TRIBUTE TO JAGJIT SINGH [LONDON PRAYER November 2011]
Ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali talks about friend Jagjit Singh and his Bollywood debut
The year was 1976, when poetry played a significant role in our lives. “There was poetry, music and there was Jagjit Singh,” said ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali, as he got nostalgic while revisiting the memory of his friend in a press conference in the city. “Chitra, his wife, too was quite alive on the ghazal circuit, and we would indulge in endless musical interactions. But Jagjit was always number one, and no one can take his place,” added Ali, who performed at a concert held on Thursday at Tagore Theatre. It is a known fact that music, poetry and the soul stirring emotions of their craft, that brought the two together.
“That was the time of Nasir Qadri, Ghalib, Mir Hasan Mir and Mir Taqi Mir, where the word was all powerful and there was a way, a lehzaa, a tone and ring to everything that was sung. We couldn’t sing till we got the pronunciation right,” says Ali, who learnt the nuances of ghazal from Qadri, who then worked with Radio Pakistan and taught him Persian words, diction, andaaz, and how important it is to choose the right poetry to sing.
Singer Hariharan has an interesting titbit to relate about the late Jagjit Singh. “Once I was listening to a ghazal sung by him called Saamne Hai Jo Usse… He had sung it so well, that I called him in the middle of the song and said, ‘Kya gaaya hai aapne, bardaasht nahin ho raha hai’, and Jagjit replied, ‘Itna bura gaaya hai kya?’
He had a great sense of humour,” says the singer. Hariharan is all set to pay a musical tribute to the late ghazal maestro, who passed away a few weeks back. This Thursday, Nehru Centre at Worli will be witness to a grand musical evening ‘Immortal Jagjit’, where singers Jaswinder Singh and Hariharan will pay him a tribute. “I will be singing a couple of my ghazals, as well a few of my favourite ghazals of Jagjit’s including Sarki jaaye, Tum itna jo and Saamne jo hai…”
Hariharan has known Jagjit since the 80s and has also worked with him a couple of times. “Working with him was always a pleasure. I would be floored with his simple gestures of love. He was a musical person and his singing was really controlled. It’s really sad, the way he left us,” he says, adding, “The best tribute to a musician is through music, and that’s what we’re doing with this concert.”
… says Jassi about his last few meeting with Jagjit Singh
Jasbir Jassi made a mark in the 90’s which was the era of Punjabi pop music. He is one of the few singer who has still managed to survive in the race where the rest of his contemporaries have vanished in the dark. An amazing live performer, a great singer and a humble human being has still a lot to offer to the crowd when he walks on to the stage to perform.
And live performances still remain at the center of his preferences when it comes to music. And as he enters into the world of cinema with his first release, Khushiyaan, he shares the time he spent with the late gazal maestro Jagjit Singh during the shooting of the film which remains the last film for which Jagjit singh recorded.
“I spent some really great time with Jagjit Singhji who taught me some really good things. Those last days and meeting were very interesting and I will always remember them.”
Jassi feels that his movie career will enhance his skill as he will be able to reach to a much wider audience in Punjab and will give him a better hold on his audience. We wish him all the best.
NEW DELHI: Ghazal king Jagjit Singh, who passed away last month, has emerged as the most searched male celebrity in a latest Global Video Insights Report by Vuclip, an independent mobile video service.
The singer passed away on October 10, aged 70, after suffering from brain hemorrhage.
Singh’s ghazals that were most searched on mobile phones in India were ‘Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar’, ‘Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho’, ‘Tum Ko Dekha To Ye Khayaal Aaya’, ‘Koi Fariyaad’, and ‘Aap Aaye Janab Barson Mein’.
One of the most successful and loved artistes of his time, Singh has left behind a huge body of work in a career spanning five decades, including 80 albums.
Jagjit Singh was born in Sriganganagar in Rajasthan Feb. 8, 1941. Jagjit’s first school was an Urdu-medium primary where the children sat on the floor — an index of the fact that his father was from the middle-class and they were far from well off.
