Anniversary | The Music that Never Stops

Chitra Singh still won’t sing, but she is coming out of her shell to keep the ‘ghazal’ maestro alive in public memory

Chitra Singh is in a moment of poignant, distressing hurry. In the span of a week, she has met many journalists and posed for many photographs—each time, with a black and white blow-up of the young Jagjit Singh, her late husband, behind her. Someone asked her why she stopped singing, and someone asked her when she will start singing again. She is busy preparing for the release of Jagjit Singh—The Master And His Magic, an album of unreleased songs of Jagjit Singh, on 10 October, the singer’s first death anniversary. She is busy on the phone trying to fix appointments with Hariprasad Chaurasia and Shivkumar Sharma, and a venue for a commemorative concert. She says her phone has suddenly started ringing constantly.

Jagjit & Chitra Singh – Punjabi Tappe [BBC Live] from MirageCreations on Vimeo.

We meet at the end of that week. “He should not be so far away at the background,” she tells our photographer, ready for what seems to have become a routine. Adjusting her purple T-shirt and the rust bandhni dupatta loosely wrapped around her neck, Chitra waits for the photographer to click.

Memories: (from left) Chitra and Jagjit Singh at The Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai in the 1980s. Photo: Courtesy Chitra Singh

Memories: (from left) Chitra and Jagjit Singh at The Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai in the 1980s. Photo: Courtesy Chitra Singh

This is new for her—once a ghazalsinger, and since 1990, when her 18-year-old son Vivek died in an accident, just the shy, retired wife of Jagjit Singh. “This idea for an album struck about four months ago when a big fan of his music, and a friend of ours, Sanjay Tayal, came to me with recordings of some of his songs performed at concerts. It was the ideal opportunity to come out. I have been lonely for many years, but I have been terribly lonely after his passing. People who were around him when he was alive weren’t doing much. I wanted to do something for his fans with Sanjay’s help,” Chitra says.The forthcoming album has eight songs, all composed by Jagjit Singh, with lyrics by Wasim Bareilvi (Tu Ambar ki Aankh ka Tara), Farag Roohvi (Dekha jo Aeena) and five “unknown” lyricists. It also features Mirza Ghalib’s Rone se Aur Ishq Mein Bebaak Ho Gaye—sung in Jagjit Singh’s inimitably pop, silken voice. His voice and compositions, which complemented the straightforward harmonium with various Western and Indian instruments, made ghazals an accessible art—the reason he has fans in the philistine and the aesthete alike. “I don’t remember a time when he was not travelling for concerts. And when he was not composing tunes in our drawing room.”

Tayal, the Ahmedabad-based ghazal aficionado who often travelled with Jagjit Singh on tours across the world over more than 20 years, has a collection that he assiduously sourced from sound engineers and backstage technicians and preserved at home. He says that in the early 1970s, Jagjitji used to perform at some private concerts to which access was not easy. By then he was already an international star. “I have been following his music since then.”

Chitra chose eight songs from Tayal’s collection that could be salvaged substantially for digital processing. “It took about two months of painstaking work to make them decent, but even now they are not of a perfect studio recording quality,” says Chitra.

Chitra Singh in Mumbai recently. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Chitra Singh in Mumbai recently. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

In 1976, HMV released The Unforgettables, an album of Jagjit and Chitra Singh duets. The two singers, who had met in the 1960s when Chitra was in another marriage, with a daughter, became a household name after this album. They performed together all over India and later, in other countries. Ghazal had a new, romantic lead pair who sang for anyone who could appreciate a beautiful tune and dumbed-down Urdu after a glass of whisky, and also appealed to those who listened to the masters, like Mehdi Hasan, Abida Parveen and Ghulam Ali. Chitra’s high-pitched voice had lilt but it was unsuitable to ghazal as the purists knew it. “My toughest job was getting the Urdu right. I am a Bengali, Hindi itself was difficult. So I had to work really hard under Jagjitji’s tutelage. Finally, I was appreciated. My work in the Mirza Ghalib(the TV serial) album was considered my best,” Chitra says.Jagjit Singh often changed compositions if she didn’t like them. Raat Bhi Neend Bhi Kahani Bhi was a different tune when it was first composed. Later on, it became one of their most popular duets. Adarsh Gupta, music business head, Saregama India Ltd (previously HMV and HMV Saregama), says, “Unforgettables is one of our most popular ghazal albums even today in all forms—as a CD, as ringtones and downloadable MP3s.”

