"I want to popularise ghazal among the younger generation"
India is home to a vast and diverse array of musical genres. One of these is the ghazal form of music. Indian ghazal singers are at the forefront of this magical mould.
Ghazal songs are soft numbers that are enchanting, classical and melodious. In India, songs appear in films on a regular basis.
However, ghazals are not necessarily in movies. There are plenty of ghazal singers who showcase their songs on a variety of platforms.
Indian ghazal singers have their unique charm and tune. Their soft melodies are ingrained in the minds of the audience.
Paying tribute to these talented artists, DESIblitz presents 30 famous Indian ghazal singers who have enchanted listeners across the world.
Kundan Lal Saigal
When it comes to the legendary maestros of Indian cinema, Kundan Lal Saigal tops the list.
There is a longing sound of heartbreak in his voice which suits the ghazal genre perfectly. His songs are desperate, intense and beautiful.
Saigal Sahab was the first master of melancholy. He had a gravelly tone whenever he sang ghazals but even this intonation echoed with softness and subtlety.
A memorable Hindi ghazal he sung was for the film Shahjehan (1946). The song was ‘Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya.’
It is picturised on a despondent Suhail (Kundan Lal Saigal) mourning the loss of love. The song was an instant hit and is widely remembered as one of Saigal Sahab’s best works.
He has also sung several impressive and classic Urdu ghazals, such as ‘Baquair-i-Shouq’ and ‘Nukta Cheen’.
Saigal Sahab is so iconic as a singer that he influenced many veteran artists in India. These include Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mukesh.
In the 2012 book Bollywood’s Top 20 Superstars of Indian Cinema, Saigal Sahab talks about the approach to his soulful singing:
“I hear very little when I sing, except the meaning of the song, as I feel it and the way it moves about.”
Meaning is key in ghazal music. One has to truly feel the lyrics and the melody. Saigal Sahab nails that with his voice. In every sense of the term, he is one of the greatest Indian ghazal singers.
Begum Akhtar is known as ‘Malika-E-Ghazal’ (‘Queen of Ghazals’). With such a title, it should come as no surprise how greatly she mastered this genre.
Begum Ji initially almost became an actress when she was young. However, the influence of ghazal music inspired her to pursue a singing career too.
A really famous ghazal that Begum Ji has to her credit is ‘Deewana Banana Hai Toh‘.
The emotion that Begum Ji carries in this track is rousing and heart-tugging. It’s almost as if she is desperately trying to forget pain, but it keeps following her.
Her gravelly style can be compared to Kundan Lal Saigal’s voice.
However, that does not mean she was simply a female version of him.
“When she came on the stage, she seemed like an ordinary, short, dusky woman with a solitaire glistening on her nose and a silk tobacco pouch. I was a trifle disappointed.
“But, when she started singing, she transformed into the most beautiful woman on earth.”
The thoughts of Kamal prove the trance into which Begum Ji could draw listeners. Her impressive talents mean she is one of the most iconic Indian ghazal singers.
Manna Dey is a legendary artist who mainly worked as a Bollywood playback singer. He sang many numbers across a range of genres and also made his mark in Bengali music.
It could be argued, however, that ghazals are his speciality. In the film Anubhav (1971), Manna Da rendered ‘Phir Kahin Koi Phool.’
The song showcases Meeta Sen (Tanuja) nursing Amar Sen (Sanjeev Kumar). She brings him tea in bed and he sleeps on her lap as Manna Ji’s sad voice resounds.
The black-and-white motion picture adds to the feel of the ghazal genre.
Vijay Lokapalli from The Hindu reviewed Anubhav in 2016. He speaks highly of the film’s music, expressing:
“Music was secondary to the narrative that grows on you in a matured style.”
Manna Da’s soulful voice played a strong part in the film’s success. If he wasn’t touted as a brilliant ghazal singer before this, he definitely was after it.
Manna Ji is underrated when it comes to singers of Indian cinema. Unlike other Bollywood singers, he is not known as the voice of any particular actor.
Although this low-key persona does not mean that he is any less talented. When performing ghazals, his voice has a unique charm and spoke for itself.
Also known as Hemanta Mukherjee, Hemant Kumar was born in 1920 and was destined to be a melodious singer.
