In an exclusive interview with Gianysh Toolsee, ghazal maestro, Tauseef Akhtar speaks about his focus on ghazals and his upcoming projects.
You composed your first ghazal album, titled ‘Aashiyan’, when you were only 15, which were offered to you by the head honcho of T-Series, Late Gulshan Kumar. You started off doing ghazals before moving into main stream film music. Today you are back in form doing ghazals again. Tell us a little bit about your journey so far.
The journey has been enlightening. From Ghazals to Film Music and now back to Ghazals. These transitions have me helped to grow in my perspective and in understanding different genres of music. I am born to be a Ghazal singer and I hold on to that very strongly.
“Ghazal Bahaar” sung by nine prominent ghazal singers, namely Pankaj Udhas, Bhupinder Singh, Mitali Singh, Chandan Dass, Ashok Khosla, Ghansham Vaswani, Radhika Chopra, Anurag Sharma and yourself . You have composed this beautiful ghazal which has been penned by Janab Waali Aasi Sahab. Everyone got reunited for the coming Ghazal Festival on 17th and 18th January in Bandra to help raising funds for the S B M S Vriddh Anand Ashram. You are behind this great initiative. How excited are you for this festival?
Fairly speaking, the idea was initiated by Ashok Khosla ji. We formed a team and I executed his ideas. The response to the “Ghazal Bahaar” video has been overwhelming. This is the first time ever that 9 Ghazal singers have come together to record a single and release it. I feel blessed that all of them have liked my composition and have sung it so beautifully. Now we all are looking forward to this 2 days Ghazal festival, which will debut on 17th & 18th January 2014.
In October last year, you also composed another beautiful ghazal titled “Yaadein”, dedicated to Late Jagjit Singh. Tell us more about this song and the void left by him passing away.
Yaadein is very close to my heart. I have literally grown up with Jagjit Ji, learning from him and spending endless hours in Studio during his recording sessions. His memories are imprinted on my mind forever. I wanted to express those thoughts and feelings in the form of a Ghazal, which would be a fitting tribute to the Master. My seniors Ashok Khosla Ji & Ghansham Vaswani Ji encouraged me by joining my effort and we came up with this beautiful track and video. This Ghazal lead us to performing together for the first time. It bonded us musically & emotionally. We are a family now.
Welsh folk artist Gwyneth Glyn and you have collaborated on Ghazalaw. The response has been fantastic and last year, you have played in India (Delhi’s Desert Festival and Chennai’s Earth Festival), Wales (World Music Expo) and UK. What are your ambitions about this project?
Ghazalaw is the closest to my heart. Urdu Ghazal & Welsh Folk are like two long lost cousins who have finally reunited. Gwyneth Glyn has been my strength & inspiration throughout this project. Having performed at festivals and specially the Womex 13, we are now looking forward to releasing our album in 2014. Again, this is the first time Ghazal opened up its doors to World Music and it’s a beautiful musical marriage between too languages and cultures. All this has been possible with the help of Wales Arts International. It is their brainchild.
What has happened to Soul Fusion? After delivering “Humein Jeene Do”, “Rahat-E-Jaan” and “You Know I Am Crazy About You”, we haven’t heard music from you and Cheryl.
Soul Fusion was a transitional phase in my life. We produced some beautiful songs together. I learnt a lot in the process and will hold those memories very dear to my heart. But now my life revolves around Ghazals and only Ghazals.
I see that you really adore the concept of fusion and even there hasn’t been much coming from Soul Fusion, can we still call this some form of fusion with Ghazalaw, but this time with ghazals?
I wouldn’t deny that I like to experiment. I love the Ghazalaw concept cause it blends beautifully. I love Welsh Folk and I feel strongly that it is the equivalent of Ghazals in Welsh Music. You have to listen to it to believe how seamlessly both the languages and genres flow and blend together. I am in love with Ghazalaw.
How would you approach composing a ghazal for an audience compared to composing a melodious song for a movie situation?
When I compose a Ghazal, I compose it for myself. It’s a reflection of my soul since I am free to express how I feel about a piece of poetry. It enables me to release my thoughts and feel at peace musically. As for composing for a movie, one has to follow certain guidelines according to the director. Composing for movies is fun and challenge but composing Ghazal satisfies me to the core.
You have been in the industry for a long time. Who do you see as a “good music director” in today’s times?
I don’t listen that much to film music nowadays but whatever little I hear, I like A. R. Rahman, Salim-Sulaiman & Vishal-Shekhar.
Today music directors are roped in to compose a song or two because there is such a pool of talent. Do you feel comfortable working with this arrangement?
I find it a bit weird. The pleasure of composing for an entire movie is different. Nowadays there is no choice when it comes to film music. One has to give into the producer and director’s demands or the other option is to stay out of film music.
Now that Nadeem-Shravan has been separated for good, do you intend to compose for your own?
Why not? I would love to compose for movies. I worked as an assistant to Nadeem – Shravan for years. Nadeem Bhai is my mentor and I have gained loads of experience and aesthetics of composing for movies from him. In fact I would love to compose if there is a sequel to Arth or Saath Saath.
Tell us about your future projects – film and non-film.My next project is my debut solo Ghazal Album. I am working on it and it should release this year for sure. My focus is only Ghazals at the moment so nothing on the film music front.
You have been doing a lot of concerts overseas by Ghazalaw. Can we expect a compilation of these beautiful melodies in a CD release sometimes soon?
Yes. The Ghazalaw album is ready to release. Gwyneth & I cannot wait to share this treasure with Ghazal listeners out there.
Which song are you currently listening?
I am listening to Mehdi Hassan Sahab’s “Abke Hum Bichhde”.
What are your dreams for ghazals?
I want Ghazals to be back on the mainstream popular charts. I am giving in my best and I have a strong feeling that 2014 will witness the rise of Ghazals and by 2015 Ghazals will be on top once again. Amen.
It is always a pleasure to speak to you Tauseef.
Mine too Gianysh.
For more information about Tauseef Akhtar and Ghazal concerts:
Picture Credits: Ashok Patel (UK)
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