Ever since Pamela Singh and her family shifted base to Gurgaon,her house in Sector 27 has been a camp site,a base touched upon frequently to relive and refresh old cherished memories,and create new ones too.
A singer who retired as the head of the Music Department,Government College for Girls Sector 11,in 2002 and the lead singer for Neelam Man Singh Chowdhrys repertory The Company,Singh is back in town for an evening of ghazal gayaki at the Pracheen Kala Kendra as part of its 180th Monthly Baithak Programme.
It is a tribute to Begum Akhtar. There will be Mallika Pukhrajs ghazals too and I will also sing my compositions, says Singh.
Her hands run lightly on the harmonium as she rehearses for the evening. Riyaaz is one thing that keeps music,the voice alive. This was one of the greatest lessons I learnt from Pandit Bhim Sen Joshi and taught my students too. To be a performer,a true artist,one has to learn to be patient first. Try and sit quietly for hours. Learn that first and the will and patience for music will follow,said Panditji, Singh recalls her early lessons with the maestro.
One of her earliest memories of music,however,date back to the 1950s,in Lahore,where Singh as a little girl would run to her next door neighbours house and listen to her in awe. She was the legendary Mallika Pukhraj,and my love for music grew. With her mothers encouragement and her fathers keen interest in Urdu poetry and music,Singh went on to learn classical music and has been singing since she was 13. Marriage cemented her musical career further with music loving in-laws and a husband who gifted her a tanpura instead of a wedding ring!
Life,says Singh,has been richer and more beautiful because of music. It is music that took her places – England,France,Australia,Singapore,Japan,Germany,Dubai,Pakistan,gave her the opportunity to work with theatre icon BV Karanth,act in films like Love Aaj Kal and Band Baaja Baraat.
Pehle gana phir khana (first music,then food), she smiles,as she turns the pages of a fat green file of memories – clippings,newspaper articles,travelogues,pictures that tell the tale of a fascinating journey.
Its been a year since Jagjit has passed away.such a loss, she looks at ghazal maestro Jagjit Singhs picture in her album. He used to come from Jalandhar to Ludhiana for performances and girls would go crazy over him. Those days I was in Ludhiana and he was still turbaned,a full Sikh. What a voice he had, says Singh,adding about how it was Jagjit who told her to work on ghazals as she had a voice for it.
It is unfortunate that women as ghazal singers are still looked down upon in certain parts of our country. Its such a beautiful form of music, rues Singh,who got her initial training in music from Bhagwan Das Saini of Patiala Gharana,Madan Bali and Professor Yashpal of Agra Gharana.
In order to sing well,and understand and feel the music and words,Singh also took Urdu lessons. Theatre honed her voice further,giving it the energy,the pitch and the passion. You cannot do justice to music if you dont feel it or sing it from the heart, Singh says. She will perform at a concert being held at Pracheen Kala Kendra on Thursday evening.