A popular ghazal he sung is a duet with Lata Mangeshkar, called ‘Yaad Kiya Dil Ne’ from the Indian film Patita (1953).
The song is composed by Shankar-Jaikishan. It plays over Nirmal Chander (Dev Anand) and Radha (Usha Kiran) as romance engulfs them.
Hemant Da’s smooth baritone does full justice to the spirit of the number which established him as a leading playback singer.
Another well-known ghazal that has received the honour of Hemant Ji’s voice is ‘Jaane Woh Kaise Log‘ from Pyaasa (1957).
It is picturised on a depressive Vijay (Guru Dutt) and a tearful Meena Ghosh (Mala Sinha).
All other numbers, including the ghazals, are sung by Mohammad Rafi in the film. However, this track by Hemant Da truly holds its own.
Film Companion voices its agreement with this in an official music review of Pyaasa:
“Featured in most of the album’s songs, Rafi and Geeta Dutt were both in topmost form throughout the soundtrack.
“My favourite from the album though, is the only song that did not have Rafi or Dutt, but Hemant Kumar.”
Continuing to state:
“The singer’s earnest delivery was perfect for the ode to unrequited love that ‘Jaane Woh Kaise Log’ was.”
Hemant Ji was a very talented artist. He was not as famous as Rafi Sahab or Kishore Kumar, but he had a special knack for ghazals.
Born in the early 20s, Mukesh was a Bollywood playback singer. His first song for an Indian film was ‘Dil Jalta Hai’ from Pehli Nazar (1945).
Mukesh Ji imitates his idol, Kundan Lal Saigal in this number. When Saigal Sahab heard the song, he gifted Mukesh Ji with a harmonium.
Although Mukesh sang in all genres, he could handle ghazals with ease. His voice has an uncanny nasal quality which aides the emotion immensely.
One of the most beautiful ghazals Mukesh Ji has rendered is ‘Do Zulmi Naina.’
Mukesh Ji’s voice reverberates with purity and truth. The emotion in his voice shines through every word.
Another famous ghazal sung by Mukesh Ji is ‘Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai‘ from Yahudi (1958). The song is picturised on Shehzada Marcus (Dilip Kumar) and Hannah (Meena Kumari).
Dilip Sahab originally wanted either Mohammad Rafi or Talat Mahmood to sing this song. Interestingly, music composers Shankar-Jaikishan fought for Mukesh.
When Dilip Sahab heard Mukesh’s rendition, he was awestruck. The despair in the latter’s voice is intoxicating and it is the reason why this number remains an evergreen classic.
Mukesh Ji remains a great singer. However, it is his ability to sing ghazals that have earned him the title of ‘Tragedy King.’
There are a lot of reasons why Talat Mahmood is known as ‘Shenshah-E-Ghazal’ (Emperor of Ghazals) in India.
Throughout his singing career, he primarily worked as a playback singer in Indian cinema.
Talat Ji sang many subdued melodies. His soft voice was a treat to the ears as ice cream is to the mouth.
He worked with renowned composers such as S.D. Burman, Naushad and O.P. Nayyar. One of his famous ghazals is under Burman Sahab’s composition.
This is ‘Jaaye Toh Jaaye Kahan‘ from Taxi Driver (1954). The enchanting number is picturised on Mangal ‘Hero’ (Dev Anand) on a lonely beach.
The deep and emotional tones of Talat Ji show that he deserves his prestigious title. For his work in Taxi Driver, Burman Da won the ‘Filmfare Award for Best Music Director’ in 1955.
It is said that during a concert, Kishore Kumar found out that Talat Ji was in the audience. He stopped singing midway and called Talat Sahab on the stage.
Kishore Da then told Talat Ji:
“Talat Ji, your place is up here with me. A singer like you should not be sitting there.”
The level of respect Talat Ji gained via his proven hand at ghazals was extraordinary.
In 1992, he was bestowed with the Padma Bhushan award and remains one of the catalysts for ghazal music.
Mohammad Rafi remains one of India’s most loved singers. Music lovers keenly feel his influence.
Although Rafi Sahab was extremely versatile, he is particularly applauded for his ability to sing soft ghazals.
The soft-spoken tones of Rafi Sahab undoubtedly helped him sing each ghazal to perfection. One specific ghazal of his that is loved by the audience is ‘Din Dhal Jaaye‘ from Guide (1965).
