Jagjit Singh Excelled in Bringing Ghazals to the Mainstream

Legendary ghazal exponent Jagjit Singh’s demise in Mumbai on Monday has left the music fraternity in the city in a state of shock and sorrow.

The city, renowned for patronising Carnatic music, has a surprisingly good number of ghazal fans. This was evident when Jagjit Singh performed to a packed gallery during the Dasara concerts at the Mysore palace in 2009.

Renowned flautist in Hindustani Pandit Ravi Shankar Mishra, was one of the keen fans of Jagjit Singh who made it sure to be at the concert here two years ago. He recalled his interaction with the ghazal legend during the latter’s visit.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Mishra said Jagjit Singh and his ensemble of musicians were already at the palace and resting in the lounge when he approached them. “I went up to Jagjit Singh and introduced myself, and he blessed me. On learning that my guru was Pandit Nityananda Haldipur, he said he knew him and that worked as an ice-breaker,” he recalled.

“We spent about 15 to 20 minutes, and I explained to him the importance of Mysore Dasara and its significance. He said he had heard so much about it and considered it a pleasure and a privilege to perform at the palace,” said Mr. Mishra. Jagjit Singh’s performance was scheduled soon after the performance by legendary flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. He learnt that Mr. Chaurasia was already on the stage and the ghazal concert was scheduled immediately afterwards.

At this, Jagjit Singh exclaimed: “Yaar, aaj bahut sambhal ke gana padega kyonki Hariprasadji bhi hein [Today, I will have to sing carefully as Hariprasadji is also present],” Mr. Mishra recalled.

When Jagjit Singh’s concert commenced, Mr. Chaurasia was also in the audience for some time. For the people of Mysore, it was a special occasion as two stalwarts of music were at the venue.

Jagjit Singh rendered some of his well-known ghazals, including ‘Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti’, which left the audience asking for more. When the concert concluded way beyond the schedule time, youngsters were seeking autographs.


Shanthala Vattam, who is one of the few ghazal singers from this part of the State, was shocked on hearing about maestro’s death.

“Though I have never met Jagjit Singh and was out of station when he performed in Mysore, he was one of the important source of inspiration for me. I love his music for many reasons, but it was the soulful singing that inspired me apart from the meaningful lyrics,” said Ms. Vattam, who has also learnt Hindustani classical music under Gangubai Hangal.

Ms. Vattam opined that the ghazals tend to become popular where the audience is learned, and can appreciate the nuances of the subtle lyrics. “The artiste does not usually enlighten the audience or help bring out the beauty of the genre. It was here that Jagjit Singh excelled and helped bring ghazal to the mainstream,” she said.


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