Every night singer-composer Shakeel Ahmed shakes the tiredness of his careworn body to sit for riyaaz at 11 pm. It continues unfailingly till 4 am. The only time there is an exception is when Ahmed is performing, like he will be on October 28, at Mehfil-e-Khushrang, an evening of ghazal by NGO Sakshi, Centre for Information, Education and Communication.
"Riyaaz is my life’s vital source, a spiritual communion with the divine that requires intensity, discipline and commitment,” says Ahmed, who will share the stage with poet Laxmi Shankar Bajpai.
His gaayaki will string together many emotions. Aisa Hua Deewana Main, Khud ko Nahin Pehchana Main talks of losing one’s centre.
“Another beautiful ghazal called Chandi Ka Badan, Sone Ka Tan Dhoond Raha Hoon main Auron Mein Acchai Ka Dhan Dhoond Raha Hoon talks about how the seeker is looking for the goodness in those he meets,” says Ahmed.
Born and brought up in a traditional musical gharana family of Delhi, he was the beneficiary of gurus who hailed from the city. Ahmed’s learning in classical music began at an early age from Ustad Zikrur-Rehman and later Ustad Zafar Ahmed Khan. After that he gained insight from Ustad Zameer Ahmed Khan, and all teachers left a part of them in his sher-o-shayari.
Ahmed is a purist who prefers raga based compositions. “The legendary Sufi poet Hazrat Amir Khusro left an incredible impression on the way I perceive music. His compositions and Sufi philosophy have been a beacon of musical excellence,” he says.
In November 2014, Ahmed’s biggest dream came true when he was invited to Ajmer Sharif dargah of Garibnawaz, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, for a performance. “They tied a holy bandanna around my head and took me through a small processional walk to the Jannati Darwaza. As I began to sing, I became tearful with the thought that only those who He chooses are called to his door and I am one of them,” he reminisces.
In the absence of any extraneous sound systems at the dargah, he sang to an audience of 800 with fervour and devotion. Not much has changed since then. In every show, he continues to see His holy blessings.
October 28, from 7 pm to 9 pm, The Amaltas Auditorium, India Habitat Centre.