In this melancholic ghazal, Raju (Dev Anand) despairs over a growing distance between him and Rosie Marco (Waheeda Rehman).
It is said that when Rafi Ji completed the recording of this song, music director S.D. Burman kissed his head.
Mukesh was one of Rafi Sahab’s contemporaries. When he heard the number, he called up Rafi Ji and said:
“Nobody could have sung this song as beautifully as you have.”
When talking about Rafi Sahab in an interview, Dev Sahab discloses:
“When any of my songs had a more ghazal feel to it, we had Rafi sing it.”
Rafi Ji has also sung romantic ghazals for actors such as Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar and Sunil Dutt among many more.
Rafi Sahab has excelled in several genres but he masterfully rendered ghazals. By doing so, he only reaffirmed his place in millions of hearts.
Madan Ji is known as ‘Master Madan’ because he incredibly recorded all the ghazals of his life in childhood. He was born in 1927 and passed away in 1942 aged 14.
However, his ghazals are so charming that he earned the title of ‘The Ghazal King’. That is no small achievement for an adult, let alone a child.
He recorded eight ghazals in Punjabi, Urdu, Thumri and Gurbani.
These songs are not heard in any films but are now commonly played, one being ‘Yun Na Rah Rahkar’. Upon hearing this song, listeners can easily discern the voice of a child.
Even in that child’s voice, waves of emotion flow throughout the pitch and melody. It is a great shame that an alleged milk poisoning incident ended what could have been a very rich life.
Srinivas Joshi, from Shimla, writes about the prodigy of Master Madan in The Tribune:
“I feel proud, as a Shimlaite, to feel that such a singer ever lived here at Butail building, Lower Bazaar, Shimla, who with his mature, modulated and melodious voice created a sensation in the world of singing.”
It may be tragic that such a talented human being departed the world at such a young age.
However, a child created a niche in an era that is dominated by Kundan Lal Saigal and Begum Akhtar.
For that, listeners will always regard him as one of the most legendary Indian ghazal singers.
Vithal Rao was born in 1929 and gained fame for singing Hindi and Urdu ghazals. He usually presented his tracks on stage.
One of his famous numbers is called ‘Ae Mere Hum Nashein.‘ The craving Vithal Ji displays for a better place is heartbreaking.
He had a practice of only working on his music at night. One wonders whether the sacred ambience had any peculiar links to the mood of his ghazals.
Dr Kalpana Sringar, who is a massive fan of Vithal Ji, pays tribute to him in The Deccan Chronicle.
She quotes one of his students, who divulges about his kind personality and great talent:
“I have never seen a man so gracious, friendly, scholarly and devoted to music.”
“He was like a father to all his students and we miss him.”
The tribute also states that Naushad and Mohammad Rafi tried their best to lure Vithal Ji into Bollywood playback singing.
However, the musician refused. Although he never left Hyderabad for Mumbai, he did work with Rafi Sahab when he scored music for Bollywood films.
As well as Rafi Sahab, Vithal Ji also worked with Manna Dey and Asha Bhosle, emphasising the depth of musicality he possessed.
Only a dedicated artist knows the most honest way in which to practice their craft.
Suraiya is still touted as the most famous singer-actress of Indian cinema. She began her career in the 40s and seldomly used playback singers in her films as an actress.
The audience loves the Vidya (1948) star for all her moods of singing. One must, however, really appreciate her style of ghazals.
Her talent for ghazals vibrates in Mirza Ghalib (1954) which is a biopic of the poet of the same name.
One of the ghazals that Suraiya Ji sings in the film is ‘Nukta Cheen Hai.’ It is an Urdu track that shows Suraiya Ji at her very best.
The song showcases a forlorn Moti Begum (Suraiya) sitting on a balcony, crooning away.
The gentle and divine smoothness in Suraiya Ji’s voice is intoxicating.
Her facial expressions also add to the despondency of the ghazal. Her eyes are like a painting of sadness and yearning.
In ‘Aah Ko Chahiye,’ the singer-actress also shows a special penchant for dancing. She majestically moves and sways to the lilting tone oozing out of her voice.
The then Prime Minister of India, Jwarhahal Nehru lauded Suraiya Ji’s work in the ghazals, revealing:
“You have brought back Ghalib to life!”
