Share them with others when I’m gone

jagjit-singh-nice-look-photoTwenty two years of memories and recordings from hundreds of concerts all over the world; Jagjit Singh left quite a bit behind with Raja Sehgal.

“He was close family to me,” Raja, an award-winning sound designer in London, said in an interview. “Since 1987, I did the sound for his live shows when he toured the world. It wasn’t a job; it was a part of life. Even now, there isn’t a day when he is not playing in my car.”

These days, Raja is busy doing what he can to further the legacy of inarguably the most loved ghazal singer of all time. In the weeks to come, he hopes to assist Chitra in her efforts to keep the memories of her husband alive.

“I was going through old recordings when I realized that there was so much in there that people had not heard before. I uploaded some of them on YouTube and within a little more than a week, it received more than 100,000 hits. Yesterday alone, I got about 500 emails from fans around the world.”

“Uncle trusted me with the recordings and I have never given it to anyone, not even my mother,” Raja said. “He used to tell me, ‘share them with others when I am gone.’ I will never do anything commercially with the recordings, but I will do all I can to keep his legacy alive. I think the recordings remained with me for a reason.”

As he sifts through countless boxes containing recordings from concerts, memories of the man and the singer come flooding back. “I grew up with his music,” said Raja. “My mother is one of his biggest fans and knew him from his early Punjab days. I remember gate crashing his concerts when I was a teenager; I used to go behind stage to meet uncle and Chitra aunty.”

Sound recording caught his fancy when he was still a teen and by 18, Raja was recording on his own. He remembers being all of 20 when he got his first chance to record one of the greatest voices music has known.

“Uncle rang me up when he was here for one of his world tours,” he said. “And I ended up behind the sound desk at the Wembley Conference Center. It was as simple as that. I was young, but he trusted my ability; that was massive.”

“Recording uncle live was a hobby that started with one show and went on and on,” Raja recalled. “He used to tour the U.S., UK and Europe every two years and I was with him for every show. When he was performing in the U.S., I would work from Monday to Friday, catch the evening flight from London to the city where he was performing, and then come back in time for work on Monday.”

“I remember a concert in Los Angeles,” Raja said. “I had arrived only hours earlier from London and uncle knew that I had not been able to sleep much. He was singing a ghazal and during a musical interlude, he asked, ‘Raja…sleeping?'”

“Uncle loved performing at the Wembley Conference Center and the Royal Festival Hall. Apart from UK, U.S., Australia and the Middle East, we did shows even in places such as Paris, Denhaag and Brussels. In some places, we wouldn’t see any Indians on the street, but the hall would be packed in the evening. He had fans everywhere.”

“Uncle loved being with people who loved his music. After shows, he would meet them, even if he wasn’t feeling well. People used to give him books of hand written poetry. I often saw him going through the poetry on car and plane journeys.”

Raja believes the jokes in Jagjit’s concerts were there for a reason. “I knew him well enough to know where his mind was when he was singing a particular song.  He used to come up with random jokes midway through the most emotional of songs; I think it was his way of taking his mind away from a sad thought and perking up the mood of the audience.”

The man who sang about life, losses and grief was a huge fan of black and white western movies, Raja, who is a director and sound designer at Grand Central Recording Studios in London, revealed. “He used to watch sports a lot too; American football, rugby, baseball; it did not matter. He enjoyed sightseeing and shopping as well.”

The end, when it came, left Raja in shock. “The last concert we did was in Mauritius; he sang beautifully there. We toured Australia and Europe as well in 2011. We used to tell him that he was looking tired, but Uncle kept on singing; he wanted to do 70 concerts in a year. He left on a high and that is not something you can say about many others.”

Raja is optimistic that most of Jagjit’s unreleased songs will eventually find a larger audience. “Chitra aunty is trying hard to sell the recordings to music companies, but releasing albums is difficult these days.” Raja said. “Music companies are wary because once an album is released, it is ripped off. Aunty has a few ideas; we will see what happens.”

One thing that he does know is that a chapter in his life has ended. “I am busy mixing major film trailers for Hollywood and European films; I am also doing many international commercial campaigns. I don’t want to do the sound for any other singer. No one can match the tonality of uncle’s voice and the way he brings words so effortlessly to life. No one can be the man he was; he was much more than just the music.”

DC | Arun Sivasankaran | 10th Oct 2013

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2 thoughts on “Share them with others when I’m gone

  1. Raja ji,
    thanks for sharing your experience with Jagjeetji, although I have never met him personally but there is some relation he had made through his music and seamless performances which will never end. I start listening to him in 2000 during my college years, I have missed his contribution to the mankind in past years even his music is alive in the form of his singing. I just confess that I was born to late.

    I miss him.

    Please keep sharing those special moments about his life. I know they went through unbearable pain in their lives but do you have any memories how they all were spending time when Vivek was alive from his childhood.

    Regards
    Pankaj

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