Monday, August 15, 2011

The Revolution will be Taped: Ghulam Ali

The problem with fishing trips, especially to warm languid climates where one wakes each morning and nods off each evening to gentle Andaman Sea zephyrs is that they must end. And so it is with mixed feelings that the Washerman’s Dog returns to more regular music sharing.

Tonight, the focus is on a fine album of Punjabi ghazals, folk and sufi music performed by Ghulam Ali. There are a number of interesting aspects about this record, other than the high standard of Ali’s performance and the strong, well-selected material.

The album was released in 1981 at a time when Ghulam Ali was not yet a massively popular artist in India. He was beloved by critics and a small audience of music ‘aficionados’ but was still not a name that rolled off the lips of the average music-listening public.  And the selection of songs included on this record reflect a rather ‘conservative’ and safe approach: songs based on traditional Punjabi folk-epics and one of its greatest mystical poets, Waris Shah. There are none of the more romantic, more contemporary ghazals that have distinguished most of Ghulam Ali’s career. And which has made him so well loved in India as at home in Pakistan.  No doubt the record company ‘suits’ felt that this staid approach was the appropriate way to promote Pakistani music in India.

Until the 1983, the sorts of popular music, other than film music, that were made available to the average music lover in India were very limited. Music was available only on LPs that could be played only on record players which about 0.1% of the Indian public owned! If you listened to the radio you got film music and some classical. If you wanted popular music you had to tune into Radio Ceylon! All India Radio was extremely slow to open its radio waves to popular music that did not meet its staid conservative heavily politicised agenda. One or two major international record labels controlled the music market and if they weren’t interested in your type of music (language, genre, style) then you simply didn’t get it. Maybe at the temple or in the home but not on the radio or in the record shop.

Between 1983-6 this virtually totalitarian system was blown completely apart by the advent of a simple technology: the cassette tape. Suddenly, and literally almost overnight, small producers, local artists, singing in every possible language and style, were able to record, distribute and create huge audiences for non-film based and classical music which the monopolistic record companies preferred. And the ‘genre’ that led as well as benefited from this revolution (as equally earth-shattering as the emergence of Elvis Presley in 1950s USA) was the ghazal. 

So this record is interesting because it is one of the outstanding South Asian singers of our time singing some great Punjabi songs on the cusp of the collapse of the contemporary Indian popular music industry. And on the very edge of the dawning of a new age of non-film popular music of which he himself would soon become a superstar.

            Track Listing:
01.  Koi Hosh Nahin Deewana Main
02.  Ranjha Jogra Ban Aaaya
03.  Uth Gaye Gavando Yaar
04.  Kyon Chan Vekhan
05.  Main Tere Qurban Ve
06.  Heer Waris Shah
Listen here.


Giri Mandi said...

Welcome back, sursum corda!
Thank you very much, a superb collection!
Best wishes...

Rebecca said...

Bahut dhanyawad, ji!

ajnabi said...

It is indeed...actually a nice counterpoint to his more 'typical' stuff.

ajnabi said...

Aap ki khatir mein.

Giri Mandi said...

Yes, however always khatir-pasand ;)

Track #6 (Waris Shah) gives immediate addiction!