Ghulam Ali was born in 1940, at village Kaleke, district Sialkot, before Indo-Pak partition. He belongs to a musical family; his father was vocalist and sarangi player who trained him earlier. He also got trained from Bade Ghulam Ali Khan's brother Ustad Barkat Ali Khan who is another great singer. He is normally identified as a follower of one and only Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, an unmatched legend of classical music. Besides him, he learnt music from Bade Mubarak Ali Khan. All these great teachers of classical music taught him finer details of classical music, making him one of the best classical singers of all times. And his solid base in pure classical music, Raagas, Thumaris is quite evident in all his singing; making is style unique and peerless. He started his singing career at Lahore radio during 1960.
He sings his Ghazals, Thumaris and Nazms in the live concerts in many countries. He is extremely careful about his foodstuffs and avoids anything that could hurt his voice.
While experimenting with classical singing, melodies, Raagas; he realized that music lovers generally enjoy semi-classical or classical based Ghazal more as compared to pure classical music. Also, he came under the association of a master poet whom he has called Sufi Sahab. He steered Ghulam Ali to enter into the realm of the heart and aesthetics of Ghazals. Sufi Sahab trained him how to deliver the ‘Shers’ (Poetry) effectively without twisting the beauty of the poetry. He told him where to stop and where to stress so that the words remained crystal clear.
His Matchless Style
Ghulam Ali has a heavy, baritone voice, and while singing Ghazals he creates an effect which is simply out of this world. He is gifted with very delicate vibrations in his voice which he uses very beautifully in his singing, to express a whole range of feelings through it. He could make it sound completely romantic, he can make it sound depressed, he can make it sound anything that he wants almost effortlessly owing to his persistent Riyaaz (practice).
Ghulam Ali is equally sensitive about the rhythm and technical virtuosity of the Ghazals. He recites each word very clearly, making sure that the meaning of the Ghazal is conveyed effectively. He could recite same ‘Sher’ (couplet) five times making it sound different each time and conveying a new sense each time with his wonderful talent. It's an absolute pleasure to listen to his Ghazal which has only a few ‘Shers’ (verses) but goes on for about 15-20 minutes enjoying his voice modulations. Recall his rendering of "Tez hawaaaaaaa ne muzse puchha, rait pe kya likhate rahete ho..." from "Itni muddat baad mile ho" Ghazal, you'll know what I mean. The only other person who can make 15 plus minute long Ghazal sound equally beautiful is Mehdi Hassan.
It's his classical style of singing combined with soul and emotion of the Ghazal without distorting simplicity of reciting the words makes Ghulam Ali so distinctive. Many music critics and experts commonly agree that Ghulam Ali’s compositions are very tough, and it's next to impossible to reproduce them.
For his live concerts, usually the accompanying musical instruments are harmonium and Tabla. He himself plays these instruments quite well. The musical instruments such as Sarod, Sitar, Santoor often complement him, but it is his voice which rules, and not the instruments.
Despite of his classical based Ghazals, he is very popular among critics, as well as, music lovers giving him rare praise in various countries besides his own. Due to this very reason many music labels such as HMV Saregama, Music India, Polydor, Venus, Tips, T-Series, Navras Sony across the globe have produced numerous compilations of his Ghazals.
Again, owing to his enormous popularity, some of his Ghazals have been used in the Indian (Hindi) movies. His popular Ghazal "Chupke chupke raat din.." has been used in the movie Nikaah featuring Raj Babbar and Salma Aghaa. Moreover, many of the Hindi film songs have been "inspired" from some of his Ghazals. "Thodi si jo pi li hain, chori to nahi ki hain" from Namak Halal (Ghazal - Hungama hain kyon barpa) as you would recognize, is one them.