An Enchanting Shaam-e-Ghazal with Dr Radhika Chopra
By Zafar Iqbal
Music lovers from Metropolitan Washington came in large numbers to listen to mesmerizing performance by famous Indian ghazal singer Dr Radhika Chopra at a Shaam-e-Ghazal program organized by the Aligarh Alumni Association (AAA), Washington DC on May 30, 2014 in Rockville, MD. A large number of dignitaries and officials representing various Pakistani and Indian American community organizations in Metropolitan Washington area such as the University of Karachi Alumni Association (UKAA), Hyderabad Association of Greater Washington Area, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), and the Smithsonian Institution were in attendance besides the AAA members. Dr Chopra started the proceedings by singing the famous Dadra 'Hamri attariya pe aao sanvariya, dekha dekhi balam hoee jaae' in Bhairvi style while paying tribute to ghazal and thumri queen, Beguma Akhtar ,on her 100th birth anniversary.
Welcoming the artists and guests, the AAA president Dr Fazlur Rahman Khan said that the Association’s mission has been to bring people of South Asia together and develop a sense of community by organizing quality educational, cultural and literary programs. “This program marks a series of events planned to celebrate the 40 th anniversary of the Association,” he informed. He also apprised the audience about the hallmark scholarship program of the Association that provides financial support to deserving students. He thanked all volunteers, especially Samina Ahmad, for their efforts in making the program a success.
Dr Chopra and accompanying artists - Humayun Khan on harmonium, Haroon Alam Khan on tabla - were introduced by Ms Manjula Kumar of the Office of the Education and Public Service, Smithsonian Institution, Washington. In her remarks, Kumar traced the artistic lineage of Radhika to legendary ghazal queen, Padma Bhushan Beguma Akhtar. Radhika learned the art of ghazal singing in classical style from Shanti Hiranand, the chief disciple of Begum Akhtar. Manjula also paid tribute to the Association for its contribution in enriching the literary and cultural life of this city.
Radhika Chopra, with a golden voice, showed surprising level of stamina and endurance during her three-hour performance and showed no signs of fatigue or exhaustion or even slowing down. She had specially chosen some new compositions for this performance. The ones that stand out were composition by Ameer Khusrau, two ghazals of Faiz, and a classical ghazal of Qadeer Lackhnawi, originally sung by Begum Akhtar. Radhika took the audience through memory of yesteryear by singing thumri, dadra, or songs sung by the golden voices of past including Surraiya, Geeta Dutt, Noor Jahan, Jagjit Kaur, Mubarak Begum, Kundanlal Sehgal, Master Madan, and, of course, Begum Akhtar. She kept the audience engaged and involved not only by the magic of her singing, but also by her witty remarks and comments, displaying an unpretentious sense of humor. She described her great admiration for Noor Jahan while growing up in Jammu. In chaste Urdu, she traced the transformation of Akhtari Bai Faizabadi to Begum Akhtar -- her real idol in the classical style of ghazal singing. It is not very often that one comes across a voice with soul and emotion with meticulous selection and flawless rendition of the poetic words. She was equally at ease while singing the classical poetry of Ghalib, Seemab, and Momin, and the kalam of modern poets -- Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Sahir Ludhiianvi.
The program ended with the concluding remarks by Dr Moazzam Siddiqui, who also thanked Dr Chopra and accompanying artists and the audience for their continued support. Masood Farshori, Secretary of the Association, was the Master of Ceremony; he skillfully managed the time.