Ghazals: A tribute to the Urdu language and the phonologist, late Ustad Ibrahim Durwesh -- Siraj Syed

Ghazals: A tribute to the Urdu language and the phonologist, late Ustad Ibrahim Durwesh -- Siraj Syed

It began with this.

 

 
(“An offering of courtesy”, stapled to Page No. 1 of a booklet, given by the author, for review). 

Then, some 30 years later, this advertisement, in a Mumbai daily, told you that a giant had departed. A giant, who had done yeoman’s service to the cause of Urdu phonetics, dialogue delivery and ghazal singing, for over four decades, had moved on to the perfect realm.

Noted Urdu Phonologist 9-1-1941 to 13-3-2015 Missed by Durwesh Family and Friends

Memories came flooding back when I was attending his first death anniversary, observed by the Urdu Markaz (Centre), in Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai, in March. It’s time to put them on record.

Ustad Ibrahim Durwesh was not an Ustad in the conventional sense. In Urdu literature, an Ustad is one who tutors a budding poet, the shagird (disciple), and even makes corrections in his/her poems. Durwesh had, for students, singers and actors, not poets, though he taught them neither singing nor acting.

When film lyrics hit new lows in the 1970s, recording companies started looking for alternate genres to market, and ghazals, with rich language content, came up trumps. But many of the young, trained singers, who turned to this form, and wanted to record and perform ghazals, on stage/radio/TV, were neither native Urdu speakers, nor had they ever learnt the language. Just as films had dialogue coaches, to correct actors’ Urdu/Hindi, here came Ibrahim Durwesh, to coach the singers. He had already served with the Films Division, of the Government of India, which produced scores of documentaries and newsreels every month, and, along with all Indian languages, they had Urdu versions of each film. That was where he made initial, significant contributions.
 

Singers Mahendra Kapoor, Anup Jalota, RoopKumar Rathod, Sonali Rathod, Rahul Joshi and the current sensation on the ghazal stage, Pooja Gaitonde, actors Aamir Khan, Kunal Kapoor, and many more, all bear testimony to the amazing work done by Durwesh. Here’s what an early blogger, who called himself Driftwood, had posted on his page, in 2006: 
 
“Let me introduce my Ustaad. Mr. Ibrahim Durwesh, the phonetician in Urdu who lives almost nameless, in a small 150 sq. ft. kholi (shanty), close to JJ Hospital. He has actually worked with the likes of Mehdi Hassan.”
 

 
My fascination for Urdu (almost entirely due to Ghazals) sparked me to check out this option. In the true Modern day MBA style, he said that he has a unique “7 session course” to learn Urdu (includes writing, speaking and appreciating).
“Somebody is actually claiming to teach Urdu in 7 sessions??” I just jumped at the prospect. Actually, the ROI calculation was too compelling for me to say “no”. Let me credit him for the honesty. At the end of 7 sessions I could even dare to pick up an Urdu newspaper and read the headlines at least.”

It must have been around the time when I was editing a music monthly, called 'Playback & Fast Forward', and writing columns for The Daily and Current weekly, in the mid 1980s, that I really got to know him. Urdu is my mother tongue, and we spoke only Urdu at home. My father was an Urdu poet and Persian scholar. But I had no formal education in Urdu, having studied in a school where the languages one got to learn were English, Hindi, Gujarati and French. Naturally, when I learnt about short-duration Urdu classes run by MESCO, in Mahim, Bombay, I grabbed the opportunity, and managed to complete the certificate course, back in 1978. 

My teacher was Ibrahim Shaikhnag, who was a good poet and a gentle human being. Sadly, he had a premature death. My own father was in charge of Urdu and Hindi classes for adults, at Hindustani Prachar Sabha, Chowpatty, Bombay, but that was when I was a little boy. So, a man teaching Urdu, phonetically, was someone I really looked up to. Durwesh went on to join the faculty at my friend, actor-turned-trainer, Kishore Namit Kapoor’s acting classes-- just the man for the job!

Ustad Ibrahim Durwesh was proficient in Urdu, Hindi and Persian (many words in Urdu and Hindi are derived from Persian/Farsi). One of his published booklets is a compilation of ghazals sung by the one and only Shahenshah-e-Ghazal, Mehdi Hassan, in Hindi, with meanings. Ustad Saahab did me the honour of printing my write-up about him and his work on its back cover. There are excerpts of my reviews of his books too, on the inside back cover. 

As a tribute to both Ustad Durwesh, the language he dearly loved and the singing form that he helped nurture, nrizone.com would like to serialise excerpts from his books, mainly the ones on Mehdi Hassan, and Malka-e-Ghazal, Begum Akhtar, with full texts of the ghazals they immortalised, after obtaining due permission from the Noor-e-Naghma Trust, run by Rehana Durwesh, Ustad’s wife. Keep watching this space.
 
 

 

 

Siraj Syed is the Consulting Editor of nrizone.comSee profile.

 

 

Views expressed and claims made in the articles on this site are the contributors' own, and nrizone does not necessarily agree with them, or endorse them, in any way.
Contributions are published in good faith, with due diligence, and liabilities for authenticity or copyright lie with the authors.
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