Kahan Tum Chaley Gayee
STIRRING millions of hearts with his soulful numbers like ‘Chithhi na koyi sandesh’, ‘Jhuki jhuki si nazar’ and ‘Kaagaz ki kashti’, ghazal king Jagjit Singh infused a new life in the dying genre of music in the seventies besides carving a niche for himself in Bollywood.
Ghazal king Jagjit Singh’s way of celebrating his 70th year was unique – he was aiming to complete 70 concerts by the end of the year. The man who gave ghazals a new lease of life managed only 46 before breathing his last.
Jagjit Singh passed away at 8.10 AM after having a terrible hemorrhage. Singh is survived by his wife, singer Chitra.
The pain and melancholy in his voice gave vent to the feelings of many a lonely heart.
Conjuring up hits like ‘yeh zindagi kisi aur ki, mere naam ka koi aur hai,’ ‘Patta-patta boota-boota haal hamaara jaane hai,’ ‘Hontho se chhoo lo tum, ‘Tum ko dekha’, ‘Hazaar baar ruke ham and hazaar baar chale’, Singh made a mark during the ’70s when the ghazal scene was dominated by well-established names like Noor Jehan, Malika Pukhraj, Begum Akhtar, Talat Mahmood and Mehdi Hassan.
The voice behind the timeless ghazals was inspired by singers like K L Sehgal, Talat Mahmood, Abdul Karim Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Amir Khan.
One of the most successful and loved artistes of his time, he has left behind a huge body of work in a career spanning five decades, including 80 albums.
Jagjit was born on February 8, 1941 in Sriganganagar, Rajasthan, to Amar Singh Dhiman, a government employee, and Bachan Kaur. He had four sisters and two brothers and was called Jeet by his family.
His birth name was Jagmohan but his Sikh father rechristened him as Jagjit.
It was his father, who first recognised his son’s talent. He sent young Jagjit to learn the nuances of music under a blind teacher, Pandit Chhaganlal Sharma. He later trained under Ustad Jamal Khan of Sainia gharana for six-years and gained knowledge in Khayal, Thumri and Dhrupad forms.
Singh went on to pursue a post graduation in history from the Kurukshetra University in Haryana. He came to the country’s entertainment capital, Mumbai in 1965, in search of work as a singer.
It was a struggle. Singing at small musical gatherings, house concerts and film parties in the hope of being noticed, became almost a daily routine for him. But he didn’t lose hope.
In 1967, he met singer Chitra and following a courtship of two years, they tied the knot. Together they came up with several hit ghazal albums like “Ecstasies”, “A Sound Affair”, “Passions” and “Beyond Time” and were considered a formidable husband-wife singer duo.
They sang many successful duets until their only son, Vivek, died at the age of 21 in 1990. Chitra stopped singing. However, Singh continued his tryst with music – and for good.
In 1987, Singh recorded the first purely digital CD album by an Indian musician, “Beyond Time”.
He also sang for Bollywood films like “Arth”, “Saath Saath” and “Premgeet”. He created a strong footing in films with songs like “Hontho se chhoo lo tum” (“Prem Geet”), “Tumko dekha toh yeh khayal aaya” (“Saath Saath”), “Jhuki jhuki si nazar” (“Arth”), “Hoshwalon ko” (“Sarfarosh”) and “Badi nazuk hai” (“Jogger’s Park”).
Most of his non-film albums – “Hope”, “In Search”, “Insight”, “Mirage”, “Visions”, “Kahkashan”, “Love Is Blind”, “Chirag”, “Sajda”, “Marasim”, “Face To Face”, “Aaeena” and “Cry For Cry” – were successful too.
His concerts were a delight, especially when he broke into pleasant Punjabi numbers like “Saun da mahina”. His heavy voice used to turn joyful, leaving his listeners smiling ear to ear.
He had also collaborated with former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in two albums, “Nayi Disha” (1999) and “Samvedna” (2002). In his later years, Singh became disinterested in Bollywood music due to the moneymindedness of film producers.
What he couldn’t battle was his illness. After being hospitalised for brain haemorrhage Sep 23, he died Monday morning. But the voice in tracks that won him the tag of Indian ghazal king, will remain fresh for generations to come.
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.
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.
TRIPLE TRAGEDY FOR CHITRA SINGH
Tragedy has been a constant companion of Chitra Singh, who with her husband Jagjit pulled the ghazal genre out of the drawing room of the elite and brought it to the masses.
“I can imagine her plight and how lonely she must be feeling,” singer Asha Bhosle said, reacting to Jagjit Singh’s death this morning after a massive stroke.
In 2009, Monica Chaudhry, the 49-year-old daughter of Chitra Singh from her first marriage, committed suicide at her residence at suburban Bandra.
In 1990, Jagjit and Chitra’s son Vivek died in a car crash here which left the couple devastated. Jagjit went silent for six months only to emerge stronger but Chitra lost her voice after the tragedy.
In fact, some of Singh’s finest works came after that tragedy as pain had an enriching effect on his art.