Mirza Ghalib definitely established Suraiya Ji as a one of the most promising Indian ghazal singers.
Bhupinder Singh is an acclaimed playback singer of Bollywood and also works as a guitarist and a musician.
He pioneered many memorable ghazals in the 70s. One of these is ‘Dil Dhoonta Hai‘ from Mausam (1975).
His love for music motivated his decision to introduce the Spanish guitar, bass, and drums to ghazals.
It is a duet with Lata Mangeshkar and focuses on Chanda Thapa/Kajli (Sharmila Tagore) and Dr Amarnath Gill (Sanjeev Kumar).
The situation of the song correlates to the ghazal well. A despairing Amarnath visualises himself romancing Chanda.
Bhupinder Ji’s lilting voice carries the listener through an emotional wringer. This is just a single example of the many times he has pulled this off.
Ziya Salam from The Hindu divulges into the magic of this song:
“It was not until Mausam that he really distinguished himself as a noted singer.
“Gulzar’s song, ‘Dil Dhoondta Hai’ brought him into the reckoning once again.”
The sentiments of Ziya reinforce the love that Bhupinder Ji has rightly received.
Jagjit Singh has an ornate grasp on the ghazal genre. He has released several albums including The Latest (1982) and Someone, Somewhere (1990).
Captivating ghazals decorate these two albums, as well as his others. A great number from Someone, Somewhere is ‘Dekha Toh Mere Saya Bhi’.
The track conveys a lot of sadness and heartache. Jagjit Ji weaves these emotions around gratifying lyrics. Thereby, he creates an everlasting number with emotion at its core.
Jagjit Ji is also an acclaimed Bollywood playback singer. One of his most famous ghazals in cinema is ‘Hoshwalon Ko Khabar Kya‘ from Sarfarosh (1999).
Gulfam Hassan (Naseeruddin Shah) singing as ACP Ajay Singh Rathod (Aamir Khan) falls in love with Seema (Sonali Bendre).
Avipsha Sengupta from DesiMartini praises the song in a 2018 music review:
“The film probably gave us the most iconic love ballad of the generation by Jagjit Singh.”
This shows just how talented Jagjit was when it comes to ghazals. Unfortunately, he died in 2011, leaving behind a massive void but an immortal legacy.
It is interesting to note that while Jagjit Singh was a legend, his wife is an icon too.
Chitra Singh regularly worked with her husband to create some everlasting ghazals. It is no surprise that the couple were known as the ‘King and Queen of the Ghazal World.’
Chitra independently sung a number of dazzling ghazals. They include the alluring number, ‘Yeh Na Thi Humari Qismat‘.
This charming ghazal speaks volumes about suffering. Chitra Ji’s delicate tone is the perfect piece to complete the ghazal jigsaw.
In a rare interview, Chitra Ji reveals the thing that keeps her going:
“Spirituality is about cleansing your insides and your thoughts.”
Her songs burst with spirituality and soul, which is evident in the ghazals that poured from her lips.
Unfortunately, Chitra Ji dealt with the tragic loss of her husband and two children which ended her passion for her craft.
However, Chitra Ji’s aura lives on through the ghazals which she has given the world and remains one of the most celebrated Indian ghazal singers.
Manhar Udhas was born in 1943. He is a passionate ghazal singer who has sung in Hindi and Gujarati whilst also being a popular Bollywood playback singer.
This song is called ‘Kal Bhi Man.’ The powerful vocals of Manhar Ji beautifully capture the ghazal themes and his soft intonations create a wonderful track.
When it comes to Bollywood, Manhar Ji’s style is often compared to Mukesh.
When Mukesh was unavailable, composers Kalyanji-Anandji got Manhar Ji to dub the song for Mukesh Sahab to sing over it.
However, when Mukesh Ji heard the song, he said there was no need for him to sing it.
Such was the beauty of Manhar Ji’s voice.
Manhar Ji grabbed hold of every opportunity that came his way. He has established himself as an icon when it comes to Indian ghazal singers.
Pankaj Udhas is the younger brother of Manhar Udhas. Like his older brother, he is also one of the most talented Indian ghazal singers.
Among his most famous ghazals is ‘Chitti Aayi Hai‘ from Naam (1986).
Pankaj appears in the film as himself performing this song on stage in an emotional auditorium.
