Ghazals, probably the only poetic form with a mass audience, have been around for centuries, and derive from an Arabic word which literally means ‘talking to women’ or ‘lover’s talk’.
The Ghazal has its roots in classical Arabic poetry. It found its way to India with the Moghuls in the 12th century although its popularity only really began to grow when Urdu became the language of culture in India during the 1700’s.
Ghazal has long been a musical as well as a poetic form. In its musical form a Ghazal is known as a Qawwali. In more recent times, Ghazals were set to music by the thriving Indian film industry although they were replaced through the 1970’s as western rock and disco took over Indian film music.
Despite this, Ghazals continued to be popular, aided by the spread of cassettes which took them to a mass audience. Urdu, traditionally the language of the Ghazal, has also been supplemented with regional languages and Ghazals are now produced in Bangali, Gujarati, Hindi and Punjabi amongst others.
The Ghazal is an established part of mainstream culture in India and Pakistan. As people from the sub-continent have settled around the world, they have taken the Ghazal with them and the form is popular in South Asian communities across the globe.