Written by Sanjeev Kohli
DEKHTE HI DEKHTE DUNIYA SE MAIN UTH JAOONGA
DEKHTI KI DEKHTI RAH JAAYEGI DUNIYA MUJHE
JAGJITJI’s sudden demise has stunned the world… we are still in a state of disbelief.
But the echoes of his magical voice will ring in our ears forever… the impact of his charismatic persona will haunt us forever.
We can only seek solace in the fact that he went in full glory… not many artistes achieve immortality when at the peak of their art, the pinnacle of their careers… Jagjitji will always rule from the top!
Unbelievable outpouring of grief and anguish from a legion of fans all over the world has been overwhelming… prayers when there was still hope, shocked despair when the inevitable happened… the media, celebrities, colleagues and more so, the common man, has expressed so much love and reverence for the genius… in person, on the internet, on social networking sites… just amplifies how many lives Jagjitji touched… his voice had become a part of our lives.
And he achieved this only by the magic of his indisputable talent… in a time when film music held full sway, when there was very little media and promotion… without the support of the visual medium and the reach of films, he became the crusader for a new era of non film music… with just his harmonium, his resonant voice and Chitraji with him, he created a revolution… the Ghazal wave swept the nation like a tsunami, and created a whole new generation of artistes, a lifestyle of concerts and mehfils… a whole new non film music industry! And this he sustained for four decades with a lot of initial struggle and strife, but without ever compromising his principles and high standard and quality of music!
It has been my good fortune that I was able to share a few moments with him on his iconic journey, and those indelible moments have become an integral part of my life.
My first ever meeting with Jagjitji
The incident is vivid in my memory. It was 1966 or 67, and I was 10/11 years old.
Jagjitji was new in Bombay, and was an admirer of the music of my dad, the late Madan Mohan.
One rain drenched evening, my Dad told me that he was expecting a visitor and I should make him comfortable, while my parents were getting ready to attend a big social party. Madanji had asked the young aspiring singer to accompany them and sing at the party, where many music connoisseurs were expected and would appreciate his talent.
I opened the door to a young, handsome but fully drenched gentleman, who nervously said to me “Beta, meri sandal baarish mein kharab ho gayi hai… kuch kar sakte ho?”. I quickly went to my Dad’s footwear cabinet, which coincidentally was in my room, and found a pair of his favourite sandals, for the young Jagjitji to wear. And later that evening, the relieved artiste, with Madanji’s harmonium as his only accompanying instrument, was widely appreciated by the aficionados for his mellifluous renditions…
Years later, Jagjitji would joke with me… “Yaar, mere liye woh joote aur harmomium lucky rahe!”. And wasn’t it a sign of times to come? Madanji was acknowledged for his contribution to ghazals in films and often called ‘the ghazal king’. Years later, Jagjitji indeed ‘stepped into Madanji’s shoes’, and was hailed as the Ghazal King!!!
Madanji’s first death anniversary
For Madanji’s first death anniversary on July 1976, our family and friends suggested we commemorate the event with a musical get-together in his memory. Lataji recommended, “Madan bhaiya, hamesha ek naye artiste, Jagjit Singh ki bahut tareef karte the, to kyon na unhi se kaha jaaye ki woh gaayen?”.
And the young Jagjit Singh regaled the guests with choicest ghazals, including many from Madanji’s repertoire, for almost 4 to 5 hours, and won the hearts of one and all that evening.
And just a few days later the first LP of Jagjitji and Chitraji was released…
they became The Unforgettables and we all became their ardent fans!
Working with Jagjitji
Between 1976 and 1979, Jagjitji had risen like a colossus… and even film music enthusiasts became ghazal fans and came alive with the milestones created by the Jagjit- Chitra duo.
When on my first job, I joined Polydor as the A&R Manager in 1979, I could not believe my luck that the first project I produced had Jagjitji at the helm… He composed six wonderful ghazals for the album “JAGJIT SINGH presents TALAT AZIZ”… For a young novice like me, it was an experience of a lifetime!!
In those days, he was a contracted artiste with HMV and thus, while he could compose, he could not sing for a non film album for another label… But, I even had the privilege to be part of a film project, MAIN AUR MERI TANHAI, which had some memorable ghazals sung and composed by Jagjitji and Chitraji.
In the period 1976 to 1984, very few albums of Jagjitji released… firstly because HMV did less non film recordings as a policy and also because Jagjitji did not want to compromise on his quality with too many releases… he believed the fans should yearn for more.
When I joined HMV in 1984, his relationship with HMV was not at its best and with new labels entering the market, he was receiving unbelievable offers to do projects with them and was reluctant to renew a contract with HMV.
The biggest challenge for me, as soon as I joined HMV, was to convince him to sign a new contract… I would like to believe that he meant it when he said to me, “sirf tumhare liye hum yeh kar rahe hain!”.
And in the next 8 years, we released almost 15 new albums of the super-star duo.