Vicky Kapoor (Sanjay Dutt) and Rita (Amrita Singh) become tearful listening to the melancholic lyrics.
One cannot underestimate the manner in which Pankaj outdoes himself during this number. The fame of this song transcended borders when the BBC soap, EastEnders used it in a 2009 episode.
Naam director Mahesh Bhatt delves into the mania of this ghazal as well as Pankaj’s talent:
“This is the [song] people still want to talk about whenever I travel to the Middle East.”
He continues to reveal:
“Pankaj would shoot for us during the day and sing at concerts at night.
“He struck a chord with the Indian and Pakistani diaspora.”
Pankaj has also sung memorable ghazals such as ‘Aap Jinke Kareeb’ and ‘Chandi Jaise Rang.’ Thereby proving his ghazal gift.
Anup Jalota is a stage performer and he started his career at All India Radio.
Of all the ghazals he has done, ‘Bas Yahi Soch Ke’ is particularly beautiful. In an intimate concert, Anup dons a bronze kurta (male Indian suit) and peacefully sings this song while clapping at his harmonium.
His romantic facial expressions compliment the lyrics well. The audience gesticulates their hands in admiration.
This track comes from Anup’s album, Kashish. At the same event, he performs the captivating ‘Teri Galli Se’.
The vocals of Anup are a force to reckon with. He owns the stage, accompanied by his fellow musicians.
In an interview, Anup discusses his craft:
“Ghazal is a form of beautiful poetry and it explains to those who would care to listen.”
“In this world, ghazal will survive, so long as romance survives.”
Anup’s penchant for romanticising ghazals has always worked wonders. That is evident in his numbers.
For that, Anup will always be regarded highly among the most scintillating Indian ghazal singers.
Talat Aziz is a very big wave in the sea of Indian ghazal singers. One of his best-selling albums is called Best of Talat Aziz (1987).
This album contains the ghazal, ‘Dulhan Bani Hai Raat’. Talat gracefully hums the melody and his diction is spot on.
The popular singer has also worked as a playback artist in Bollywood and notably sang ‘Zindagi Jab Bhi Teri‘ from Umrao Jaan (1981).
This pleasing ghazal shows Amiran (Rekha) and Nawab Sultan (Farooq Sheikh) falling in love across vast fields. They are grateful for each other, which tugs at the heart.
Khayyam’s composition is unique, increasing the beauty of the song. Hearing this track, one wonders why Talat does not sing in films more often.
Planet Bollywood reviews the music of Umrao Jaan. It speaks glowingly of this track, and Talat’s voice:
“Talat’s golden voice brings out that punch of romance expressed in the poetry. A splendid number.”
Perhaps the reason Talat’s voice is not heard more often is that nowadays ghazals are outdated.
However, Talat has an optimistic viewpoint regarding the future of the ghazal genre. He reports:
“I am very positive that ghazal is going to be one of the mainstream music in the coming years.”
With artists like Talat around, there is no reason why ghazal music cannot rediscover itself.
Chandan Das is a Talat Aziz discovery. However, he too has carved his own position in the soft ghazal market.
Chandan released his first album in 1982, named Introducing…Chandan Dass. That began a lengthy career filled with emotions and melody.
A more recent album he has come out with is Sadaa (2013). That includes the ghazal, ‘Jab Chaha Jazbaat.’ The literal meaning of the word ‘jazbaat’ is ’emotion.’
This fits with the ghazal genre like a bow to a violin. The long pitches that stream out of Chandan’s voice generate a classic track.
Another gorgeous number is ‘Aap Chahenge Agar’ from the album Nishaniyan (2006).
The pain in Chandan’s soft-spoken vocals shines through. It is not easy to hold back the emotion when these sounds swirl around the ears.
In an interview with the Lucknow Times, like his mentor Talat, Chandan firmly believes in the potential longevity for ghazal music:
“Yes, I agree that ghazals are not too much in demand these days, but one thing I can be sure of is that ghazals will never become extinct.
“Its style will change over time, the type will change but ghazal will always be there.”
Chandan is surely one of the most dedicated Indian ghazal singers there are.
Penaaz Masani is one of the most vibrant Indian ghazal singers and has achieved success through many hit albums.
One of these albums is called Aapki Bazm Mein (1982) and consists of the spectacular song ”Dil-E-Nadan.’
