GHAZAL SINGERS FROM KASHMIR IN SUBURBS
- Shubhada Dharwadkar
Suburban Echo, 4-10 January 1987
While the cold wind continues to blow from the
distant Himalayas two young
musicians from Kashmir were in the suburbs recently,
to warm the hearts of sub-urbanites. Anil Kaul, a tabla player and Vijay Malla,
a ghazal singer gave a number of renditions at private and intimate gatherings.
Meeting them at their host Mr. Jamwal Shah's place in
Santacruz West, I was caught off guard to see a young pair, for both are in
their late twenties, which is not a great age for musicians. What struck me most
was their courteousness and maturity. Both are residents of Srinagar and were in
the city for nearly a month. They were here at the invitation of "Ornate
In the last couple of days before their departure, Anil
and Vijay gave a private performance to members of the "Ornate Club" -
a crowd, which, in their words, "was the cream of those who appreciate
ghazals." Speaking to ECHO a day before they presented this programme, both
said they were slightly worried as to whether ghazal lovers in Bombay would
appreciate them. "Initially, one is always a bit hesitant because one does
not know the kind of audience that will be present. It is only after we have
rendered a couple of numbers that artistes can gauge the kind of music that the
audience will enjoy. Once you have caught the pulse of the audience, the
self-confidence comes back," said Anil.
Vijay and Anil have both put in nearly two decades of
learning classical music. They have been accompanying each other for close to 15
years and on the personal side, they are childhood chums. Both do not hail from
musical families. Vijay's mother had a sweet voice in her youth and perhaps has
passed this talent to her son. Today, he is a well-known radio artiste in
Srinagar. Anil's father is a stage artiste. Even as a child Anil would play the
tabla on anything he could lay his hands on - tables, stools, boxes and even
dinner plates. He remembers that as a child he would play on the dinner plate
while his mother prepared hot chappatis. But ghazal singing and playing the
tabla are not popular forms of music in Kashmir. Besides, musicians and singers
are looked down upon by the people. Hence, when they both started to learn
music, it was dismissed as a childish fancy which they would soon outgrow.
But fancy it was not and once the family members
realized this, they went all out to encourage their talented sons. When they
started performing professionally, Anil and Vijay were given a cool reception by
the public. But today, they have carved a niche for themselves in their state.
Anil and Vijay are not just singers but are working
elsewhere too to earn their daily bread. Anil teaches classical music at the
Institute of Music, Srinagar. This has been his Alma Mater, too. Vijay, on the
other hand, is working for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Yet,
they managed to do their daily "riyaaz" for 4-5 hours at a stretch.
For this they have to be up at 5 in the morning. "But once we are in the
field giving performances after performances, we have little time left for our
practice. Then the recitals become our means of practice," said Vijay.
Just being good in their respective fields is not
enough. Both have to be in complete harmony with each other so that their
renditions become a whole and not a cacophany of tabla and vocals. What do they
feel about the music scene of today, I wanted to know. "On the whole, the
music scene appears good but one thing that we have found distasteful about many
musicians is that they are addicted to either alcohol or drugs. They feel that
it will improve their concentration and help them give a better performance. But
nothing can be worse. I have started smoking because it is one of the reasons
that gives voice depth and bass. I don't justify it, but the fact remains,"
Bringing our chat to a close, I wanted to know what
else goes on to give a musician his finesse? Pat came the reply from Anil:
"Dedication, hardwork, and last but not the least, guidance from a good
'guru'. My gurus are Kishanlal Verma and Bipinchand Malviya. Vijay is learning
under the tutelage of Ustad Rahat Ali Khan and Bhajanlal. With their blessings
only can a musician forge ahead."
Vijay Malla at a concert