By 1948, the family was a little better off and radio, till then unaffordable, came into their house. When Jagjit’s father heard him sing along one day, he recognized some promise in his son and sent him to learn music from a blind maestro, Pandit Chhaganlal Misra. The year was 1953.
The Pandit made him learn and practice the basic notes and scales. Later, Jagjit went to learn music from Ustad Jamal Khan Saheb, who introduced him to raags as well as traditional bandish, thumri and khayal. It is this training that made Jagjit rise above the competition when he entered his profession and took the ghazal out of the courts of royalty to the common man, without undue compromise.
The young man also began to attend concerts by Pt. Maniram and Pt. Jasraj. He would also sing Sikh shabads to the tunes of film songs on processions in trucks during holy days.
It was when he was in Standard Nine that he came to give his first public performance — he was invite to sing during the Sikh religious period of Guruparab at the Kavi Darbar and sang “Ki Tera Aitbaar O Rahiya.” Soon he became a popular participant, and would either sing shabads composed by himself or in the raags indicated by the Guru Granth Sahib. All this acclaim affirmed young Jagjit’s decision to concentrate only on music as his future career, despite being distinguished in academics, hockey and football.
He became a great fan of Talat Mahmood, Madan Mohan and C. Ramachandra, and the ghazals by them all shaped his subconscious education in poetry, meter and compositions. He also became a die-hard fan of Abdul Karim Khan and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. However, another turning-point was his exposure to Ustad Amir Khan and his style of classical music, wherein the emphasis was more on words and expressions rather than notes and nuances. This is the style Jagjit took on and shaped in his inimitable way.
While studying at the DAV College in Jalandhar (Punjab), Jagjit was selected as a B-grade artist with All India Radio there, and got six programs of 15 minutes a year because of his classical training. He was later approved for light music as well. Besides earning good money, he also became widely known.
Jagjit’s first trip to Mumbai was in 1961 on the way back from a performance in Ooty. Veteran actor Om Prakash had invited him there after being impressed by his singing at a show in Shimla. Then actor introduced him to Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan and Jaidev as well as character artist Manmohan Krishna, who had a radio program of ghazals. Jaikishan even took his voice-test but stated that Jagjit would have to be patient and remain in Mumbai, which was then not feasible for him.
It was in 1965, when a friend promised a roof over his head as well as a monthly maintenance, that Jagjit finally landed in Mumbai. When he finally got a chance to cut his first EP record (two songs on each side) with another artist under the music direction of C.K. Chauhaan, he shrewdly sang one song, “Saaqiya Hosh Kahaan Tha,” in his own style and another in Mukesh’s tenor. After a lot of thought, he decided that the picture the music company (HMV, as Saregama was then called) wanted on the cover would decidedhis identity, so he cut his hair short and removed his turban. Without real promotion, this EP sold 5,000 copies, leading to Saregama’s offer to cut an independent EP of four songs, for which Jagjit chose his own compositions.
Jagjit once again struggled to get a break as a playback singer but he could only sing in the Gujarati film “Bahuroopi” (1968). Though he was a hit at film parties, his voice was never considered right for actors, and he wisely decided to make positive use of this and restrict his singing to ghazals, which suited his deep and mellifluous voice.
At this time, Jagjit found love in Chitra Dutta, a married singer with whom he was invited to sing a duet. Chitra’s neighbour was a fan of his voice, and after some initial doubts and even dislike of his voice (though she liked the soft-spoken young man), Chitra was drawn both to him and his music. Chitra’s marriage had already soured and Jagjit and Chitra got married in 1968 — she already had a daughter from her first marriage.
Contrary to popular perception, Chitra’s husband Debu liked Jagjit, and he had sung several jingles for that studio owner and ad filmmaker. For the cover of “The Unforgettables,” the peacock leaf with the faces of the couple superimposed was clicked by Debu even after they had married.
From this point to the early ‘70s, Jagjit’s career included cutting EPs (solo and with Chitra), singing at film parties and — surprisingly — composing and singing jingles. Invited to Hong Kong to sing at a wedding, he was taken to the racecourse and bet 100 dollars on a horse and won 3,300 dollars. This was the beginning of the second biggest passion of his life — horses. He was known to be so fond of the horses that he owned that he once bottle-fed a baby horse whose mother had died.