The rhythm of the ghazal is strummed majestically and is decorated with Penaaz’s soulful, innocent voice.
Penaaz sings about her hopes for loyalty. She questions what has happened to the concept of remaining loyal in love.
This is something the audience can find relatable. Thus, it is unsurprising that this number is a landmark song in Penaaz’s discography.
Penaaz has tried her hand in a variety of genres. She has sung an upbeat duet with Kishore Kumar in Dev Anand’s Hum Naujawan (1986).
However, her forte remains in the ghazal genre.
As well as showcasing her tremendous voice, Penaaz is also a voice for empowerment. She questions the gender inequality within ghazal music:
“There was a preconceived notion against women singing ghazals, as this is supposed to be a man’s arena.”
“How can that be, when it is women who best express emotions like love, apprehension?”
Countless women have proved that female singers can shine in ghazals just as brightly as men. Penaaz is one of them.
Anita Singhvi found an interest in ghazals at an early age. That drive to master the craft of ghazal music gave birth to one of the most desirable Indian ghazal singers.
Anita has relased several charming albums that are all adorned with sweet and soft ghazals.
A famous song is ‘Mashqe Sitam‘ from her album, Naqsh-E-Noor (2005). The ghazal is unusual and not too conventional for the genre.
It has a slightly faster beat and the tempo moves quicker.
However, Anita’s deep voice is an ornament for the ghazal. Furthermore, this quality is perfect for the tune of the number. The louder instrumentation bodes well with her baritone.
A softer track that Anita has done is ‘Woh Mujhse Hue Hum Kalaam.’ This is soulful, but the energy Anita brings to the ghazal is inspiring.
She is a singer of immense talent and range and has been inspired by veteran ghazal singer Begum Akhtar.
“I used to feel I have to master Begum Akhtar’s repertoire, follow her special semi-classical mein lipth gharana.”
Begum Ji has clearly rubbed off on Anita. She, however, has undoubtedly made a place for herself.
Ghazal Srinivias shares his name with the music genre in which he has excelled. That creates a wonderful sense of irony.
Also known as Kesiraju, the Hyderabad native primarily sings in Telugu. Interestingly, a language that has every word ending in a vowel.
Despite this, Ghazal has diversified his voice in 125 languages to which he holds the Guinness World Record for singing in the most languages.
His ‘Nanna Song‘ is vastly popular. Unlike many other Indian ghazal singers, he rarely performs with the harmonium.
Instead, the audience enjoys watching him accompanied by the frame drum.
Ghazal’s loud voice is also a differing concept from the genre. However, his ghazals are still a blessing to the ears.
He proves that some ghazals do not always need to be quiet and lilting. For that, he has a unique style that should be appreciated and remembered.
Shishir Parkhie was born in 1967 into a music-loving family.
His household and childhood environment paved the path into a ghazal music career.
One of his prominent ghazal albums is Siyahat (2013) which was released through India’s oldest music, ‘Saregama’. Among the tracks is the sweet ‘Bachpan Ka Haseen.’
In this number, the sensitive voice of Shishir proves that he is a genuine artist. The ghazal is slow but that does not bore the audience.
An older album is called Once More Ghazals (2009), produced by T-Series. A famous song of that album is ‘Hum Bhi Guzar Gaye.’
The sorrow in Shishir’s tone is eye-watering. The guitar and violin beautifully embellish the rhythm of the ghazal as he sings of desperate loss and tragedy.
These instruments are expertly played in the composition.
A wide variety of stages in India and around the world can boast of having the talent that is Shishir.
In an interview, Shishir is asked about music and what it means to him to which he responds thoughtfully:
“I believe music is God gifted to people. The talent within you will take you ahead no matter what.”
He then states:
“Music is something which comes naturally.”
Shishir’s positivity simmers in his songs. His voice is adored in India but also worldwide which makes Shishir one of the greatest Indian ghazal singers.
Shahabaz Aman is one of the most soulful Indian ghazal singers. He sings in Malayalam, and always wins the hearts of listeners.
Shahabaz has a romantic tone that bedecks his ghazals. In a live and warm performance, he sings softly while also enthusiastically buoying his audience.
The vocals of Shahabaz pulsate in the auditorium and he is in a peaceful trance. It is like his heart is in the music and his hands are automatically working at the harmonium.