The love story on stage, for fans, and off it took a beating when their son died in 1990. Jagjit Singh used music to express his pain—“his compositions and his alfaaz changed,” says Chitra—but she stopped singing. In the early 2000s, before Chitra’s daughter from her first marriage died, Jagjit Singh composed some songs for her. “He convinced me to come back to the studio. We started recording also. One day he took me to a meeting in HMV to talk about the album. I returned from that meeting and lost all confidence. I was scared I would not be able to do justice to the songs. Thereafter, after my daughter died, I never sang,” Chitra says.

She says, with the deadpan cynicism of a musician who never owned her voice: “Music has never been my anchor. My anchor is my spiritual training. Now I die a thousand deaths every day, but what sustains me is not music. I never even hum. It’s a training to pick myself up and do the work.” Chitra took classes in spiritual healing in Europe, where she lived for three years in the late 1990s while Jagjit Singh made more and more music.

With the first anniversary, Chitra begins a new journey. “There should be a constant reminder of him. Somehow the music must come back.”

Some songs never stop.

Jagjit Singh—The Master And His Magic by Sony Music will release on 10 October, Jagjit Singh’s first death anniversary.

I cannot indulge in any personal luxury: Chitra Singh

It had to be Jagjit Singh who would coax her out of her 22-year-long exile from the public eye. “He was my entire universe, my husband, friend, guide aur sabse badhkar, my guru,” she says, in an introduction to The Master And His Magic — an album featuring eight unreleased, original compositions of the legend who revolutionised ghazals forever.


The compilation album will be released on October 10, his first death anniversary. Despite being shaken by grave personal tragedies — her only son with Jagjit, Vivek, died in a car accident in 1990, her daughter Monica committed suicide in 2009 and last October, Jagjit passed away — Chitra has gathered herself bravely. Here, she talks to TOI.

You haven’t spoken to the press in 22 years. Why have you decided to talk now?
Considering all that happened and the life I have been leading, there was nothing to talk about. I’m talking now only because of Jagjitji’s new album.

Why is such a rare collection released only now?
For all these years, I didn’t have these songs. Our very good friend and a great fan from Ahmedabad, Sanjay Tayal, who had collected these live performances between the late ’80s and the late ’90s, called me one afternoon and asked if he could come over and make me listen to these gems. We picked the eight best, of which one was recorded in a concert abroad. They were wonderful but had to restored and re-mastered.

What are your earliest memories of Jagjitji’s music?
I must have been 22 when I first heard him sing and I didn’t like his voice (smiles). But like Jagjitji, I was a huge Talat Mahmood fan, and hence had a different taste. His singing didn’t register with me initially. But as I started listening, it grew on me, its finesse and its nuances. It mesmerised me.

Of all that he taught you about music, what are the three lessons or rules that you hold as most important?
It’s hard to pick three. He would always say riyaaz karo…always hit the note on its head. Bahut singers sur ke aaju baaju se gaate hain. That is something he couldn’t bear and he transferred that bug to me. The third thing he would repeat is — zyaada ustaadi nahi maarneka (smiles). Try out all your vocal fireworks at home. But when you sing, don’t oversing. Focus only on theexpression, passion and meaning of the lyrics. Gulzaar has often said that when Jagjit sings, he adds new meaning to the lyrics and enhances its depth. Most singers today overlook this.

How was the teacher-student equation between you two?
Jagjitji would sit in the hall with his harmonium and compose, while I would be inside cooking or giving my child a massage. What he would compose for me was vastly different from the songs he would compose for himself. That’s because he knew my voice and ability so well.

How do you look back at your musical journey with him?
Singing has been my life and I always loved singing. Jagjitji came into my life and took it to another level. My journey started with him, went along beautifully and stopped abruptly.

