Ghazals returns to the Sydney Opera House

By Lokesh Varma

I was fortunate to interview a personality that we all have known for over 40 years. A singer that has recorded over 60 albums and provided his velvety voice to numerous hit songs in Indian films. One of whom with his two other equally talented brothers has taken the ghazal to the masses and in the process has become a musical icon to millions of people around the globe.

I am talking about none other than Padam Shree Ghazal Maestro Pankaj Udhas.

That the Indian Down Under was able to secure a face-to-face (ok well actually through Zoom) with Pankaj ji is incredible. We spent a total of 26 minutes in a candid interview that showed us the depth of his musical training, perceptions and ability to swoon his listeners.

Kicking-off the interview was the all-important question, what could his fans expect at his only concert later this year on September 4? Unbeknown to some of us, turns out Pankaj ji is celebrating 40 years of his musical life with us.

And we have Akash Lodhia to thank for this celebration. Akash is organising this concert at the famed Sydney Opera House as an ode to his father. And what a celebration this promises to be! Each of the four pieces will showcase a decade of the Ghazal Maestro’s life. And he has promised that it won’t just be his famous ghazals. No wonder then that fans from all over the world have already made plans to jet in.

This fandom, while surprising for most performers is quite the norm for our modest Pankaj ji. Who can forget the concert at the Enmore Theatre when the great singer was carried off on the shoulders of his fans out of the auditorium? Or his consistent record in Australia. A concert tour every three years, I added.

Is there something about Australia? Maybe there’s a karmic connection. But who can forget two of his most hummable numbers? Chandi Jaisa Rang and Ahista were both shot in Australia (and while can be viewed again on YouTube, we do have an Easter Egg at the end of this article for our loyal readers). The ghazals explore the singer’s interpretations of love and demonstrate how the concept of love is both young and evolving.

And then we talked about Chiti aai hai. His fans will remember that poignant song from the movie Naam way back in 1986. And what a song it was. Probably the most famous songs from Pankaj ji’s vast compendium of hits from Indian cinema.

Chitthi aayi hai

Chitthi aayi hai aayi hai chitthi aayi hai

Bade dino ke baad

Hum bewatano ko yaad

Watan ki mitti aayi hai

Chitthi aayi hai aayi hai chitthi aayi hai

But out of all these hits, which is his favourite?

In an incredible gesture to all of his fans, the Ghazal Maestro shared his favourite by singing a sher or two or three from this most favourite ghazal.

Due to limitations of print media, you won’t be able to listen to this ghazal now or find out about his most treasured masterpiece, but do stay tuned for his video interview (which we will share through our usual website, Facebook and email channels) to view Pankaj ji’s candidness, humility and some mystique along with that promised Easter Egg.

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