The ghazal singer has released many elegant studio albums. These include Soul of Anamika (2004), Alakalkku (2008) and Sajnee (2011).
He has also done detailed work as a playback singer in the Malayalam film industry.
However, he is quick to underplay this achievement as he says:
“Even a small sound gets magnified in films. My voice when enhanced loses its clarity. It is not a voice that can boom in a cinema hall.”
Whether inside a cinema or outside it, one hopes that Shahabaz will continue mesmerising listeners with his ghazals.
Sunali Rathod is a romantic ghazal singer and is the ex-wife of Anup Jalota. After this marriage ended, she found love with ghazal maestro Roopkumar Rathod.
The ghazal genre lingers in Sunali’s blood. A very famous album of hers is with Roop Kumar called Mitwaa (2001).
That contains the song ‘Aye Need Chal.’ The number feels like a trance that captivates the listener and puts them at comfort. Sunali’s voice ripples through with its warmth and honesty.
Her high vocals are perfect for the tempo of the ghazal and she truly shines in this song.
‘Agla Janam’ from the same album can also boast of these qualities.
Ghazals have the selling point of long, soft notes and a smooth rhythm. When they are in Sunali’s hands, they come out with a golden result.
DESIblitz has conducted an official interview with both Sunali and Roopkumar. In that conversation, Sunali talks about her love for universal music, asserting:
“Every kind of music inspires me. Good music inspires me whether it’s Jazz, Pop or Classical.
“I listen to all kinds of songs and music from all over the world.
“And the tunes I like, I try to learn something from them.”
Sunali may be a dedicated and open-minded music fan but her specialty lies in ghazals.
Roopkumar Rathod is a music composer and a Bollywood playback singer. Listeners adore him for his ghazals and classical moulds.
Along with his wife Sunali Rathod, Roopkumar is at the helm of many hit ghazal tracks. An effervescent album of his is Ishara (1997).
A song from that glowing album is ‘Basti Mein’ which is a solo ghazal from Roopkumar.
It is a lovely yet thoughtful song. Through his vocals, Roopkumar explores the pain of silence through wrenching sounds.
The way he prolongs the syllables in the word, ‘sannata’ (silence) echo with affection and soul.
This is all accompanied by beautiful monosyllables and the occasional falsetto. It all creates a piece of art.
Also, Roopkumar’s status as a Bollywood playback singer is exceptional. In the film, Veer-Zaara (2004), he sings ‘Tere Liye‘, a duet with nightingale Lata Mangeshkar.
It presents an ageing Veer Pratap Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) and Zaara Hayat Khan (Preity Zinta). Veer is sadly reflecting on his younger days with Zaara.
Roopkumar outdoes himself in this track. He holds his own against Lata Ji very well.
During a Bollywood Hungama interview, Aamir Khan is asked about which is his favourite Yash Chopra film.
“I really liked Veer-Zaara. I love the music.”
Roopkumar Rathod, one of the most exceptional Indian ghazal singers, plays a massive part in that.
Several Bollywood fans of the last two decades will be familiar with Sonu Nigam.
A renowned playback singer, he is frequently compared to Mohammad Rafi. This may be due to the soft tones of both singers.
One popular ghazal is ‘Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin’ from Agneepath (2012). This song showcases Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (Hrithik Roshan).
He reunites with his younger sister, Shiksha Deenanath Chauhan (Kanika Tiwari) after years of being apart. His girlfriend Kaali Gawde (Priyanka Chopra) joins their union.
Sonu invests his heart and soul into this ghazal. He stretches his voice, alternating between softness and prolonging sounds. Furthermore, the expert use of the violin adds to the magic.
Joginder Tuteja from Bollywood Hungama praises Sonu’s rendition:
“Sonu Nigam, who is always a delight to listen to, especially when it comes to soulful romantic tracks, strikes again.”
Sonu has sung many other wonderful ghazals. However, this one won him the Mirchi Music award for ‘Male Vocalist of the Year’ in 2012.
With this number, Sonu has joined the widespread Indian ghazal singers and cemented himself as a vocal artist.
Born in Mumbai, Jaswinder Singh has been trained by Jagjit Singh. Renowned Bollywood scriptwriter and lyricist Javed Akhtar is also his mentor.
