Westerners have become increasingly familiar with the classical music of India since it first became fashionable in the 1960s. But the Persian tradition, without a Beatles/Ravi Shankar collaboration to promote it, has remained a mystery, although it is becoming more recognized.Several centuries of Mogul rule in northern India left a strong imprint on Hindustani music: a result of the mysticism, poetry, and musical subtleties of the Persian language and culture.
The name Ghazal reflects that link: in the Persian tradition, a ghazal is a specific genre of poetry, characterized by an unusual blend of ecstatic spirituality and very earthy desires. In India, ghazal has evolved into a form of semi-classical music that remains popular to this day, and usually takes the form of a love ballad. In both cases, the imagery of the texts often obscures the difference between spiritual and physical love. Desire for a lover can be described in such exalted terms that it transcends the purely physical aspects of love. While these poems and ballads can be serious artistic and spiritual endeavors, they also reflect a sense of play – almost daring the audience to determine whether it’s really what it appears on the surface, and suggesting that spiritual and romantic love are two sides of the same coin.
(Excerpted from the liner notes by John Schaefer from “Moon Rise on the Silk Road” by the ensemble Ghazal. Courtesy of the World Music Institute)