Ecstasies, Passions, A Sound Affair, Echoes, Hope, Someone Somewhere, Kahkashan, Mirza Ghalib, Rare Gems and of course Beyond Time were some of the blockbusters.
Most of the albums were launched at concert events all over India and I got the opportunity of traveling with them. I was a witness to the craze Jagjit-Chitra enjoyed… fans in large numbers lined up at airports to welcome them… they were no less than film stars!! And their albums sold much more than the film soundtracks of the time… it was a Jagjit-Chitra wave!
Throughout this period, he was always very indulgent towards me… even if he was upset with the Company for some reason, he would never make me feel personally responsible. While he would call me ‘Sanjeev’ most often, some days, during work, he would switch to ‘Kohli Saab’, and when I would respectfully object to this formality, he would teasingly say, “Ab to aap hamare boss ho gaye hain!”. Thereafter, each time he would not call me by my first name, I knew he was upset with the Company about something!
And probably his respect for my Dad always influenced his making me feel special, even in business and professional dealings. Every two or three years, when the HMV contract was to be renewed, I would be very nervous that he would refuse, as more and more attractive offers were coming his way… but each time, after the initial routine he would sign it, saying, “Tum jo paper doge, main sign kar loonga, mujhe tumpe vishwas hai”.
I knew, often, he went against his own policies, just so that I would not be disappointed… I remember how he agreed to be the leading light at a festival of ghazals I was keen to organize, when Ghulam Ali came to India in the initial years… and with the two of them being top draw and other leading ghazal singers also joining them, what an event the two day Jashn-e-Ghazal turned out to be!
I was keen to release on CD a compilation of the Jagjit-Chitra earliest recordings done for EPs in the years before The Unforgettables… not many of their fans had heard these memorable ghazals… He was reluctant at first, as he was concerned that they would sound dated and if the mono recordings with sparse music would appeal… but then he joined my enthusiasm and enjoyed going down memory lane, even recording a commentary for the CD, which we titled Rare Gems.
And, of course, the memorable experience of the Beyond Time project. It was his vision to do a very modern sounding album with foreign musicians along with his usual set of Indian musicians, record it digitally at a world class studio and present a ‘never before’ sound. We selected the Jacob’s Studio in England, which was in the beautiful countryside and had a live-in facility… the entire crew, including all musicians and engineers lived on the premises, and recordings happened through a 24 hour period, with rotating engineers…. Jagjitji worked like a man possessed day and night for the 2 week schedule… he would compose each music piece himself, write the score for each musician himself, and wowed the foreign engineers and musicians with his genius… Beyond Time, the first Indian digital recording, remains one of the finest ghazal albums ever! It was released at a grand event attended by all leading HMV artistes, including the late Talat Mahmood.
And then his dream project… he would often tell me that he had kept some exclusive tunes aside only for Lataji to sing… it was his very keen desire to compose for her, and create some memorable ghazals as the Madanji – Lataji combination had done in films… It also became my mission to somehow have this recording done.
It was initially difficult as Lataji was skeptical, for various reasons… primarily, she was very busy with her film songs and concerts, also she did very few non film recordings and was not sure if she would be able to give the project the dedicated time it merited… Also, she felt that since fans loved Jagjit-Chitra the duo, maybe they would find any other combination odd… but most of all, since they had never worked together, there were apprehensions.
Their first meeting which kept getting put off, was finally engineered… Jagjitji had jokingly told me that whenever Lataji was casually visiting my place, I should just call him and he would ‘coincidentally drop in and be surprised to find her there’… and that’s exactly how it happened… of course, Lataji caught on, and seeing how keen we were, and after hearing the compositions, she just couldn’t help but agree to embark on the project! Recordings commenced in 1989.
The project was not easy to accomplish… two leading artistes, each with different styles of working, different singing styles… Lataji’s very busy schedules and a spell of ill health kept delaying recordings. While the project was midway I went for a 2/3 year work stint to London and this grounded the project. Jagjitji would call me often, and insist I fly down periodically just for the recordings… HMV was very keen on the project, so I was regularly on board a flight to Bombay to catalyse it further. Chitraji was supportive throughout as she was aware how keen Jagjitji was to make this happen.
Of course in 1990, the devastating personal tragedy that befell Jagjitji and Chitraji, naturally delayed recordings further.
I remember Jagjitji would often tell me that a ‘sher’ from one of the Sajda ghazals was his favourite:
Zindagi Tujhse Har Ek Saans Pe Samjhauta Karoon
Shauk Jeene Ka Hai Magar Itna To Nahin
Sajda was released at a grand function in January 1992, attended by various luminaries… and on Lataji’s insistence, the album was officially launched by Chitraji herself… in fact, that was the first time Chitraji went to a public event, after a year and a half!
