Farewell Jagjit, My Friend

Dr. Denton Cooley (third from right ) listening to Jagjit Singh in real Indian style in Mumbai

By Dr. Virendra Mathur

HOUSTON: It is with a very heavy heart that I am trying to write a few words about someone whose skills, talent, liveliness, humor, personality and optimism have had such a powerful impact on my life. Ever since we learnt about his serious illness two weeks ago, I, like millions more have been praying for his recovery even though I realized the gravity of the situation. Today, learning of his passing away was still a terrible shock. This is a loss that cannot be fathomed, for the millions and millions of music lovers spread over all the continents that have been mesmerized and enchanted by his extremely sweet and melodious voice.

On his most recent Houston visit, Jagjit Singh jokingly checks good friend, Dr. Virendra Mathur’s heart worrying that the doctor is neglecting his own while taking care of everyone else’s

I still remember like yesterday the evening of May 3, 1980 when in Cullen Hall of University of Houston, Meena Datt introduced the very exciting, young and romantic couple from India “Jagjit and Chitra Singh” and Houston heard for the first time the most wonderful and melodious voice of this great singer. He was not very much known in Houston at that time and therefore his impact was unbelievable. Each and everyone became his fan instantly and we all have enjoyed his live concerts throughout the last 30 years besides his recordings on LPs, Cassettes, Videos and CDs. I used to purchase every new recording that was released in the 80s as soon as I heard about it and some of his live recordings were absolutely fabulous and are true gems even today. Soon after his arrival on the scene, the world of Indian music changed, the Ghazals which were considered to be interesting only for a select few overnight became the “in” thing for the commoners as well as for the elites and he transformed the Ghazals in such a fashion that they became the most popular form of Hindustani music. He owned the undisputed title of “The King of Ghazals”. He has created music, composed for many movies and trained and helped many young emerging musicians to launch their careers. The first record that made Talat Aziz, who was in Houston recently, famous was “Jagjit Singh presents Talat Aziz”

I had the good fortune to know him quite well and every time he came to Houston and many times in India, I not only enjoyed his live concert but had the occasion to spend some time with him and that is where I learnt how simple and down to earth this world famous legend was. Even when his health condition challenged him, he always had a very optimistic outlook and never revealed any real anxiety if he had it at all. As you probably know, he was scheduled for a concert in Mumbai, the day he got sick and hospitalized.

During one of his recent visits to Houston in 2009, during a lunch with a small gathering, everyone was getting his photo taken with him and when I was standing with him, he says “you check the hearts of everyone, but who checks your heart ?; he promptly proceeded to check my heart by placing his hand over my heart and feeling my pulse”. That was Jagjit Singh ! As I was driving him back to his hotel another time, he noticed that five of the CDs in my car were those of his Bhajans, which I love besides his Ghazals,  he did not hesitate to ask me why not all six and I had no answer  and he laughed profusely.

I will miss his music very much and it is such an irony that God took him away from us when he was still at his prime. However, I take solace in the thought that music never dies and Jagjit Singh will live forever through his music.

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