By Javed Akhtar. Oct, 17th,2011
With the passing away of ghazal king Jagjit Singh, an entire era of amazing musical expertise comes to a close. Even now, I cannot quite believe that the mellifluous baritone will never sing to music lovers in live performances any more.
My association with Jagjit goes back a long way, ever since he first sang my song in 1981. Since then, we went on to make two albums and participated in innumerable stage shows where invariably, it fell upon me to introduce him at the start of the shows. It all seems like a dream to me right now. Specially so because I met him just a day before he had his first attack and had extensive talks about the two of us doing a US tour, as some organisers were urging us to do. We had been the perfect foil for each other at such shows in the past and this time too, I was supposed to recite my poetry, while Jagjit would sing lines of poetry in his inimitable style. Little did I know then that fate was willing it to be otherwise.
We had been working so closely and for so long on our campaign over the copyright issues that for me the loss is doubly deep. Jagjit and I would visit Delhi frequently and meet political leaders to take our case forward. He passed away just as we were making headway and will not be there to see the copyright law take concrete shape. So very tragic.
Range of Emotions
It might sound pessimistic but we live in times when language is shrinking rapidly. Song lyrics and poetry are being reduced to the banal and ludicrous and singers often sing without any great depth of emotion. Jagjit had an incredible range of emotions as a person, he understood and appreciated the finer nuances of language and all this came through in his singing. His ghazals dripped melody, feelings, subtlety and reflected the person he was, internally. Though he is no more, his voice is immortal and will live within us.
A warm, easygoing, affable man with an ever-present sense of humour, Jagjit never did believe in standing on formality. Not for him the elaborate procedure of calling up and inviting someone or asking whether he could come over. Most of the time, he would saunter into my house unannounced and settle down to a cosy chat. A foodie to the core, Jagjit did not possess just a penchant for North Indian and Bengali delicacies but had within him a huge appetite and zest for the entire business of living. The death of his son in a road accident many years back, and his daughter more recently, devastated him but his indomitable spirit was always resurrecting itself and pressing his soul towards music.
Not many people know that Jagjit was actively involved in charity and was associated with various institutions that tackle social issues. He did not talk about these activities and till now, some of his near and dear ones remain ignorant about this particular facet of his personality. Friends will always remember him as an active hands-on citizen who was not above coming down from his apartment to make peace in neighbourly squabbles. He will also be fondly remembered for pitching in enthusiastically as an impromptu traffic-cop. In his younger days, I recall him frequently hopping out of his car, standing at crossroads and regulating traffic in the case of neighbourhood traffic snarls. Success truly sat lightly on the shoulders of this amazingly talented singer.
As a ghazal singer, he was unique. He carved and inhabited a remarkable niche in the music arena for almost 40 years. An incredible feat! The timbre of his voice, his whole-hearted dedication to rendering techniques and his deep understanding of poetry and melody set him apart from the others. He sang many songs for Hindi movies and most of them went on to become super-hits but at no time did Bollywood define Jagjit, rather the film industry found itself enriched by his occasional forays into film music. My two favourite works of Jagjit will always be his songs from the movies “Arth” and “Saath Saath”, the lyrics of which were respectively composed by my father-in-law, Kaifi Azmi, and me. The songs “Tum itna kyun muskura rahe ho” and “Yeh tera ghar yeh mera ghar” are hummed even today.
Jagjit was an era in himself. One of a kind. He leaves behind a void that no one can ever fill adequately. I have lost a friend, a partner and a kindred soul. Like all those other grieving music lovers out there, I too find myself devastated.