa village had only two choices way back then: to join the military as a soldier or become a gawaiya (singer). Many thought singing was the easier way out, only to be proved wrong later," he laughs.
Rizvi ran away to Bombay where, besides practising vocals, he learnt to play the sitar under Ustad Jamaluddin Bharatiya, a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Rizvi's strength, though, lay in his singing. His soothing and well-modulated voice is the product of endless hours of riyaz and experimentation. He can render both restrained romantic couplets and complex, raga-based verses with equal ease. Additionally, he has a good rapport with the audience. In the gaps between ghazals he often relates anecdotes to explain what he means or plays the harmonium, moving from simple notes to the most intricate.
He follows a form of singing similar to that of Mehdi Hasan, Ghulam Ali and Jagjit Singh. "You may find our resonance similar, because we give greater emphasis to the classical form," says Rizvi.
He has also released a few albums -- Romantic Reflections, Mehfil-e-Yara and Chupke Chupke, all released by HMV. Magnasound has also released his CD, Aaina-e-Zindagi.
Rizvi also holds music workshops and teaches music "to students of all ages who share my passion for music".
Though he represents a very traditional culture, he prefers to be called a global artiste. "Music has no barriers. It is a universal language and cannot be confined to one nation or group of people," he says.
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