Their only son, Vivek (Babu), met with a fatal accident in July 1990… shattering for the doting parents, and also for all who had spent time with the wonderful boy!! As is well known, this tragedy had far reaching effects… Chitraji never sang again… Jagjitji went solo, and immersed himself even more in keeping busy with his music.
A few months later, when HMV was set to release the new Jagjit-Chitra recording that had been completed before the tragedy, the title ‘Someone Somewhere…’, was suggested by the family… it was to be dedicated to dear Vivek.
Jagjitji was insistent that the album cover should just have the title and a picture of Vivek… nothing else! No company logos… not even the name ‘Jagjit and Chitra Singh’. This met with obvious resistance from HMV… as they felt it would be difficult for the album to be noticed… how would it sell, if nobody knew who the artistes were, what the contents were… It was not the time to reason with Jagjitji, and I had to take the responsibility in the matter… HMV relented and the conviction of Jagjitji and the loyal following he commanded ensured that it was one of their most successful albums… the fans just spread the word, and rushed to buy the album, not only for its content but as an expression of solidarity for their favourite singing duo.
Interactions in later years
When I decided to leave the music business in mid 90’s, Jagjitji was rather unhappy… but supportive nevertheless… always suggesting new openings and opportunities for me, which I would always tactfully decline… and he would chide me for doing so!
Even though, in that period, we did not interact as much as before, a very proud moment for me was when he chose me to introduce him at his prestigious Silver Jubilee commemoration at a grand event. It was an honour to relive the journey of the great artiste in the presence of distinguished luminaries and an audience of thousands of diehard fans… Just his approving smile, when I finished my presentation, was enough for me… it was his seal of appreciation!
Later, he spent hours shooting for two episodes of a TV programme that I produced, Meri Pasand, in which he spoke feelingly about his favourite film composers and his favourite songs… he paid glowing tributes to Madanji, and an excerpt of it is in the video link below.
Jagjitji sang a Madanji composition for the Veer-Zaara album in 2004
Jagjitji, despite being a Madanji admirer and having been in close contact with him in early years, never had the opportunity of actually recording an original Madanji composition.
Many years later, in 2004, when Madanji’s unused tunes were being recorded for Veer-Zaara, there were many that could not be used in the film since tunes for the required song situations had already been selected. However, just for the CD, on my request, Yashji agreed to record two additional tunes.
As a follow up to my memorable experience with Sajda, I was very keen on a Lataji – Jagjitji duet, as it would also be a rare treasure for their fans as well as Madanji fans.
Jagjitji was very excited about this and expressed his keenness to use Madanji’s harmonium (which he had earlier used almost 45 years ago!), during the recording.
And was I nervous!! I wondered if he, being the master arranger that he was, would approve of the music track that we had put together!
He smiled through the recording… forced me to sing the song to him with the required nuances… and indulged me throughout… while, also repeatedly asking “Am I doing justice to Madanji?”
And Tum Paas Aa Rahe Ho, became the only composition of Madanji sung by Jagjit Singh, and will now be the last duet sung by Lataji and Jagjitji.
There are so many unforgettable memories, but some best remain personal and unshared.
While at work he was always serious and very disciplined, in personal moments Jagjitji’s wonderful sense of humour kept us smiling all the while.
Of course his jokes were loved even by his fans and in his concerts he would often ask the audience “ab agli ghazal gaaoon, ya joke sunna hai?”. The audiences just loved it!! I would jokingly often tell him that we should do an album of jokes narrated by him… such was his prowess in making the joke even funnier than it was!!
When during a Chinese meal, if we would ask for ‘soya’ sauce, he would next time pass a different sauce and say, “have the ‘jaaga’ sauce instead!”. Meals became melas with Jagjitji for company! Even the menu for lunches during recordings were planned by him… he would teasingly ask at the very beginning. “Khaane ke liye aaj budget hai?”… it was gaana and khaana, all the way!
In the early years, all Jagjit-Chitra albums had English titles… most often we decided these with Chitraji. Once, when he named his horse ‘A Sound Affair’, he jokingly said, “aap log titles sochte raho, mujhe ghodon ke naam mil jaya karenge!”…
He even would joke about his own health. When, a couple of years ago, he heard that I had an angioplasty done, he was concerned and called me to ask, “kitne stents dale?”… and then jokingly said, “mere paas tumhare se zyaada hain!!”.
It is impossible to get his distinct haunting voice out of our minds as it will ring forever in our ears. “Bass badhao”, he would say in his deep baritone in recordings and concerts and we would look at each other with a smile, wondering what more could one add to the voice who God had blessed with all the bass in the world! The voice that has become the base for all ghazal lovers!
Indeed, the world will remember Jagjitji for all the musical gems he has left behind, while, a few of us fortunate ones will never forget him for the wonderful moments he gave us and the treasure trove of memories he has left behind for us.
Sourced from http://www.madanmohan.in
Watch Jagjit Singhji as he pays a tribute to Madanji, followed by one of his favourite songs from DULHAN EK RAAT KI