“Please keep the interview short. I have to save my voice for the evening event,” he says. The ghazal maestro, who was recently in town to launch his biography, talks about penning down his life, early life and love for poetry:
A loving tribute
Frankly, I never thought that anyone would document my life. But when Bhavesh Sheth and Sadhana Jejurikar told me about the book, I could not refuse. In fact, Sadhana was planning this book since the past three- four years. But I was not getting enough time to sit down with them and chronicle my life story. More than anything else, this book is a token of love and affection that Bhavesh and Sadhana have for me.
The perfect taleem
The role of my uncle Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan in my life was immense. I was very scared of him. In fact, my real gurus were his younger brothers Ustad Barkat Ali Khan and Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan. I used to just watch Bade Ghulam Ali Khansaab and learn. My teachers were strict and believed in intensive training. I remember singing from morning till the time I went to bed. We were never allowed to touch cold things and that habit has stuck till now. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan believed in physical fitness. I still make it a point to walk for an hour before going tosleep.
The Indo-Pak aspect
I moved to Lahore very early in life. It was and is the hotbed of Hindustani classical music. While in Lahore, I sang for a few Pakistani films. I did not tell my father about it because he disapproved the idea of singing in films. Of course, he came to know when I sang in Bollywood, for instance the ghazal Chupke Chupke Raat Din from Nikaah. There is no difference in the music in India and Pakistan. Both of us have raags like bhairavi, khamaj and kedar in our repertoire. I love Indian singers like Hariharan, Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal and Sukhwinder Singh.
It’s only words
I hold poets very close to my heart. Mirza Ghalib is my favourite. I also admire the likes of Mir Taqi Mir, Nasir Kazmi, Shakeel Badayuni, Hasrat Jaipuri, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, etc. Reading poetry is one of my biggest passions, and I have a huge poetry collection at home.