All of them have shaped Jaswinder into a highly proficient ghazal singer. He has giant music labels such as Tips and Saregama to his name.
He sang the ghazal, ‘Yun Toh Kya Kya Nazar‘ where his charming voice excelled. The reaction of the audience is bewildering.
Moist eyes, proud smiles and enthusiastic applause fill the hall.
The way he submerges himself into the music is a sign of a true performer.
Like Talat Aziz, Jaswinder also has high hopes for his craft. Delving deep into what he wants to do for the ghazal genre, he comments:
“I want to popularise ghazal among the younger generation.
“Ghazal can be made interesting, peppy and create many moods contrary to what most people think.”
Jaswinder has great talents. One hopes that he can make his wishes come true with his shining voice.
Sithara Krishnakumar was born in Kerala. From a music-loving child, she has transformed into one of the top recognised Indian ghazal singers.
She also works as a Malayalam film playback singer.
Her performance of her song ‘Ae Mohabbat Tere Anjaam‘ showcases her melodious voice which blesses the audience.
Her eyes clamped shut, she loses herself in the notes. It is as if the lyrics are automatically flowing out of her.
Sithara also sings ‘Kayale‘ from Thottappan (2019). It presents a depressive Sarah (Priyamvada Krishnan) and Ismail (Roshan Mathew).
Sithara decorates the sublime mood of the ghazal with her groundbreaking vocals.
She feels the number and gives it the right balance of colour and sadness.
The Times of India praises the music:
“Three cheers to the music department that raises the narrative with their soulful charms.”
Those “soulful charms” would not have existed without Sithara. She proves herself to be a talent of promise and potential.
Jaspreet ‘Jazim’ Sharma
Jaspreet ‘Jazim’ Sharma has won a national gold medal in thumri and ghazal.
A magnificent ghazal he has performed is ‘Ranjish Hi Sahi.’
Jazim moves sensitively with the music. This includes rocking his shoulders and tilting his head with his fingers drumming against the harmonium.
The charm he holds over his audience is apparent. The youth in his voice also creates an original factor in his performance.
Radioandmusic.com cite praise that Jazim has received from his idol:
“Sonu Nigam appreciated Jazim Sharma as one of the finest singers of India.”
In 2020, Jazim released the ghazal, ‘Inteha‘ to which many fans love and appreciate.
In the music video, a dapper Jazim is clad in a tuxedo. He romances a beautiful girl also dressed in a sequined black dress. It embodied the mystique in Jazim’s voice which is truly unique.
Jazim will continue to impress audiences and transcend the ghazal sound to new deminesions.
Adithya Srinivasan is internationally recognised for his ghazals. He has found a place among the blue-chip Indian ghazal singers via his passionate voice.
In 2017, his ghazal music video, ‘Aarzu‘ came out. In the video, the young voice of Adithya is calm and collective.
The song is like a river of tranquillity and Adithya’s smile is the main ripple that shimmers. The code of clothing is a white kurta against a sacred backdrop of a twinkling evening.
In 2013, his music video, ‘Gham-E-Duniya‘ presents the ghazal in a diametrically opposite iconography.
Sporting sunglasses and riding a flash car, Adithya croons the song fabulously.
Adhitya sheds light on the song’s mixed reception:
“The sales I had in India were really poor.
“On the other hand, it sold incredibly well in America despite being an Urdu song and received very good reviews.”
International acclaim is not easy to beget so remains a massive achievement for Adithya.
Adithya has also released an album called Ghazal Ka Mausam (2013). This is his humble tribute to ghazal greats including Pankaj Udhas and Jagjit Singh.
Despite containing covers, the album won Adithya a Swiss Silver award for ‘Singer of the Year.’
Adithya has done amazingly well in his career. There is no doubt that, with his beautiful voice, he will reacher greater heights.
Indian ghazal singers mesmerise millions of listeners with their serene voices.
Whether they produce songs for cassettes, CD’s, the screen or the stage, they always dazzle with their soft tones.
Due to this softness, one usually thinks that ghazals are easier to sing than other music genres.
However, the singer must attain the right levels of emotion and sensitivity which is more complicated than it sounds. If done correctly, the results can be amazing.
For that, Indian ghazal singers are stratospheric in their achievements. They enrich the musical world with their art.