In 1975, Jagjit arrived in the real sense — Saregama offered him the album “The Unforgettables,” which became a roaring success. Soon after came “Birha Da Sultan” and India’s first double album in this genre, “Come Alive” (1979), wherein effects of a live concert with recorded applause were used — Jagjit’s flair for technical aspects first came to the fore with this album.
Subsequently, among the almost 80 albums that Jagjit recorded in his lifetime in Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Sindhi and Nepali for music labels that also included EMI, Venus, Tips, T-Series, Universal (then called Music India) and Sony-BMG, Jagjit was to record many concerts live, like the “Live at Wembley” album later the same year.
It was in 1981 that Jagjit got his major break in films as a singer with Raman Kumar’s “Saath Saath.” In the same year, Jagjit composed his first film score in Shatrughan Sinha’s home production “Prem Geet.” Jagjit composed more for Sinha’s films than for any other film producer, with his production “Kalka” (with Chitra Singh), home productions “Raahee” and “Billoo Badshah,” and his starring vehicle “Jwala.”
The other filmmaker who shaped his career was Mahesh Bhatt (“Arth” with Chitra, “Aaj” and “Ashiana”). Jagjit-Chitra also composed for Arunavikas’ “Situm,” and Jagjit alone for U.S.-based Somnath Sen’s “Leela” and Johny Bakshi’s “Khudai,” starring Rajesh Khanna and the unreleased “Ravan” among other films.
Even as his ghazal career bloomed with multiple albums, he again showed his technical expertise by coming up with India’s first digital album, “Beyond Time” (1987), which was recorded and mixed in London. A firm believer in the truth that recorded music is permanent, Jagjit always made sure of perfectly balancing his songs, especially bass, treble and reverb, and minimizing hiss. His stage experience globally also made him aware of such points as well as the frequencies. His marketing genius also saw that without compromising poetry, composition or vocals, he would always use the guitar and other Western instruments. His earliest albums as well as a few later ones like “Mirage” had largely English titles.
In 1974, he had made his debut in films with Kanu Roy’s “Aavishkar,” and over the years he came to sing for not only small composers like Tabun (“Jogger’s Park”), Basu Chakravorty (“Nargis”), Uttam Singh (“Dushman”) and Nikhil-Vinay (“Tum Bin”), but also bigger names like Bappi Lahiri (“Bhavna”), Aadesh Shrivastava (“Tarkieb,” “Baabul”), Jatin-Lalit (“Sarfarosh”), Vishal-Shekhar (“Vadh” and “Stop!”) and last but not least, Laxmikant-Pyarelal (“Khal-Nayak’s” Anand Bakshi classic “O Maa Tujhe Salaam” and “Tejaswini”).
Among Jagjit’s most popular albums are “Mirage,” “Marasim” (with Gulzar), “Silsilay” (with Javed Akhtar) and “Sajda” (with Lata Mangeshkar). After his son’s death in a car accident, and his wife Chitra stopping her singing, Jagjit seemed to balance religious and spiritual albums like “Maa,” “Nivedan” and several others. But this may well have been a coincidence because while devotional music can never go out of fashion, ghazals have faced an ebbing of fortunes that has also affected the names that have followed the trail that Jagjit blazed — Talat Aziz (his protégé whom he introduced in “Jagjit Singh Presents Talat Aziz” (1981), Bhupinder and Mitalee Singh, Pankaj Udhas, Anup Jalota, Penaz Masani and many more.
Trends, however, may come and go. Jagjit Singh, however, will live on forever as the priest who wed the common man to the ghazal for all time to come.
