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Ghazal Show Captures Hearts Of Poetry And Music Lovers

Shuchita Rao

A music program held at Ashland High School on Saturday, November 7, titled “Night Wind” featuring the renditions of popular Urdu Ghazals was received extremely well by a 300 strong audience.  Ten talented singers, five accompanists and two emcees presented Urdu Ghazals for over four hours. The program concept was the brain child of Acton based cardiologist-cum-vocalist, Dr. Meena Sundaram. “The ambience of the setting sun with a gentle breeze blowing and people winding down after a busy day at work came to the mind. That is how gave this music program the name Night-Wind” she said. True to her vision, the music program succeeded in bringing relaxation and joy at the end of a long week to a diverse audience consisting of the young and old. It also accomplished another important task. It raised awareness and funds for Snehalaya, a non-profit based in India that aims to rehabilitate children of sex workers and provide palliative care for people affected by HIV & AIDS. Well-known non-profit organization “Asha for Education” contributed by assisting with event management prior to the start of the show. This musical event was truly remarkable in its ability to combine entertainment by local talent along with raising of awareness about an important social issue.

Elegant stage arrangements with decorative archways and large metal ornamental vases behind a large stage were done by Shobha Shastry. Excellent sound was provided by Jawed Wahid and Sonal Limbachia. The evening started a little before 5pm with Dr. Meena Sundaram throwing some light on the design and characteristics of the musical genre “Ghazal”. She said “A Ghazal is a collection of five to fifteen distinct couplets, known as “sher” with a rhyme scheme that allows the first, second and fourth lines of the poem to have a common ending phrase known as ‘radif’”. A brochure with a short essay compiled by Professor Samiullah Ansari explained the concept further by tracing the origins of Ghazal and explaining the reason for its popularity. “Each couplet in a Ghazal presents a complete thought and is independent of other couplets in the Ghazal. The first couplet is the “Matla” and the last couplet is the “Maqta” in which the poet uses his/her pen name known as Takhallus. Urdu Ghazal was given new heights and dimensions by poets in different eras and was made popular by singers like Begum Akhtar and Mehdi Hassan with their timeless rendition.” wrote Professor Ansari.

Powerful Ghazals penned by several leading poets from different decades were presented, mostly as solo songs but a few as medleys. The vocalists Meena Sundaram, Vandana Rao, Muheet Bharti, Sankar Gangaikonadan, Pankaj Shah, Pradeep Shukla, Vijay Kumar and Zafar Naqvi were from Boston while the talented couple Meesha and Dilip Acharya came down from California to participate in the event. A live band consisting of a Roland keyboard synthesizer played extremely well by Nikhil Pendharkar, Guitar by Muheet Bharti, Tabla by Rajesh Pai, Octopad by Shridhar Ganapuram and Harmonium by Dilip Acharya provided phenomenal musical accompaniment.

The famous Ghazal by poet Ahmed Faraz, “Ranjish hi Sahi” rendered by Dilip Acharya, poet Sudarshan Fakir, “Kisi Ranjish ko havaa do ke mai zinda hoon abhi” rendered by Meena Sundaram, poet Iqbal Hussain better known as Hasrat Jaipuri, “Aaye Bahaar Banke Lubha Ke Chale Gaye” rendered by Sankar Gangaikondan, poet Sahir Ludhianvi, “Nagma O Sher ki Saugaat Kise Pesh Karoon” rendered by Meena Sundaram,  poet Daag Dehlvi “Uzr Aane mein bhi hai aur bulaate bhi nahin” rendered by Muheet Bharti, poet Qateel Shifai, “Dard se mera daaman bhar de ya allah” by Dilip and Meesha Acharya, poet Shehryar “Seene mein jalan aankhon mein toofan sa kyoon hai” rendered by Zafar Naqvi and “Saawan ke suhaane mausam” rendered by Vandana Rao, poet Parveen Shakir “Kubakoo phail gayi baat shanaasaayi ki” rendered by Pradeep Shukla, poet Shaqueel “Koi Sagar Dil ko Behlata Nahi” rendered by Prof. Vijay Kumar, poet Kafeel Amrohi’s nazm “Baat niklegi tho phir door talak jayegi” rendered by Pankaj Shah were a few ghazals that were presented.

The Ghazals based on powerful ragas such as Yaman, Darbari, Rageshri, Ahir Bhairav etc. created a whole range of emotions for audience members ranging from sad feelings of unrequited love and separation to the joy of togetherness and romance. The five accompanists were skilled artists in their own right but the keyboard artist in particular, Shri Nikhil Pendharkar stole the show by playing a whole range of melodic interludes with varied sounds of a wide range of musical instruments such as sitar and violin, piano and keyboard. Audience member Milan Shah from Sharon said “We are really enjoying the show very much. A great surprise to see so much local talent. A live band makes all the difference.”  

The vocalists pleased the audience with their beautiful voices, singing talent and careful preparation for the show. The Ghazal genre places more emphasis on the lyrics/poetry than the music. Good pronunciation of Urdu words as well as the effort to express thoughts and emotions behind the poems deserve special mention.  “I am so glad I came to watch this show. Muheet Bharti was my favorite singer. He is just in his early twenties and he sang really well.” Said Marzia from Shrewsbury.

Urdu can at times be a difficult language to understand to those unfamiliar with it. To make it easy for such attendees, the brochure contained a glossary of Urdu words with English language meanings. “My daughter Sonia brought me to this show and I liked it very much. We are originally from Kerala but we spent many years in Mumbai and that is how I have exposure to Hindi language.” said Mariamma.

Two emcees for the show, Syed Ali Rizvi who is well-known to the Boston audiences as one of the hosts of the Radio Music India (RMI) show, as well as the graceful Sadia Chaghtai added to the presentation providing well researched facts about the backgrounds of featured poets in terms of their famous Ghazals, in introducing the performers and also in regaling the audience by reciting poignant couplets. Stage management by Kumkum Malik and Rekha Palriwala allowed for timely presentations with smooth transitions between the Ghazal presentations.  

A video presentation about non-profit Snehalaya’s efforts to help disadvantaged women and their children right after intermission was very moving. What also brought the audience together was the surprise announcement and the celebration of the birthday of vocalist, LearnQuest Academy of Music founder, Dr. Pradeep Shukla who was one of the performers in the show. The audience not only gave Dr. Shukla a standing ovation but also sang the “Happy Birthday” song as a group.

Meena Sundaram said “Snehalaya’s work with the disadvantaged women and children is truly uplifting and inspiring and we are proud to support them.” She also acknowledged the generous contributions of sponsors, and thanked the audience for their attendance and Asha for Education volunteers. “This event is about common goals and cooperation” she said.

Maneesh Shrivastava’s comment on Facebook social media, “Night Wind - It won’t be an exaggeration if I say that one of the best musical programs ever produced by local singers for a noble cause” voiced the sentiment of many who attended the musical event. Lokvani congratulates the artists, sponsors and volunteers for a successful show and hopes to see many more of such enterprising ventures that bring awareness about important social issues and make a difference to the quality of lives of the disadvantaged.

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