It is famously said that there are two poets of the Urdu language who had the honour of kids being named after them, one of them is obviously Iqbal, and the other, Faraz. Born Ahmed Shah and pen-named Faraz by none other Faiz Ahmed Faiz, his standing in Urdu poetry as the iconic wordsmith of romance is as important as that of a poet who received unparalleled fame and recognition. Some puritans continue to feel that his exalted place in the canon owes to his left-leaning ideas and the ability to feel the pulse of the university and college-going ‘girls’ back in the day.
It might hold true to an extent. But a recent rendition of Faraz’s rather unheard of work by Khurram Iqbal and BigFoot music reflects back on not only his craft and relevance as a mammoth of Urdu ghazal but also on how a well-thought-out composition and production can push the boundaries of the entire music scene. If you are a fan of Urdu ghazal as a literary indulgence then you’ll fall in love with Faraz, and if you are a fan of the ghazal as a music genre then you haven’t listened to anything as crisp, clean, and progressive in a while.
Dil Behalta Hai Kahan as the name of the song suggests shows Faraz trying to coax the matters of the heart and failing at them. What we see here is neither the hyper-infatuated Faraz nor the one that is lamenting the love that could have been. 'Aey samandar ki hawa tera karam bhi maloom/ Pyaas saahil ki tau bujhti nahin sailaab say bhi,' the verses are replete with motifs such as thirst that form a paradox on the eventuality of life and our Sisyphean struggle against it.
Like an uphill task, the song kicks off with a soft touch on the cymbals as Khurram’s incredibly tight alaap prepares us for this rather unsettling journey. Before we know it, the producer throws in a slight electronic trick in the background; just enough to make the intro very contemporary in terms of its musicality and almost dystopian in its theme. The groove latches on to the tidy drumming by Alfred D'mello with raaga-inspired flute interludes by Rahat Inayat Ali Khan, completing the recipe for this impending hurricane of a song.
"I composed the ghazal in Raag Aahir Bhairav to sustain the dark, almost disturbing feel of the poetry,” Iqbal, who recently kicked off his solo career after parting ways with Fuzon told The Express Tribune. “Faraz is lamenting in the poem, but he is also giving into the circumstances. Especially when he says that even the stars and the moon couldn’t bring his heart’s yearning to rest, that I feel is the backbone of the poem and the composition.”
Once he had the composition in place, Iqbal was open to new ideas that came from the producers at Bigfoot music. “The groove they came up with suited perfectly with what I wanted to do, which was to make ghazal accessible for a wider audience without compromising on its decorum and structure,” noted Iqbal. “I have composed several ghazals before so I know what I was doing and I am glad people are warming up to it,” he added.
Back in the late 2000s, Faraz had become synonymous with ‘SMS poetry’ after the then craze of ‘forwarded jokes’ hit the telecommunication market. So much so that a lot of funny poetry became associated with his name. Despite all the chaos and confusion, there was a very brave and progressive attempt by the Peshawar-based Rahim Sarnjam to present Faraz in a totally different light.
In season 2 of Uth Records, his rendition of once again, a very rarely discussed Faraz ghazal, Afsos, was widely appreciated for its composition and extraordinary bass playing by Bradley D'sSouza.
Perhaps it is indeed the sheer genius of Faraz that his work continues to get composed again and again, despite being done to greatness by the likes of Mehdi Hasan, Noor Jehan, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
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