Jagjit Singh’s wife Chitra fights for late husband’s songs
On September 9, Singapore’s Esplanade hosted a sold-out show headed by singer-composer Shekhar Ravjiani of Vishal-Shekhar fame, for an audience dominated by the Indian diaspora soaking in memories of India as Ravjiani sang late Ghazal king Jagjit Singh’s iconic number, Tere baare mein jab socha nahin at the tribute.
Singh, who passed away at 70 in 2011, saw phenomenal success in a four-decade-long career, and was credited with polishing the Ghazal genre and bringing it global acclaim. He was also honoured with the Padma Bhushan and the Sahitya Akademi Award.
But his wife, Chitra Singh, also an accomplished singer who in the early years had shared the stage and acclaim with Jagjit Singh, is far from happy. She says the Singapore concert isn’t the only one that’s a thorn in her flesh. Earlier this year, similar performances surrounding her husband’s repertoire were organised in Mumbai, Delhi and Pune, and she had no role to play in their organisation, neither did the organising firm offer her the royalty she deserves.
“I’ve always wished that Jagjitji’s songs are sung out of love and admiration to keep his legacy alive, not to commercially exploit his hard-earned goodwill by those with failed careers. My lawyers noticed that Panache, the event organisers behind the tribute concerts in Mumbai and Delhi, not only used Jagjitji’s name with pictures, but also played a video of an earlier concert in the backdrop, while musicians performed live on stage. It was a gimmick to fool Jagjitji’s innocent fans and create a sensation. This is not done. I own rights to all of Jagjitji’s properties,” she said.
Chitra is locked in an ongoing battle with IPRS (Indian Performing Right Society), the body in-charge of disbursing royalty to performers, including singers, lyricists and music composers, owed to them and their kin when their music is played at public platforms. Considering Jagjit passed away in 2011, and the Copyright Act was amended with regards to the IPRS in 2012, the matters of royalty became more complicated for Chitra.
In February 2016, Chitra moved the Bombay High Court against IPRS for intellectual property infringement, but lost. This, she chased with another case in the Delhi High Court in March. That turned out in her favour with the court ruling that in the case of Jagjit Singh tribute performances, IPRS would no longer be the one to issue permissions.
She draws attention to what she considers a breach of faith by violinist Deepak Pandit and tabla player Abhinav Upadhaya, long-time colleagues of Jagjit Singh, having accompanied him at concerts for 25 years. Ironically, the two participated in the tribute concert held this April in Pune, and the Singapore event too.
“My lawyers made Deepak and Abhinav party in the case because they have acted as masterminds of the tribute shows. Despite the court’s ruling in March, Panache, Deepak and Abhinav went ahead with the Pune concert in April. IPRS was clearly instructed to cough up the royalty my husband deserved,” Chitra said. While she is happy to have his fans and other musicians keep her husband’s memories alive, she wants that the Jagjit Singh Foundation be the one to hand out licences and permissions for said tributes, and not IPRS. Chitra holds the post of chairperson of the non-profit foundation.
When mid-day contacted Abhinav Upadhyay, he defended himself saying the only purpose of organising tributes was to continue to promote the late singer’s music. “Of course, Chitraji should get all royalty that is due to her. But that matter is between her and IPRS. As far as seeking her permission for concerts goes, the songs that Jagjitji sang were written by various lyricists and composed by different musicians. She doesn’t have sole authority to grant permission on their behalf. I performed at the [Singapore] concert only to promote Jagjitji’s music. Perhaps Jagjit Singh Foundation should take an active part in keeping his music alive.”
Sheetal Madnani, senior manager, legal, IPRS, said, “Chitraji withdrew from the IPRS when she took matters to court. Owners of his music, like Sa Re Ga Ma [and other labels], have already intervened in the matter, because she doesn’t have any ownership of the songs. About the Singapore concert, there is a society similar to the IPRS in Singapore. Payments from the concert will go to that body. The IPRS hasn’t received any royalty from the said concert yet. We receive a cumulative amount generated from various live performances, radio channels, television, etc, twice a year.”
The organizers of the Singapore concert, Teamwork Productions, say The Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS),the show was declared with to whom the royalties for copyrights of shows are paid in Singapore.
Says See Ling Ling, Communications Specialist (Lead), Teamwork Productions Pte Ltd and The Esplanade Co Ltd, “COMPASS is a non-profit public company in Singapore created to protect and promote the copyright interests of composers, authors (and their heir) and publishers of musical works and their related lyrics. It administers the public performance, broadcast, diffusion and reproduction rights in music and musical associated literary works on behalf of its members. COMPASS deals specifically with music copyright and the usage of musical works. In addition to the control and ownership of music written and published locally, COMPASS has entered into reciprocal agreements with other affiliated societies worldwide, which means that COMPASS administers the works of composers, lyricists and publishers worldwide, representing almost all copyright musical works in the world. The details of the songs represented in this concert were duly submitted to COMPASS as well, which confirmed that the musical works were written by members of their different affiliate societies and that Jagjit Singh was a member of their affiliate society, PRS, to whom the royalties collected from this concert would be distributed to. When approached by the Jagjit Singh Foundation for the same issue, we had also referred them to COMPASS. We have made the required payment and the permit was duly issued to us prior to the concert.”