Guz­zle it down

Singer Shruti Pathak talks of con­tem­po­raris­ing ghaz­als with blues and jazz, and why her next al­bum will push that bound­ary


A COU­PLE of years ago, when Shruti Pathak sang a ghazal by fa­mous Pak­istani clas­si­cal singer Farida Khanum at Hard Rock Café, she didn’t ex­pect to move the crowd to tears. “The venue is the go-to place for peo­ple who dig rock and metal, but I was singing a ghazal, some­thing you wouldn't ex­pect there,” she says. The high point of the night was when the au­di­ence started singing along. “It was sur­real,” re­calls the artiste who got the big break in 2009 when she sang Mar Jawan from the movie Fash­ion, and then went to sing fa­mous sound­tracks from films like Ra.One, Crim­i­nal and An­jana An­jaani. The HRC ex­pe­ri­ence drove home a les­son: While there’s a young au­di­ence for the genre, the chal­lenge lay in mak­ing it palat­able.

In this pur­suit, Pathak is all set to launch an al­bum where she will present some iconic ghaz­als, but with a twist. The idea, in fact, is an ex­ten­sion of her band Guz­zler, launched in 2014, through which she has been con­tem­po­raris­ing the genre us­ing west­ern in­stru­ments. “Tra­di­tion­ally, the tabla, har­mo­nium and sitar were used in a ghazal per­for­mance. Here, I have roped in young drum­mers, acous­tic gui­tarists and key­boardists to make the mu­sic re­lat­able,” she says. Pathak be­lieves it’s the kind of mu­sic that young, non-ghazal lis­ten­ers would en­joy with­out squirm­ing. “Peo­ple tend to as­so­ciate ghazal with heart­break and sad­ness, which is not the case. I want to add a lot more con­tent to it be­cause it’s a beau­ti­ful form of po­etry,” she says. The songs, here, have an el­e­ment of jazz, folk and soft rock sounds.

For Pathak, it’s the lyri­cal con­tent of ghaz­als that is most in­spir­ing, some­thing which she doesn’t want to di­lute in the process. “I feel that peo­ple first want to lis­ten to the words, and then the treat­ment of the song and the singing.” Re­cently, Pathak launched the YouTube chan­nel, Guz­zler Café, a chat show se­ries where she in­vites tal­ented mu­si­cians, singers and writ­ers com­ing to talk about their love for ghaz­als, ac­com­pa­nied by an acous­tic per­for­mance. Pathak has also tested wa­ters in the purist cir­cle. “I sang some of the tracks at Khaz­ana, which a ghazal fes­ti­val which presents the au­then­tic form. They ap­pre­ci­ated it and that was big val­i­da­tion.’

‘I be­lieve peo­ple first want to lis­ten to the lyrics, and then the treat­ment of the song’ Shruti Pathak, Bol­ly­wood singer


Shruti Pathak has also writ­ten a few songs like Shubaarambh from Kai Po Che and Paay­aliya from Dev D.

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