The ghazal Chupke Chupke Raat Din has been sung by such vocalists as Asha Bhosle, Hans Raj Hans and Jagjit Singh, but nobody owns it like Ghulam Ali.

The 76-year-old Pakistani singer trained under Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, a hallowed figure in Hindustani classical music. Born on December 5, 1940, Ghulam Ali was still in his teens when Bade Ghulam Ali Khan accepted him as a disciple. At the age of 20, Ali began signing for Radio Pakistan in Lahore in 1960, but it wasn’t until he sang the popular Hindi film song Chupke Chupke Raat Din in the movie Nikaah in 1982 that his fame spread far and wide.

The ghazal was written by Urdu poet Hasrat Mohani (1875-1951) and contained 17 couplets. Ghulam Ali sang three couplets for the film composition, which is credited to music director Ravi. When the song became a huge hit, Ali was requested to perform it at several stage shows and musical gatherings.

During one such live performance, Ali claimed that he had composed the song for Nikaah. In this video clip, Ali can be seen improvising his performance by adding additional couplets from Mohani’s original poem to lengthen the duration of the ghazal as well as to keep listeners enthralled.

Jagjit Singh did a different version for the television serial Kahakashan in 1992. Singh composed and sang four couplets from the original ghazal and veered away from the film tune to create a more sombre sound. Bhosle sang a remixed version for a pop album with jazz elements, using drums, saxophone, and piano interspersed with tabla beats. Hans Raj Hans sang the ghazal for a televised programme as a tribute to Ali.

None of the versions match Ali’s. He sang Chupke Chupke like he owned it and repeatedly made it the jewel in his crown through his many interpretations during live performances, interjecting the lengthy ghazal with vocal ornamentation and musical flourish.