Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Man Who Loved Ghazals: Talat Mehmood

Talat Mehmood was never as prolific as Kishore Kumar or as vocally versatile as Mohammad Rafi but no one could sing a ghazal like the Man with the Golden Voice.

It was through his song Badal Jaye Duniya (Even If the World Changes) that I first fell for his gentle, mellow voice. No mad howls of ‘Yahooooo!’ ever came from Talat and he never made a disco or jazzy number as his peers Rafi and Kishore Kumar regularly did.  Talat Mehmood’s music exuded the sharafat (nobility) of refined north Indian Muslim culture. He sang with elegance and grace and remained throughout his career content to explore the depths of the ghazal rather than try to cover every musical base. As such he was adored by millions and remembered fondly as the King of Ghazals.

Two handsome stars: Talat Mehmood (lft) and Shammi Kapoor
The natural urbanity of his singing arose in no small part from his birth into a highly cultured but socially conservative Lucknow Muslim family.  A singing career was not the done thing in such families but the beauty of Talat’s voice convinced his parents to let him pursue a public career.  His initial repertoire included the classic masters of the Urdu ghazal, Dagh, Mir and Ghalib but like some cosmic magnet the studios of first Calcutta then Bombay inexorably pulled Talat to the film world.

As was the practice in the 40’s actors sang their own songs and so a young and very handsome Talat starred in more than a dozen films across from some of the brightest leading ladies of the time.  But his true love was always the ghazal and he stopped acting to concentrate fully on singing.  And it was not just as a playback singer that he earned his living. He was an early example of a popular singer who regularly made non-filmi records. Indeed, it was his rendition of Tasveer teri dil mera behela na sakegi, that caught the attention of the movie studios.
Talat is also credited with being the first major playback artist to tour outside of India. He played to the great response of the Indian diaspora in East Africa, the Caribbean, UK and the USA, selling out venues like the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Gardens.
Talat’s output dropped dramatically as Indian films began their rapid absorption of western rock, disco and jazz. He found the trend distasteful and the music ‘meaningless’.  He continued to record ghazals and perform until his death in 1998, at the age of 74.  His ghazals and records still remain deeply loved by millions around the world and CDs of his music continue to sell extremely well.
Tonight’s post is a collection of ghazals from films of the 1950s and early 1960s.  In addition to the splendiferous singing the cover art by Beevash Shome is absolutely magnificent.
Put your music player on ‘repeat’ and enjoy!

         Track Listing:
01 Sab Kuch Luta Ke (Ek Saal)
02 Woh Zalim Pyar Kya Jane (Parchhain)
03 Jalte Hain Jiske Liye (Sujata)
04 Shukriya Aye Pyar Tera (Aaram)
05 Tasweer Banata Hun (Bara Dari)
06 Jali Jo Shakh-e-Chaman (Tarana)
07 Wahshat hi Sahi (Mirza Ghalib)
08 Phir Mujhe Deeda-e-tar-Yaad Aaya (Mirza Ghalib)
09 Zindagi Denewale Sun (Dil-e-Nadaan)
10 Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal (Daag)
11 Aye Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal (Arzoo)
12 Apni Nakaami Se (Subah ka Tara)

Listen here.

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