Renowned ghazal singer Jagjit Singh died in Mumbai early on Monday, more than a fortnight after he suffered a brain haemorrhage. He was 70. Singh was in critical condition after an operation at the city’s Lilavati hospital on Sept 23. A hospital statement said Singh died at 8.10 a.m.
Credited with popularising the ghazal genre and making it accessible to the masses, Singh cut more than 40 private albums and sang for innumerable Bollywood films, influencing an entire generation of music lovers.
His songs from movies like “Arth” and “Saath Saath” are evergreen favourites.
“It’s horrible,” singer Usha Uthup told NDTV, her voice choking. “I cannot believe we are talking of him in the past. He was an incredible human being.”
Singh was supposed to perform with singer Ghulam Ali in Mumbai when he was rushed to hospital.
A Tribute to the inimitable artist
Stirring millions of hearts with his soulful numbers ‘Jhuki jhuki si nazar’ and ‘Kaagaz ki kashti’, ghazal king Jagit Singh infused a new life in the dying genre of music in the seventies and carved a niche for himself in Bollywood.
The pain and melancholy in his voice gave vent to the feelings of many a lonely heart.
Conjuring up hits like yeh zindagi kisi aur ki, mere naam ka koi aur hai, Patta-patta boota-boota haal hamaara jaane hai, Hontho se chhoo lo tum, Tum ko dekha, Hazaar baar ruke ham and hazaar baar chale, Singh made a mark during the ’70s when the ghazal scene was dominated by well-established names like Noor Jehan, Malika Pukhraj, Begum Akhtar, Talat Mahmood and Mehdi Hassan.
The voice behind the timeless ghazals was inspired by singers like K L Sehgal, Talat Mahmood, Abdul Karim Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Amir Khan.
One of the most successful and loved artistes of his time, he has left behind a huge body of work in a career spanning five decades, including 80 albums.
Often called the ‘Ghazal King’ by his fans and peers, Jagjit was born on February 8, 1941 in Sriganganagar, Rajasthan, to Amar Singh Dhiman, a government employee, and Bachan Kaur. He had four sisters and two brothers and was called Jeet by his family.
He was raised as a Sikh by religion. His birth name was Jagmohan but his Sikh father rechristened him as Jagjit following the advice of his guru.
It was his father, who first recognised his son’s talent. He sent young Jagjit to learn the nuances of music under a blind teacher, Pandit Chhaganlal Sharma. He later trained under Ustad Jamal Khan of Sainia gharana for six-years and gained knowledge in Khayal, Thumri and Dhrupad forms.
Singh was of the view that music was for inspiration and not for competition. “The moment one brings competition into music, the soul is lost.”
In a recent interview to PTI, he had regretted the fact that devotion and practice were disappearing from music at a time when everyone was running after instant fame.
“Music is a vast subject. There is mathematics and grammar in music. Unless one knows all of it, he cannot become good singer. One should learn music for 15 years before actually trying their hands at singing ghazals,” he had said.
Among his most memorable numbers were Tum itna jo muskara rahe ho, Apni Marzi Se Kahan Apne Safar Ke Hum Hain and Pehle Har Cheez Thi Apni Magar Ab Lagta Hai Apne Hi Ghar Mein Kisi Doosre Ghar Ke Hum Hain.
His last concert was planned with Ghulam Ali on September 23 at Shanmukhananda Hall, Matunga, in Mumbai but was cancelled after he was taken ill the same day. The duo had given a stirring performance days ago in Delhi.
Singh began his musical journey singing ‘shabads’ or devotional songs in gurudwaras. He studied in DAV College, Jalandhar where his fee was waived because of his voice. He got a chance as professional singer in Jalandhar’s All India Radio station, which offered him six live music segments a year for small payments.
But success was a faraway dream for the singer, who came to Mumbai in 1961 to try his luck in playback singing but after some failed attempts, a dispirited Singh returned to Jalandhar.
Not one to give up, the ghazal maestro decided to give himself another chance and returned to the city of dreams in 1965. Singh managed to get two of his ghazals recorded with HMV. This was also the time when he decided to do away with his turban and hair. However, playback singing continued to elude him and he earned by composing jingle, ad films and documentaries. He met his wife Chitra during one such recording and after two years, they decided to marry in 1970, which was also a turning point in his career.
Bollywood’s loss was ghazal’s gain, as Jagjit’s fresh voice infused a new life into the dying genre, which was confined to select admirers. In 1975, HMV asked Jagjit to compose his first ever LP album ‘The Unforgettables’. The album featured Jagjit-Chitra ghazals, which were completely different.