TOP 10 NON-FILM RELEASES
AADMI AADMI KO KYA DEGA
APNE HONTHON PE SAJANA
BAAT NIKLEGI TO PHIR
DARD SE MERA DAMAN BHAR DE
JHOOM KE JAB RINDON NE PILA DI
MAINDA ISHQ (PUNJABI)
MERE MAN KE ANDH TAMAS MEIN – MAA
SARAKTI JAAYE HAI RUKH SE NAQAB
SHAAM SE AANKH MEIN NAMI SI HAI
YEH DAULAT BHI LE LO
TOP 10 FILM RELEASES
BADI NAAZUK HAIN YEH MANZIL – JOGGER’S PARK
BAHUT KHUBSOORAT HAIN — VADH
CHITTHI NA KOI SANDESH – DUSHMAN
HONTHON SE CHHOO LO TUM – PREM GEET
HOSHWALON KO KHABAR KYA – SARFAROSH
JAAG KE KAATI SAARI RAINA – LEELA
O MAA TUJHE SALAAM – KHAL-NAYAK
TUM ITNA JO MOOSKURA RAHE HO – ARTH
WOH KAGAZ KI KASHTI – AAJ
YEH TERA GHAR YEH MERA GHAR – SAATH SAATH
“Jagjit ji loved Rajasthan and he was quite attached to the state and whenever he came to Jaipur, he felt at home,” says Naveen Tak, producer from Jaipur (produced Mahima Choudhary starrer film ‘Souten- The Other Women’) adding, “His last concert in Jaipur was in July and he invariably believed that Rajasthan is the most beautiful place on earth.” Asking about Singh’s plan to buy property in Rajasthan, Tak reveals, “He was in talks with a couple of property dealers in the city because more often than not, he used to say ‘ Ek property lelo yaha par (Rajasthan) aur fir sukoon se aakar rahoonga'”. Guess the singer’s affinity to Rajasthan dates back from his childhood days as he was born in Sri Gaganagar, Rajasthan.
Naveen revealed that Jagjit Singh recorded his last bhajans with him. “I produced a bhajan album some four months back which has a total of seven songs out of which, Jagjit Singh sang two and the rest songs were sung by Alka Yagnik, Udit Narayan and Sadhna Sargam, Sadhana Sargam among others,” informs Tak. Besides singing, he loved to eat. “We recorded the songs in his studio in Mumbai and he especially asked me to get Rajasthani food from Jaipur as he is really fond of bajre ki roti aur sarson ka saag. Though he wasn’t allowed to eat spicy food but he couldn’t resist the food and so he happily gorged on the Rajasthani food,” says Tak.
Shamir Tandon, one of the very talented music directors of Bollywood remembers Jagjit Singh as a humble and down to earth persona. “Just two days before he was admitted to the ICU never to come back again, Jagjit uncle and I recorded an hour long audio visual musical interview at a studio in Andheri, says Shamir Tandon. Shamir remembers Jagjit Singh and says, “The interview had him sing some of his most beautiful pieces and traced the life history of Jagjit Singh.” Shamir goes on to add, “He was a great persona and before the interview, he fed me with his own hands, the food which was locally made at the studio. He enjoyed the food with pickle and when I asked him whether it would affect his voice, he said that riyaaz jo karta hai wo raaj karta hai, which made him eat like any other ordinary man. That day he insisted that we have a meal in the same thaali and he fed me with his hands -said yeh ashirwaad hai le lo. (sic)” S hamir also remembers the days, when he and Jagjit’s son Vivek used to be classmates and recollects, how Jagjit uncle would carry lunch to their school and attend Parents Teacher day with his son. Vivek died in a road accident and about the same, Shamir says, “When uncle lost Vivek, the school requested him to do some charity shows, and the large hearted uncle did a few of them and that enabled our school to develop certain activities with the funds collected.” “I recorded him for a film, a ghazal I did in Raag Yaman which he found very high pitch for him. So, he taught me how to compose the antra in lower notes, keeping the singer in mind. He refused to take a penny from me to sing, despite him being very selective in his film forays and being one of the most expensive singers around,” adds Shamir. Jagjit Singh was also known for his powerful personality and witty statements. Recalling one such incident, Shamir explains, “His sense of humour was at its peak that day. He went on and on, speaking about various facets of his life and we kept recording and rolling the cameras. He wanted to go back home in a rickshaw and he kept saying that he likes remaining rooted, which was surely worth an appreciation, especially coming from a man who is the highest tax payer from the music industry.” “Everyone heard his mesmerising voice, but no one quite understood the pain and the agony of the man who lost his son (Vivek) and then, even daughter (Monica, when she committed suicide), as he loved her more than his own he would’ve loved his own daughter,” concludes Shamir.
