Jagjit (jag ko jeetne wala- One who wins over the world) Singh surely lived up to his name. He won the audience world over with his vocal prowess. It’s hard to believe that he is no more with us. Jagjit Singh, the ghazal icon who mesmerised the music lovers across the globe with his deep, sonorous voice over the past four decades, passed away October 11, 2011 after being hospitalised in a Bombay hospital for more than 2 weeks. He suffered a severe brain haemorrhage prior to being hospitalised. He was 70. His soulful voice had a certain X-factor that connected with the listeners and touched the heart. His mellifluous vocals gave sukoon (peace) to the listeners. His sudden demise marks the end of an era in the Indian music.
My memories of this legend go back to my college days at the Delhi University in late 80s , where I watched him perform a couple of times and I simply fell in love with his voice. “Sarakti Jaye he rukh se nakaab”, “Thai Din Na Jawaani” were my favourites. For me, he just made the connection. I was fortunate to watch him when he came to New Zealand in 2005. His rendition of “Hum to hai pardes main” brought tears into my eyes-As I was so far away from my motherland, yet had that huge love for my motherland.
A Sikh by religion, Jagjit was born in Sriganganagar, Rajasthan. A brilliant student academically with a post graduate degree in history, music was always his first love. He trained for 8-10 years and learnt the finer nuances of the Indian classical music, Thumri, Khayal, Dhrupad from Ustad Jamaal Khan. Jagjit Singh was instrumental in popularising the genre of ghazal gayaki. He was responsible for simplifying ghazals and its merger with geet, hence making it more accessible to the common man. He is also credited with the addition of western instruments while retaining the traditional sanctity with tabla, harmonium and stringed instruments, in the rendition of ghazals.
Jagjit Singh has recorded more than 80 albums in his illustrious career, which is a record by itself, and he has sung in eight different languages: Hindi, English, Punjabi, Nepali, Sindhi ,Gujrati, Bengali and Urdu. He has performed some really popular numbers for Bollywood movies like ‘Arth’, ‘Saath-Saath’and ‘Prem Geet’ during 1980s. He even composed the music for ‘Prem Geet’ in 1981. Who can forget the classic “Honton se choo lo tum”, “Tumko dekha to yeh khyaal aaya”, “Pyaar mujhse jo kiya tumne”, “Jhuki jhuki si nazar”, “Yeh tera ghar”, just to name a few. The beauty of these songs is the fact that they are timeless. Even after thirty years, they are still equally desirable and hummable, as they were before. He also sang for some classic tele serials as “Mirza Ghalib” and “Kahkashan”. His versatility as an artiste emerges from the fact that he even has many devotional songs and albums to his credit. “Hey Ram”, “Hare Krishna” just to name a few, always had a soothing effect on the listeners. Jagjit and his wife Chitra formed an awesome combination in the 70s and 80s that churned out many unforgettable albums and tracks, which still remain fresh in our memories, even after so many years. “Unforgettables”, “Adaa” “Someone Somewhere”, “Visions”, “Desires” ,”Ecstasies” were some of the popular ones. Jagjit Singh, along with Chitra Singh, is also credited with using “digital multi-track recording” for his 1987 album “Beyond Time”. This was the first time ever in the history of Indian music that such a feat was accomplished.
The tragic death of their son Vivek in 1990 was quite a blow for the Singhs. So much so that Chitra called it quits to a successful singing career. But all credit to Jagjit, who lifted himself up once again, after lying low for a while. He is the only Indian musician who has also sung and composed music for poetry written by former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee: ‘Nayi Disha’ in 1999 and ‘Samvedna’ in 2002.
It came as no surprise that the Indian government bestowed its third highest civilian honour, Padma Bhushan, in 2003 on Jagjit Singh saab, for his immense contribution to Indian music and popularising ghazal gayaki among music lovers. With his consistent performance over the years, he was the most successful ghazal singer of the Indian music commercially. His voice was once in a lifetime voice. The melodious and soulful vocals of Jagjit Singh will always resonate in our hearts. His sudden demise has left a void that will be hard to fill. He surely leaves behind an unparalleled legacy. As the lyrics of one of his ghazals goes “Baat Niklegi Aur Door Talak Jayegz”, surely baat nikli aur door tak pahunchi, i.e the power of his music flew from his vocal chords and reached out to lonely hearts far and wide. May his soul rest in peace. We will miss you, Jagjit Singh saab.
By: Perdy Mohindru