It has been 22 years since ghazal lovers last heard Chitra Singh sing — unless, of course, they dig out her previous recordings. Now, the singer has ended her self-imposed exile from limelight. Music has been the healer. Nearly, 10 months after the death of her husband, ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh, she has come out with an album of his eight unreleased compositions in collaboration with Sony Music. She still staunchly refrains from singing, but has relented to record a voice-over for it. Preceding each song, her narration throws light on her husband’s music and personality, and shares personal anecdotes.
The album titled The Master and His Magic, will be available in stores as well as digital platforms on Jagjit’s first death anniversary — October 10. This marks an interesting journey for some compositions of the maestro, which hitherto existed in oblivion. “A few months ago, Sanjiv Tayal, an Ahmedabad-based businessman and an ardent fan of Jagjitji, gave me a collection of his unreleased songs from various live performances across India,” says Chitra.
She talks passionately about the music of her husband — whom she once accompanied on stage and recording rooms as a singer and co-composer — to popularise the ghazal in India and make it commercially viable. Her high-pitched voice was considered to be the perfect complement to his rich, velvet voice till 1990, when she quit singing after they lost their son in an accident. Dressed in a multi-coloured churidar-kurta and a rust dupatta, she appears elegant — far from the forlorn look she had at Jagjit Singh’s funeral. And her voice gives away her admiration and awe for her husband, who she considers to be her “friend, guide and guru”.
This collection — featuring some of India’s greatest lyricists such as Wasim Bareilvi, Farag Roohvi and Mirza Ghalib — was a revelation to her. “Jagjitji was a prolific composer. He was a voracious reader of Urdu poetry and hand-picked those poems, which encompassed beautiful lyrics and deeper meaning. He composed music for them and often presented them at live concerts,” she says.
Out of Tayal’s collection, Chitra has chosen those tracks with similar tonal quality and voice. “These recordings are from different periods. As his voice matured with time, I did not want a great variation in the tonal quality,” she says. These live recordings had to be digitally remastered as unnecessary sounds were weeded out. This initiative is something Chitra believes she owes this to his fans. Still, there are many more of his compositions which are yet to be released. That apart, there are several early recordings of his music, currently unavailable in the market. She wants to make these accessible.
However, the project that perhaps tops her wishlist is to form a foundation in Jagjit’s name. Apart from preserving his memorabilia and music, the aim of the foundation will be to take care of children. “Jagjitji loved children. I would like to take nearly 20 children under the foundation’s care. But, everything depends on getting government grant, for which we have applied,” she concludes.