A novel touch to ‘mehfil’ culture

The classic juxtaposition of the ghazal singer’s soulful voice along with Hoshiyarpuri’s sombre yet grandiloquent verses continues to be the ultimate ode to love

author_img Anjani Chadha Published :  13th November 2021 12:23 PM   |   Published :   |  13th November 2021 12:23 PM
Prajesh Kashyap, Ajay Pal Singh, and Vrinda 'Hayat' Vaid

Prajesh Kashyap, Ajay Pal Singh, and Vrinda 'Hayat' Vaid at a 'mehfil'

Pakistani singer Mehdi Hassan’s famous rendition of Mohabbat Karne Wale Kam Na Honge, a poem by Haffiz Hoshiyarpuri, has transcended geographical and linguistic boundaries, inspiring generations of poets and singers. The classic juxtaposition of the ghazal singer’s soulful voice along with Hoshiyarpuri’s sombre yet grandiloquent verses continues to be the ultimate ode to love.

Even though the traditional mehfil has lost prominence today, ghazals and qawwalis still have a special place in the hearts of many. Delhi-based Prajesh Kashyap, Ajay Pal Singh (known by the stage name Likhari) and Vrinda ‘Hayat’ Vaid can be counted in the clique.

 

Ajay Pal Singh at a performance

In a pursuit to take their love and appreciation for music and words forward, they have adopted a novel approach of crafting evenings dedicated to Hindustani culture. Suggestive of their underlying goal and inspiration, the event is aptly named Mohabbat Karne Wale (meaning proponents of love).

While the idea commenced from the zest for performing, it has gradually transformed into a desire to revive mehfil culture and curate evenings dedicated to Hindustani poetry and music. “Mohabbat Karne Wale is a celebration of the pious emotion of love. Through our performances, we try to recreate the experience of the authentic mehfil,” says Vaid (24), who is also a screenwriter and a podcaster.

A love for Hindustani
Vaid and Singh primarily write in Hindustani (the lingua franca of northern India). “There is a certain old-school vibe to the pieces they write,” comments Kashyap, an actor and singer. The idea to curate a mehfil evolved from their previous collaborations—they have written and filmed songs together—on various projects. One thing led to another, and the idea finally materialised in the form of their first mehfil, an intimate gathering with fellow lovers of poetry recitation in February this year. In the words of Singh, it was “a houseful event that was a hit among the patrons.”

The hour-long mehfil encapsulates poetry, ghazals, and storytelling in a mix of Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. Since the idea is to bind people together under the premise of an appreciation for poetry and music, they keep their mehfils open for all, even for those who don’t understand Hindustani per se. “The biggest advantage of poetry is that it is understandable to even those who don’t master the language,” says Vaid.

The event witnesses considerable participation from a younger audience as well, “It is generally believed that ghazals, sher, and shayari are meant for old people. But several young people have attended our mehfils, and all of them have thoroughly enjoyed their time,” shares Kashyap. Following two events—organised in February and April—the team is all set to perform their third mehfil today at Akshara Theatre, Connaught Place. In an attempt to reach out to a wider audience, they will also be live streaming the event via Zoom.

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