Ranjish hi sahi…

A Ghazal is considered to be the ultimate expression of romanticism. Traditionally it has been a form in which an intent lover, who mourns parting from his loved one, expresses the pain of his heart break. Such an expression often takes recourse to poetic hyperboles.

Ranjish hi sahi is one of the most popular and evergreen ghazal of all times. The best rendition of the ghazal has been, without a doubt, by Ustad Mehdi Hassan. It is based in Raag Yaman. This is one of the live recordings of him, performing this ghazal at the Royal Albert Hall, London. He is accompanied by tabla, harmonium and a very soothing Sarangi.

The form of Ghazal:

faraz1Though a Ghazal is now popular as a genre of semi classical music, it’s originally a form of literature, a form of Urdu poetry. A Ghazal comprises of two-line verses known as sher.  The beauty of the form is that each of the sher in the Ghazal has a different meaning individually, but together they coalesce beautifully in a common motif. A diamond, a ruby and a sapphire- all look beautiful on their own, but a skilled artisan, just like the proficient shayar will weave the gems to form a magnificent coherent necklace.

As a musical form, the ghazal has been popularised by legends like Ustad Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali and in recent times Jagjit Singh. Typically a ghazal talks about the woes of a melancholic lover, but as any great art form, even the ghazal has transcended its own boundaries. In current times, the form can be considered to be slightly endangered but hopefully some budding talent will soon repopularise the ghazal, maybe even make it a bit contemporary!

Lyrics:

Written by Ahmed Faraz, this ghazal is highly acclaimed for its literary content. As per the tradition of ghazals, this ghazal also, is about an immense romantic who is requesting his beloved to come and meet him, at least for one last time. In each of the sher, he tries desperately to give her a new reason to come to meet.

I will try to explain in brief, the opening sher of the ghazal. The lover says that may it be for the sake of anguish or for the sake of animosity, please come once, even if to hurt me. He is trying to tell her that maybe you don’t have any love for me, maybe you have some anger for me and he is requesting her to come to express this anger. Finally he says that come for the last time even if to leave me forever. The lover’s desperation has been put in words very beautifully in every sher.

The singer:

imageUstad Mehdi Hassan is definitely one of the greatest singers of all times and of course, one of my personal favourites. His silken voice does the magic and directly touches your soul. Apart from the emotional content of Hassan’s voice, his throw of words is phenomenal. A ghazal being an elite literary form, the way you pronounce the words and the way you sing the sher is also very important to have a flawless rendition of the ghazal.

I believe that developing a taste for the literary as well as the musical form of ghazal is highly enriching. I hope that I have motivated you in some way to try it.

PS:  The piece in the previous post demonstrated how expressive music can be with even meaningless lyrics whereas this is a composition whose soul lies as much in its profound lyrics as in its music. Such contrasts just make us realize the vastness of the world of music !


For the more interested listener…

  • Raag Yaman: A Raag forms the basis of Indian classical music. It includes a subset of the notes and all the compositions and the singing is restricted to this subset of notes. The important difference from the western concept of scale is that a Raag is not just about which notes are present in it but also about the specific phrasing of notes, how to sing specific combinations of notes and how to give more prominence to certain notes as compared to others.

Raag Yaman is one of the oldest and most popular Raagas in the Hindustani classical style. In Carnatic style it is called Raag Kalyani. The combination of the notes in this Raag is so brilliant that it can express almost any emotion (ras) very effectively. This ghazal is a very beautiful Yaman in itself !!

  • Other Renditions: Many artists have tried to present this immortal ghazal in their own ways. There are numerous versions of Mehdi Hassan himself. Since a ghazal is a form that can be improvised, each rendition of Mehdi Hassan will also be different. This is the full version of the ghazal performance at Royal Albert Hall. Runa Laila’s rendition has also been quite popular. Even Asha Bhosle has attempted to recreate the Ghazal with modern elements like drums and guitar, but somehow I feel the soul of the Ghazal is not present.

Apart from this, Iqbal Bano a famous Pakistani semi classical singer presents a quite different version of the ghazal. This is based in Raag Des and shows influences of another semi classical form of Thumri.