J A G J I T S I N G H
Ghazal king Jagjit Singh, the soul-stirring voice behind ‘Hazaron khwaishe aisi’, ‘Ye kaghaz ki kashti and ‘Jhuki jhuki si nazar’, has passed away but his ghazals will continue to enthrall the music lovers world over for many years to come. The 70-year-old singer alongwith his wife Chitra almost rediscovered the ghazal genre for common Indian in 70s and 80s. Singh, a Padma Bhushan recipient, was born in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, on February 8, 1941.
After graduation, he shifted base to Mumbai, to explore career in the world of music. In the next decade and half, he earned nationwide fame as ghazal singer and music composer. He sang in several languages, including Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Nepali.
His personal life, though, was marked by a tragedy: His only son, Vivek, died in a car accident in 1990 when he was just 18.
Singh was of the view that music was for inspiration and not for competition. “The moment one brings competition into music, the soul is lost.”
In a recent interview , he had regretted the fact that devotion and practice were disappearing from music at a time when everyone was running after instant fame.
“Music is a vast subject. There is mathematics and grammar in music. Unless one knows all of it, he cannot become good singer. One should learn music for 15 years before actually trying their hands at singing ghazals,” he had said.
Among his most memorable numbers were ‘Tum itna jo muskara rahe ho’, ‘Apni Marzi Se Kahan Apne Safar Ke Hum Hain’ and ‘Pehle Har Cheez Thi Apni Magar Ab Lagta Hai Apne Hi Ghar Mein Kisi Doosre Ghar Ke Hum Hain’.
His last concert was planned with Ghulam Ali on September 23 at Shanmukhananda Hall, Matunga, in Mumbai but was cancelled after he was taken ill the same day. The duo had given a stirring performance days ago in Delhi.
Singh began his musical journey singing ‘shabads’ or devotional songs in gurudwaras. He studied in DAV College, Jalandhar where his fee was waived because of his voice. He got a chance as professional singer in Jalandhar’s All India Radio station, which offered him six live music segments a year for small payments.
But success was a faraway dream for the singer, who came to Mumbai in 1961 to try his luck in playback singing but after some failed attempts, a dispirited Singh returned to Jalandhar.
Not one to give up, the ghazal maestro decided to give himself another chance and returned to the city of dreams in 1965. Singh managed to get two of his ghazals recorded with HMV. This was also the time when he decided to do away with his turban and hair.
However, playback singing continued to elude him and he earned by composing jingle, ad films and documentaries. He met his wife Chitra during one such recording and after two years, they decided to marry in 1970, which was also a turning point in his career.
Bollywood’s loss was ghazal’s gain, as Jagjit’s fresh voice infused a new life into the dying genre, which was confined to select admirers. In 1975, HMV asked Jagjit to compose his first ever LP album ‘The Unforgettables’.
The album featured Jagjit-Chitra ghazals, which were completely different. Singh is also credited with introducing modern instruments along with traditional sarangi and tabla in ghazals.
The next album Singh recorded was the Punjabi ‘Birha Da Sultan’, poems of Shiv Kumar Batalvi, which continue to be popular even today. Jagjit and Chitra then composed and sang the first-ever double album “Come Alive”.
Two more double albums “Live at Wembley” and “Live at Royal Albert Hall”, recorded in concert, followed in 1979 and 1982. Soon the couple were busy doing sold-out concerts.