Soil to Soul

Son of the Soil Jagjit Singh not only Became a Ghazal Legend but also did a lot for other Genres of Music 
S. D. Sharma

Bade shauq se sunn raha tha zamana, hum hi so gaye dastan kehte kehte…

With five decades of musical excellence, Jagjit Singh, the maestro who enraptured the world with his incredible contribution to film and ghazal singing, Punjabi folk, devotional, and popular music, would have regaled music lovers for more times to come but destiny willed otherwise.

Jagjit Singh moved to Mumbai in 1965 in search of a singing career
Jagjit Singh moved to Mumbai in 1965 in search of a singing career

Very few maestros have elicited the love and affection of music lovers the world over as Jagjit Singh, who continued to be in the limelight since his childhood days at Sriganganagar.

Jagjit Singh was born in Sriganganagar, Rajasthan. His father, Amar Singh Dhiman, a government employee, was a native of Dalla Behrampur in Punjab, and his mother, Bachchan Kaur, hailed from Ottallan village, Samrala. Out of his four sisters, only Inderjit Kaur is alive, while his elder brother Jaswant Singh and younger brother Kartar Singh are settled in Jaipur and Delhi, respectively.

He studied at Khalsa High School and later at Khalsa College, Ganganagar, topping in inter-science in college before joining DAV College, Jalandhar.

His father had engaged Pandit Shagun Chand Joshi and Ustad Jamal Khan for grooming Jagjit, but his music skills blossomed during his formative years at DAV, Jalandhar, and later at Kurukshetra University. He moved to Bollywood in 1965 and the rest is history.

“Some persons are born to lead and so was Jagjit, affectionately called Jeeti in our family,” says his elder brother Jaswant Singh (75). “As a school student, Jagjit was crowned Bul Bul-e-Rajashan and he maintained his tradition of excellence in music till the end,” adds Jaswant.

“Ours is a God-fearing family. Once our Satguru visited us and observed that his real name, Jagmohan, did not match his pratibhashali persona and renamed him Jagjit Singh, saying he was bound to win the world,” recalls Jaswant, a former senior education officer.

Jagjit Singh straddled across a Bullet motorcycle behind his father
Jagjit Singh straddled across a Bullet motorcycle behind his father

Jagjit Singh was a complete artiste with a perfect understanding of the deepest emotions inherent in poetry, song or blank verse and believed that poetry lay at the heart of a ghazal, a film song or any other composition. “Jagjit Singh was completely involved in the production of his over 50 albums and film songs, and he left nothing to chance,” says Nida Fazli, a popular film lyricist. “The film industry has lost a gem of a person and the loss is certainly irreparable.”

Unable to come to terms with the tragedy, Hans Raj Hans, the rajgayak of Punjab, who was with Chitra at Lilavati Hospital a little before Jagjit Singh’s demise, termed it as “a great loss.” Recalling his close association with the maestro while being a judge for reality show Mohe Rang Lay on Pragya channel for three months and other projects, he describes him as an institution in himself. “During the past 50 years, I have never come across a maestro with such a profound depth of knowledge of music, a soulful voice with khairaj so prominent. I am indebted to the babbar sher of Punjab, who had taken music, particularly the ghazal, to such a spectacular level on the world stage. Such pioneers of music are born once in a span of centuries,” feels Hans, a prominent sufi, folk and playback singer.

The singer in front of a portrait of his late son Vivek Singh in Chandigarh
The singer in front of a portrait of his late son Vivek Singh in Chandigarh Photo: Vinay Malik 

A foremost disciple of Jagjit Singh and eminent ghazal singer, Vinod Sehgal, who spent 24 years with his guru, is a custodian of his legacy. A simple person from Ambala, Vinod could sing in 58 films and serials under the blessed tutelage of Jagjit Singh and looked upon him as his godfather. Says Vinod, “I was the only disciple who shared the stage with Jagjitji and Chitraji during the tours in the UK, the USA and other countries. Guruji immortalised my voice in serials like Mirza Ghalib, Kahkashan, Ravan and others,” says the shattered disciple.

Equally admiring of the gayaki and human values of the legendary Jagjit Singh, Dolly Guleria, acclaimed folk and ghazal singer, remembers their family association with him and enjoying of his ghazal concerts at Delhi. “He was very disciplined and serious, but humorous during leisure time. He always addressed me as a ‘moti with bareek voice,” shares Dolly. He did a lot for promoting saaf-suthri Punjabi gayaki, she adds.

Jagjit Singh and Chitra (second from L) enjoy some time with family
Jagjit Singh and Chitra (second from L) enjoy some time with family

“Jagjit Singh always rued the fact that while the musical arts in Punjab had been at the top, with legends like Bade Gulam Ali Khan, K. L. Saigal and others reigning supreme, somehow the film industry in Punjab had not come of age,” recalls Neena Tiwana, a former Punjabi actress and wife of thespian Harpal Tiwana. Jagjit had scored music for her two hit films Laung da Lishakara and Deeva Bale Saari Raat, and certain plays. “A founder trustee of the Harpal Tiwana Foundation, Jagjit Singh was to perform on October 13 at the opening ceremony of the Rs 14.3-crore foundation a Patiala,” says Neena with a tinge of sadness.

His childhood friend and close family associate, Ashok Bhalla, a Ludhiana businessman, who was witness to the rise of the maestro from a mediocre background, remembers that Jagjit fought the adversities of life with courage and conviction. Recalling the sudden death of his only son Vivek on July 28, 1994, he says, “Jagjit accepted it as the will of WaheGuru and continued to serve humanity with his melody, leanings towards devotional music, while Chitra chose to abandon it.  Despite attaining celebrity status Jagjit remained the same old guy for us, cracking jokes and sharing our joys and sorrows alike.”

The Sangeet Natak Akademi chairperson and an old associate of Jagjit Singh, Kamal Tewari, prominent vocalist and  flautist Ravinder Singh, who had performed with him on many occasions, call it an “irreparable loss.” “The maestro has left behind an eternal treasure of music to be relished for centuries to come,” they feel.

Pandit Yashpaul, an Agra gharana stalwart, and Vijay Vashisht of All India Radio were his old associates from DAV College, Jalandhar.

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