I am very spiritual. I believe everybody gets only as much as one is supposed to get. I won’t say as much as one deserves…but as much as one is meant to. If you seek anything beyond that, you don’t get it even if you break your head. What I was meant to get with Jagjitjee, I have had a full feel of it. I had a wonderful life and a superb musical career with him. I don’t know what would have happened to me musically. He made me whatever I am. Also with what Jagjitji and I have gone through personally, there have been a lot of emotional, spiritual changes that have reflected in his music, selection and treatment of songs.

From where did you draw strength to deal with the tragedies?
I don’t practice anymore but spiritual healing and counselling others helped me tremendously. It was very satisfying work. But life now has brought me to a stage where I cannot indulge in any personal luxury. I have to totally detach myself and concentrate on such things, which I can’t do any longer.

Spirituality is about cleansing your insides and your thoughts. My father instilled a lot of spirituality in me, which I realised only when I needed inner strength. Jagjitji was very spiritual too but without any fanfare. He was very perceptive and had terrific insight.

Now that you have broken your silence, when do you plan to take the mic?
Aisa bilkul koi plan nahi hai. I won’t sing. My fans will have to make peace listening to my records.

By: ANAND HOLLA, Mumbai Mirror

Music Ends Exile – Chitra Speaks

Two decades after Chitra Singh stopped singing, she lends a voice-over to promote an eight-track album of her husband, ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh

It has been 22 years since ghazal lovers last heard Chitra Singh sing — unless, of course, they dig out her previous recordings. Now, the singer has ended her self-imposed exile from limelight. Music has been the healer. Nearly, 10 months after the death of her husband, ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh, she has come out with an album of his eight unreleased compositions in collaboration with Sony Music. She still staunchly refrains from singing, but has relented to record a voice-over for it. Preceding each song, her narration throws light on her husband’s music and personality, and shares personal anecdotes.

The album titled The Master and His Magic, will be available in stores as well as digital platforms on Jagjit’s first death anniversary — October 10. This marks an interesting journey for some compositions of the maestro, which hitherto existed in oblivion. “A few months ago, Sanjiv Tayal, an Ahmedabad-based businessman and an ardent fan of Jagjitji, gave me a collection of his unreleased songs from various live performances across India,” says Chitra.

She talks passionately about the music of her husband — whom she once accompanied on stage and recording rooms as a singer and co-composer — to popularise the ghazal in India and make it commercially viable. Her high-pitched voice was considered to be the perfect complement to his rich, velvet voice till 1990, when she quit singing after they lost their son in an accident. Dressed in a multi-coloured churidar-kurta and a rust dupatta, she appears elegant — far from the forlorn look she had at Jagjit Singh’s funeral. And her voice gives away her admiration and awe for her husband, who she considers to be her “friend, guide and guru”.

This collection — featuring some of India’s greatest lyricists such as Wasim Bareilvi, Farag Roohvi and Mirza Ghalib — was a revelation to her. “Jagjitji was a prolific composer. He was a voracious reader of Urdu poetry and hand-picked those poems, which encompassed beautiful lyrics and deeper meaning. He composed music for them and often presented them at live concerts,” she says.

Out of Tayal’s collection, Chitra has chosen those tracks with similar tonal quality and voice. “These recordings are from different periods. As his voice matured with time, I did not want a great variation in the tonal quality,” she says. These live recordings had to be digitally remastered as unnecessary sounds were weeded out. This initiative is something Chitra believes she owes this to his fans. Still, there are many more of his compositions which are yet to be released. That apart, there are several early recordings of his music, currently unavailable in the market. She wants to make these accessible.

However, the project that perhaps tops her wishlist is to form a foundation in Jagjit’s name. Apart from preserving his memorabilia and music, the aim of the foundation will be to take care of children. “Jagjitji loved children. I would like to take nearly 20 children under the foundation’s care. But, everything depends on getting government grant, for which we have applied,” she concludes.

Jagjit’s ghazals are in my veins, says Chitra Singh

The passing of ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh last year was a great loss to the music field. After a year, Sony Music and Chitra Singh are releasing eight songs of Jagjit in a new album called The Master and His Magic. These ghazals are from his live performances in the early 80s, but have not been released before. The songs have been restored and remastered by Chitra.

