Hot August Ghazal Nights Come to an Epic Close
By Ras H. Siddiqui



Rajkumar Rizvi and Runa Rizvi

The San Francisco Bay Area was really blessed during the month of August. First we had Sudhir Narain from India headlining a ghazal event put together by the Bazm-e-Arbab-e-Sukhan organization at Mehran. Next we heard Asif Ali from Pakistan entertaining us at the inaugural Pak American Gymkhana Club program at the Fremont Marriott. And last but not least August closed with the father-daughter singing sensations Rajkumar Rizvi and Runa Rizvi at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark. All one can add is “What a month for the ghazal connoisseur?”
This writing will focus on what can only be described as an epic closure of the month on Thursday, August 31, 2006 as Rajkumar and Runa from India made the art of South Asian Urdu-Hindi ghazal and geet singing proud.
The only drawback to this event was that it happened to be on Thursday night. And unlike Pakistan, this is not the start of the weekend here as Friday is a working day and a serious ghazal event usually lasts way into the night. Had this been on Saturday, hundreds more would have been in attendance as local Aligarh Alumni Nihal Khan opened the program and introduced the duo that had quite a challenge before them. This was their second visit to Chandni in six weeks so they tried not to duplicate their last song list. But the group that they were entertaining would have none of that. “Jaisay Raag Kabhi Purana Nahin Hota” (just a a raag never becomes old) said Rajkumar, he just had to duplicate his old list many times upon request. He thanked host Syed Sarwat and his wife for their hospitality. “This place feels just like home,” he said. Little did he realize that it was Rajkumar and Runa themselves who were making us feel right at home!
Rajkumar started off with “Jhooty Dua..” with a voice that reminded us of Mehdi Hassan of the old. In a way, this program turned out to be a tribute not only to the art of the Indian-Pakistani-Bangladeshi singing styles, but also a reminder of the great singers of our generation and the memories that they helped us create that are now embedded in our minds. It was a reminder of that in “Dil Ki Baazi” that Rajkumar so meticulously delivered followed by “Nahin Bhulay” in the same raag.
Runa Rizvi started off with an “Adbi Qisam ki Ghazal” by Momin. She reminded me of another Runa with the last name of Laila, but that is another story from the memory banks for another time. The song “Nahin Hota” was an instant hit. “Tum meray Paas hotay ho jab koi doosra nahin hota,” was wonderful. And the follow-up “Zara Si Aanhat hoti hai to Dil yeh Sonchta hai, Kahin Yeh Who to Nahin...” was just plain superb.
Rajkumar came back with “Mein Nay Lakhon Kay Bol Sahay..,” a rendition that would have its Pakistani original vocalist proud as would have been Naseem Begum whose “Sau Baar” Runa followed up with.
We have already mentioned the fine presentation of old songs by this duo, but let us add that the poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz would have been proud of Rajkumar’s singing of “Guzri Hai.” “Na Gul Khilay, Na Un Say Milay, Na Mei Pi Hai, Ajeeb Rang may Ab Kay Bahaar Guzri Hai,” words written by a master and sung in a superb manner by Rajkumar Sahib,
The duet that followed “Bheega Bheega Mausam Aaya” and Runa’s “Oh Baharon mera Jeewan Bhi Sanwaron’ were well done but many a teary eyed couple really appreciated Rajkumar’s duplication of the old Khyyam-Rafi great ‘Chaudween Ka Chand.”
And from the other side of the border “Baat karnay ki mujhe Mushkil kabhi Aisi to Na Thee” proved to be as motivating as Jave Akhtar’s ‘Kabhi Yun Bhi To Ho.”
For those of us that do not know, Raag’s like drinks can also be mixed. Rajkumar proved that by singing “Rait Pay Likh Kay Mera Naam Mitaya Na Karo” a thought that we will certainly end this report on. And the last two songs that I could stay for Rajkumar’s version of Mehdi Hassan’s “MujheTum Nazar Say” and Runa’s “Aaj Jaanay ki Zid Na Karo” (a Habib Wali Mohammed original) left the listeners in awe.
To conclude, thanks are in order to Raana Faiz of the local Hamrahi Radio Program for insisting that I attend this repeat event that I could not make it to six weeks earlier. Those that appreciate South Asian vocal arts can add Rajkumar and Runa Rizvi to their list of “must listen to” singers. And as mentioned before, this certainly was a month of “Hot August Nights” for Desi performers in this area. Great food, fine poetry and superb singing. It certainly doesn’t get much better than this here in Northern California .
In life, we are all writing our stories on the canvas of sand that time and the waves can easily erase at will. But it is the beauty of these temporary words written, the “kaifiyat” or feeling that the Urdu-Hindi realm provides that keeps us going back to our poets and singers, as we thirst for something more to re-connect us to our culture or “Tehzeeb”.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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