One of the oldest musical genres, the ghazal, originated in the Middle East in the sixth century before finding a permanent home in the Indian subcontinent in the 12th century. Although it has been the foundation for countless other genres across the centuries, this deeply poetic form of music finally reached the masses thanks to the Sikh maestro Jagjit Singh, who has died aged 70, after a brain haemorrhage. Affectionately known as the king of the ghazal, he spread the music around the world and made more than 50 albums over a 46-year long career.
One of seven children, he was born Jagmohan Singh in the Sri Ganganagar district of Rajasthan, into a devout Sikh family. Not long after the birth, his father, Amar, a government employee, rechristened him Jagjit, on the advice of a holy man. He was surrounded by music from an early age, performing Sikh devotional hymns at the local temple and imitating songs he heard on radio. His natural talent did not go unnoticed. Singh’s father sent him to learn classical Indian music from Pandit Chaganlal Sharma for two years and he studied with the respected maestro Ustad Jamaal Khan for a further six years.
Singh attended Khalsa high school and Government college in Sri Ganganagar before graduating in arts from DAV College in Jalandhar and gaining a postgraduate degree in history from Kurukshetra University in Haryana. During his studies Singh sang for All India Radio, composed his first songs and started performing in stage shows. “I knew I had to be a singer,” he said. “Although my father helped me train in my childhood, he wanted me to be an engineer. I soon realised that I would never understand science.”
In March 1965 Singh took a decision that would change his life for ever when he boarded a train to Mumbai without telling his family. He used the little savings he had to check into a dirty, rundown hostel. After doing a number of odd jobs Singh persuaded the record company HMV to cut a four-track EP later that year. He took the drastic decision to shave off his beard, cut his hair and get rid of his turban. Nevertheless, he continued to struggle and made money from singing advertising jingles.
Singh turned a corner when he met the unhappily married singer Chitra Dutta in 1967. They married in 1969, had a son, Vivek, and then teamed up to become a singing duo. At first they had only low-level success because ghazal music was a niche genre dominated by mainly Muslim artists, and Bollywood was ruling the musical roost.
Everything changed with the release of their 1976 album The Unforgettables, a surprise hit that turned the couple into overnight stars. They were invited to tour all over the world and followed it up by delivering successful albums together and as solo artists. Singh said: “I was determined to polish up the genre and make it more acceptable to modern tastes, so chose simple poems and set them to simple tunes. I also introduced western instrumentation to make them livelier.” Singh was also offered high-profile film projects and the couple became enormously wealthy.
In 1990 Vivek was killed in a road accident. Chitra was so heartbroken that she gave up singing and retired from public life. Singh poured his grief into diverse solo projects that included religious songs. Despite receiving public accolades, including the Padma Bhushan award in 2003, and delivering hit songs, he suffered from deep depression and his anguish was often evident in his live performances. Chitra’s daughter Monica took her own life in 2009.
Singh undertook his last tour of the UK earlier this year. He had been due to perform with a fellow ghazal singer, Ghulam Ali, at a concert in Mumbai, when he suffered a brain haemorrhage in September. Chitra survives him.
• Jagjit Singh, singer, songwriter and musician, born 8 February 1941; died 10 October 2011
- Asjad Nazir
- guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 25 October 2011
Jagjit (jag ko jeetne wala- One who wins over the world) Singh surely lived up to his name. He won the audience world over with his vocal prowess. It’s hard to believe that he is no more with us. Jagjit Singh, the ghazal icon who mesmerised the music lovers across the globe with his deep, sonorous voice over the past four decades, passed away October 11, 2011 after being hospitalised in a Bombay hospital for more than 2 weeks. He suffered a severe brain haemorrhage prior to being hospitalised. He was 70. His soulful voice had a certain X-factor that connected with the listeners and touched the heart. His mellifluous vocals gave sukoon (peace) to the listeners. His sudden demise marks the end of an era in the Indian music.