In an interview with Senior editor S. Sahaya Ranjit, Chitra spoke on Jagjit’s penchant for perfection, as well as the modern singers. Excerpts:

Are these special songs that you have chosen from his live concerts? And what is special about these songs?
A few months ago I had an ardent fan and a friend of ours from Ahmedabad who called me and said he had a collection of Jagjitji’s unreleased songs from various performances lying with him and he handed them over to me. I then worked on restoring and re-mastering them as none of these were studio recordings.  This album is a tribute from me to Jagjitji and a gift to millions of his fans.

Jagjit Singh

Have you also sung these songs jointly?
No, I am not a part of this album, well yes you will be able to hear me, but I would not like to divulge any details, this is something you should experience after listening to the album. These are penned by the India’s greatest lyricists Wasim Bareilvi, Farag Roohvi, Ghalib, the ghazals take you through the different phases of Jagjitji’s life.

After a year of Jagjit Singh’s passing away…..have you reconciled to the fact he is somewhere up above singing
Of course it has been difficult, its like I am not there. I have responsibilities to take care of and that’s why I am going on .

What is that special trait of his that you miss today?
He was a perfectionist where his music was concerned he would check every single instrument, sitting position, micro phone position.  No rehearsal before the concert, he could sense the pulse of the audience

Do you listen to his music or ghazals everyday?
His ghazals are in my veins, I may not listen to his songs everyday but they are on me! I was a Talat Mahmood fan, so when I heard his voice for the first time I didn’t like it. I started listening to him and realised that it grows on you. My ears were not trained to listen to his music.

Ghazals have come a long way… you think today it is more geet-numa songs than pure ghazals that are sung today?
In India there are many sangeet vishards, who have do Phd’s in music but cannot sing one line.

Do you think the genre of ghazals is being diluted by the young singers of today ?
The trend of ghazals singing has changed, Jagjitji brought ghazals to such a level that today everyone in the world wants to sing only ghazals. People believe if ghazal singing has made what Jagjit ji was, then they all want to do that. What he has taught the world on how to compose lyrics, sing it, bring out the meaning of the lyrics, no one really knows that now.  Today’s generation does not have any training or patience nor the passion that Jagjitji had.

When Jagjit sang a poem, He added new Meaning to it’

By Chaya Unnikrishnan | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Jagjit and Chitra Singh

For the first time in 22 years, reclusive singer Chitra Singh has decided to come out of her self-imposed exile. Wife of ghazal king Jagjit Singh, Chitra had shunned public appearances and given up singing after the tragic death of their son Vivek. Though Jagjit couldn’t persuade his wife to come out of her shell when he was alive, it’s the idea of releasing an album of his songs that’s finally convinced her to break her silence.

Chitra along with a music company is bringing out analbum The Master and his Magic, a tribute to Jagjit on his first death anniversary in October. The USP of the album is that the ghazals have been sung by Jagjit way back in the ’80s and ’90s, and have been culled from his ‘live’ music concerts. Says Chitra, “A friend from Ahmedabad contacted me, saying that he had some songs, which Jagjit had sung at concerts. When I heard them, I realised they were wonderful songs that should reach his fans. However, I had to clean them up and restore them as much as possible and give it a final shape.”

The album contains eight tracks that include Dekha jo aaeena, Ro lete to accha hota, Aahon mein asar and Woh firaaq kahan, the last one being Chitra’s favourite ghazal.

The album also has Chitra talking about how her life changed after she met Jagjit. Ask her to throw light on it and she shies away saying life has various dimensions and it depends on which part “means life to you. My entire life was with Jagjit,” she says succinctly.

However, she opens up when asked to describe him as a person. “People who have experienced his company will tell you he was generous to a fault. I can’t think of a single person who met him and has not benefitted from his generousity. He was the kind of person, who even if he had one roti would share it with everyone. This nature was so obvious that many exploited it. But he loved it, giving away his last penny,” recalls Chitra adding that his public and private persona were the same. “He wore no mask,” she says proudly.

