Singer Shruti Pathak talks of contemporarising ghazals with blues and jazz, and why her next album will push that boundary
A couple of years ago, when Shruti Pathak sang a ghazal by famous Pakistani classical singer Farida Khanum at Hard Rock Café, she didn't expect to move the crowd to tears. "The venue is the go-to place for people who dig rock and metal, but I was singing a ghazal, something you wouldn't expect there," she says. The high point of the night was when the audience started singing along. "It was surreal," recalls the artiste who got the big break in 2009 when she sang Mar Jawan from the movie Fashion, and then went to sing famous soundtracks from films like Ra.One, Criminal and Anjana Anjaani. The HRC experience drove home a lesson: While there's a young audience for the genre, the challenge lay in making it palatable.
In this pursuit, Pathak is all set to launch an album where she will present some iconic ghazals, but with a twist. The idea, in fact, is an extension of her band Guzzler, launched in 2014, through which she has been contemporarising the genre using western instruments. "Traditionally, the tabla, harmonium and sitar were used in a ghazal performance. Here, I have roped in young drummers, acoustic guitarists and keyboardists to make the music relatable," she says. Pathak believes it's the kind of music that young, non-ghazal listeners would enjoy without squirming. "People tend to associate ghazal with heartbreak and sadness, which is not the case. I want to add a lot more content to it because it's a beautiful form of poetry," she says. The songs, here, have an element of jazz, folk and soft rock sounds.
For Pathak, it's the lyrical content of ghazals that is most inspiring, something which she doesn't want to dilute in the process. "I feel that people first want to listen to the words, and then the treatment of the song and the singing." Recently, Pathak launched the YouTube channel, Guzzler Café, a chat show series where she invites talented musicians, singers and writers coming to talk about their love for ghazals, accompanied by an acoustic performance. Pathak has also tested waters in the purist circle. "I sang some of the tracks at Khazana, which a ghazal festival which presents the authentic form. They appreciated it and that was big validation.'
Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo by Farida Khanum
It's blasphemy if I don't include this nazm by Farida Khanum in the album. The track has evoked the best response till date, no matter which city I have sung this in. We haven't messed with the tempo of the song, because that would kill it. We have added more elements of blues in it and made it more rhythmic.
Shaam Se Aankh Mein by Jagjit Singh
It's my favourite song written by Gulzar saab, but I have given it a more lounge-y feel along with a black and white video too.
Kaash Aisa Koi Manzar by Hariharan. When Hariharanji launched the track in 2009, he set a precedent by contemporarising the ghazal, something that I'm trying to do now. I have added more beats to it and altered the tempo
Ranjishi Sahi by Mehdi Hassan
This was one was most challenging song because of its structure and took me the longest to nail. You don't mess much with classics, which is why I had to be careful with it.
Where: You can listen to Shruti Pathaki's songs on YouTube/GuzzlerCafe.
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