Singer Azra Riaz speaks at the event.—White Star
Singer Azra Riaz speaks at the event.—White Star

KARACHI: The music fraternity shared its views on distinguished composer Robin Ghosh at a condolence reference held in his honour at the Arts Council on Thursday evening. Ghosh passed away on Feb 13 in Dhaka.

Among the speakers, music connoisseur Sultan Arshad was the only one who did justice to the position that the late composer enjoys in the history of the subcontinent’s film music.

He said he had twice met Ghosh, once in 1999 in Lahore when he had interviewed him for the Herald, and then in 2012. He said his music had the distinct element of ‘choir singing’, something which he ‘absorbed’ in church. He said Ghosh had also gone to Calcutta (now Kolkata) and joined the renowned composer Salil Chowdhary’s choir group.

Mr Arshad said film director Shaukat Hashmi (grandfather of Indian actor Emraan Hashmi) came to Pakistan from Mumbai and made the film Humsafar for which he had Muslahuddin as its music director. Muslahuddin, he said, was two years senior to his fellow Bengali Ghosh in college. Ghosh worked as Muslahuddin’s assistant for the project. Muslahuddin wanted the famous Indian singer Hemant Kumar to sing a song for the film, so he asked Ghosh to visit Calcutta and convince Kumar to do that. Ghosh obliged. Mr Arshad added a lovely colour to the programme by singing the mukhra of that song, which he said was recorded in Calcutta.

Mr Arshad said the first Bengali film in which Ghosh worked as a composer was Raj Dhanir Bhookay in 1960. The first Urdu film that he did was Chanda, and Talash was the film for which he bagged his first Nigar Award. He said Ghosh was born in Baghdad in 1937, where his father was stationed for work. His mother was an Arab Christian woman. His family returned to Dhaka in the 1940s. Ghosh was fond of an Arab singer Abdul Wahab, Mr Arshad said.

Mr Arshad remarked that Ghosh was one of those rare musicians who could be recognised through their orchestration. He said although he was influenced by western music, it was the syrupy sweetness (chaashni) of Bengali music which, combined with its western counterpart, would make his compositions noteworthy. He said Ghosh never used Madame Noor Jehan’s voice for his songs, just like O. P. Nayyar never used Lata Mangeshkar’s, but it didn’t affect the composers’ standing in the music world.

Singer Salman Alvi said Ghosh’s music had Bengal’s sweetness, just like S. D. Burman or Salil Chowdhury’s. He said he nicely employed the ‘chorus’ in his songs. He said the way he arranged notes in a composition was exceptional. Commenting on the fact that Ghosh never worked with Madame Noor Jehan he said it was a challenge in the 1960s and ‘70s, because Noor Jehan’s voice was considered a sure sign of success for any song.

Musician Azhar Husain said Ghosh could afford to be selective in his choice of work because he had no financial problems, unlike musicians in Lahore at the time. He said he was an educated person and a good human being.

Actor Munawwar Saeed said Ghosh belonged to the family of industrialists. It was his passion for music that allowed him to move away from family business and serve the world of art.

Singer Azra Riaz said she had never personally met Ghosh, but she was familiar with his good work.

Singer Salamat Ali said the late Mehdi Hasan introduced him to Ghosh. He said Ghosh was a soft-spoken person and his music had a soothing quality.

Dr Huma Mir said when it came to music the subcontinent was a fertile land.

Ibrahim Khan, Taj Multani, Niaz Ahmed and Ahmed Shah also spoke.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2016