Talking about the ghazal scenario post the mellifluous singer, Chitra bluntly says that with Jagjit’s demise, even ghazal is dead. “There was no one before or after Jagjit, who realised how important the lyrics and the verse are for ghazal. You need awareness and command over the language to understand it, even superficially, forget the deeper layers,” says Chitra citing Gulzar’s observation that when Jagjit sang a poem he added new meaning to it.

The Master And His Magic

C h i t r a  S i n g h launches “Jagjit Singh – The Master and His Magic” an album of his unreleased songs.
Indian music fraternity join hands to dedicate a magical evening in remembrance of the legendary Jagjit Singh!
Jagjit Singh’s wife Chitra Singh attended the tribute concert along with her family. His grandson, Armaan and Chitraji launched an album of a collection of 12 unreleased songs titled “Jagjit Singh – The Master and His Magic” before the intimate gathering.

Chitra Singh launches “Jagjit Singh – The Master and His Magic” Album

Mumbai: The biggest names in the Indian music and film fraternity came together  to commemorate the extraordinary musical legacy of the Jagjit Singh on his 71st birth anniversary.

The tribute concert was organized by the Global Indian Music Academy (GIMA) in partnership with COLORS and Wizcraft International Entertainment. Held at InterContinental – The Lalit, the musical evening titled “Jagjit Singh – Yaadon ka Safar” saw the maestro’s family, friends, colleagues and well wishers walk down memory lane as they paid homage to his music, style and grace.

Jagjit Singh’s wife Chitra Singh attended the tribute concert along with her family. His grandson, Armaan and Chitraji launched an album of a collection of 12 unreleased songs titled “Jagjit Singh – The Master and His Magic” before the intimate gathering.

An artist of many dimensions – singer, writer, composer, music director, activist and a philanthropist, Jagjit Singh stirred the souls of millions of fans across the nation solidifying him a place in the history of Indian music. Known as one of the greatest voices of the 20th century, he gave the world nearly 46 years of musical performances. The evening saw over 20 artistes pay tribute to the legend rendering his greatest hits, having sung his soulful music and stirring lyrics. His long time friend Ghulam Ali made a beautiful tribute as he performed on Chupke Chupke among others; he also spoke about their friendship and journey together as artists.

Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi shared heartfelt and fond memories of the ‘Ghazal King’. Audiences embarked on a fascinating and moving journey through the life of this incomparable artist, his music and cultural history.

Social Activist and Padma Bushan awardee, Shabana Azmi, in a very soulful and sombre mood, said “It’s very strange the way in which Jagjit Singh left us. Three days before he was hospitalized, he was having a long chat with Javedji and they were planning a world tour together. And here we are today.” She added, “I’m very fortunate that three of his most famous and popular songs were picturized on me in Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth. The manner in which he so beautifully strung the lyrics with the pain that he was trying to convey left me with very little to do.”

The evening was hosted by Dia Mirza and saw a great line up of performances like Ustad Rashid Khan who sang Yaad Piya Ki Aaye. Kavita Krishnamurthy & Dr. L Subramaniam performed a beautiful duet on Meri Tasveer Mein Rang Aur Kisi Ka Toh Nahin. Sonu Nigaam captivated the audiences with some of his famous hits like Hey Ram and Hoshwalon Ko Khabar. Shaan sang Koi Ye Kaise Bata De Ki Wo Tanha Kyun Hai and Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar. Other performers were Anup Jalota, Bhupinder & Mitali Singh, Talat Aziz, Suresh Wadkar, Hariharan, Shafqat Amanat Ali, Kunal Ganjawala, Richa Sharma, Hans Raj Hans, Ghansham Vaswani and Papon who were inspired by his music and notably helped form their careers.

Sabbas Joseph, Director – Wizcraft International Entertainment Ltd. said “In addition to being a legendary artist, Jagjitji was a wonderful man. I’m so glad we’re finally able to pay tribute to him on the occasion of his 71st birth anniversary. He has been an inspiration to millions around the world and will continue to be one for years to come. We are blessed beyond words to have the biggest names in Indian music be able to revisit some of his most popular songs.”