My memories of this legend go back to my college days at the Delhi University in late 80s , where I watched him perform a couple of times and I simply fell in love with his voice. “Sarakti Jaye he rukh se nakaab”, “Thai Din Na Jawaani” were my favourites. For me, he just made the connection. I was fortunate to watch him when he came to New Zealand in 2005. His rendition of “Hum to hai pardes main” brought tears into my eyes-As I was so far away from my motherland, yet had that huge love for my motherland.
A Sikh by religion, Jagjit was born in Sriganganagar, Rajasthan. A brilliant student academically with a post graduate degree in history, music was always his first love. He trained for 8-10 years and learnt the finer nuances of the Indian classical music, Thumri, Khayal, Dhrupad from Ustad Jamaal Khan. Jagjit Singh was instrumental in popularising the genre of ghazal gayaki. He was responsible for simplifying ghazals and its merger with geet, hence making it more accessible to the common man. He is also credited with the addition of western instruments while retaining the traditional sanctity with tabla, harmonium and stringed instruments, in the rendition of ghazals.
Jagjit Singh has recorded more than 80 albums in his illustrious career, which is a record by itself, and he has sung in eight different languages: Hindi, English, Punjabi, Nepali, Sindhi ,Gujrati, Bengali and Urdu. He has performed some really popular numbers for Bollywood movies like ‘Arth’, ‘Saath-Saath’and ‘Prem Geet’ during 1980s. He even composed the music for ‘Prem Geet’ in 1981. Who can forget the classic “Honton se choo lo tum”, “Tumko dekha to yeh khyaal aaya”, “Pyaar mujhse jo kiya tumne”, “Jhuki jhuki si nazar”, “Yeh tera ghar”, just to name a few. The beauty of these songs is the fact that they are timeless. Even after thirty years, they are still equally desirable and hummable, as they were before. He also sang for some classic tele serials as “Mirza Ghalib” and “Kahkashan”. His versatility as an artiste emerges from the fact that he even has many devotional songs and albums to his credit. “Hey Ram”, “Hare Krishna” just to name a few, always had a soothing effect on the listeners. Jagjit and his wife Chitra formed an awesome combination in the 70s and 80s that churned out many unforgettable albums and tracks, which still remain fresh in our memories, even after so many years. “Unforgettables”, “Adaa” “Someone Somewhere”, “Visions”, “Desires” ,”Ecstasies” were some of the popular ones. Jagjit Singh, along with Chitra Singh, is also credited with using “digital multi-track recording” for his 1987 album “Beyond Time”. This was the first time ever in the history of Indian music that such a feat was accomplished.
The tragic death of their son Vivek in 1990 was quite a blow for the Singhs. So much so that Chitra called it quits to a successful singing career. But all credit to Jagjit, who lifted himself up once again, after lying low for a while. He is the only Indian musician who has also sung and composed music for poetry written by former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee: ‘Nayi Disha’ in 1999 and ‘Samvedna’ in 2002.
It came as no surprise that the Indian government bestowed its third highest civilian honour, Padma Bhushan, in 2003 on Jagjit Singh saab, for his immense contribution to Indian music and popularising ghazal gayaki among music lovers. With his consistent performance over the years, he was the most successful ghazal singer of the Indian music commercially. His voice was once in a lifetime voice. The melodious and soulful vocals of Jagjit Singh will always resonate in our hearts. His sudden demise has left a void that will be hard to fill. He surely leaves behind an unparalleled legacy. As the lyrics of one of his ghazals goes “Baat Niklegi Aur Door Talak Jayegz”, surely baat nikli aur door tak pahunchi, i.e the power of his music flew from his vocal chords and reached out to lonely hearts far and wide. May his soul rest in peace. We will miss you, Jagjit Singh saab.
By: Perdy Mohindru