These included ‘Sajda’ with Lata Mangeshkar, ‘Someone Somewhere’, ‘Hope’, ‘Kahkashan’ (recorded with Ali Sardar Jaffri for a teleserial), ‘Silsilay’ with Javed Akhtar, ‘Marasim’ with Gulzar and ‘Samvedna’ (featuring former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s poems).
HIS LAST FILM SONG
Marathi filmmaker Ashish Ubale was on cloud nine when celebrated ghazal singer Jagjit Singh agreed to lend his ‘golden voice’ for a song in his upcoming film “Anandache Dohi”.
However, the happiness was shortlived because the song has also turned out to be the maestro’s last film song.
Jagjit Singh recorded the song “Tuzhya mule aala, nava arth majhya jeevanala” about seven months ago.
The song is picturised on veteran actor Dilip Prabhavalkar, who played Gandhi in ‘Munnabhai MBBS’ and ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’.
Talking to PTI, Ubale said working with Singh was a learning process.
“I was taken aback with the hard work he put in for getting the Marathi pronounciations and certain words correctly. He would repeat each and every word five to six times before the recording,” the filmmaker recalled.
PM THE ADMIRER
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the demise of Jagjit Singh, saying he would be remembered for his “golden voice”.
Noting that he is among Jagjit’s admirers, the Prime Minister said he shared the sorrow of his fans.
In his condolence message, Singh said by “making ghazals accessible to everyone, he gave joy and pleasure to millions of music lovers in India and abroad….He was blessed with a golden voice”.
The Prime Minister said the ghazal maestro’s music legacy will continue to “enchant and entertain” the people.
FOR PRESIDENT, HE WAS GHAZAL KING
President Pratibha Patil condoled the death of ‘Ghazal King’ Jagjit Singh and said his unique style of singing brought out the deepest and inner most feeling.
In her condolence letter to his wife Chitra Singh, the President said Singh was “known for his unique style of Ghazal singing, which brought out the deepest and inner most feeling.
“Audiences had two occasions in Rashtrapati Bhavan to feel his magic of singing when he performed over the past few years. Popularly known as the Ghazal King, he also had a large heart due to which he also was known to give assistance to several philanthropic endeavours,” she said.
GRIEF IN PAKISTAN
Pakistanis reacted with an outpouring of grief at the death of ghazal king Jagjit Singh with the news dominating TV channels and websites even as thousands of his fans here expressed their sorrow in social networking sites.
70-year-old Singh had numerous fans across the border, who had been closely following news of his illness.
Such was his popularity that TV channels led their news bulletins with reports on his death while some aired special programmes on his music.
Tina Sani, one of Pakistan’s best known ghazal singers who had performed with Singh in India earlier this year, was among musicians and artists who expressed shock at the passing of the maestro.
“It’s a sad day and it’s been more of a shock for me as I performed with Jagjit sahab in India in February and March during a series of concerts organised to mark the centenary celebration of (Urdu poet) Faiz Ahmed Faiz,” Sani told PTI on phone from Karachi.
State-run news agency Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said Singh’s “silky” voice ruled during early 80’s in films like ‘Prem Geet’, ‘Saath Saath’ and ‘Arth’.
“However, his major work is spread over more than 60 filmy and non filmy albums,” it said.
Incidentally, Singh was admitted just hours before he was to perform with Pakistani ghazal maestro, Ghulam Ali, in Mumbai on September 23.
“It’s a huge loss because Jagjit Singh was instrumental in bringing ghazals to my generation. When we were younger, we heard the ghazals of Mehdi Hassan and Begum Akhtar but that wasn’t really our music. It was in the 1970s that Jagjit Singh took everybody by storm and swept us off our feet,” Sani said.
Pakistanis also took to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to express grief at Singh’s death, describing it as a great loss for the world of music.
A comment posted in response to a news report on Singh’s death on the website of The Express Tribune newspaper said: “Go well, Jagjit Singh. Thanks for the memories and melody!”
On Twitter, Afghan journalist and blogger Ahmad Shuja wrote: “Jagjit’s death has saddened Pakistanis and Afghans as much as it has Indians. That’s true strategic depth.”
Singh had visited Pakistan in 2004, when he performed several concerts to promote peace between India and Pakistan and to raise funds for ailing ghazal singer Mehdi Hassan. Sani said Singh had made plans to tour Pakistan in December along with composer Gulzar before he fell ill.
“When we performed together in India earlier this year, I asked Jagjit sahab why he hadn’t performed the compositions of Ghalib when he came to Pakistan.
“He responded by asking me if people would want to listen to such compositions. I told him people would love to hear him perform the compositions of Ghalib and he said he would do so when he came to Pakistan next,” Sani said.
KASHMIRI FANS MOURN
As the voice that enthralled thousands of ghazal fans fell silent Monday, people in Jammu and Kashmir remembered Jagjit Singh as someone with a “rare gift” and one who took the ghazal out of the literary idiom and presented it to the masses.
Shabir Ahmad, an Urdu teacher, said: “Jagjit Singh kept the tradition of ghazal singing alive in India after Begum Akhtar. While Begum Akhtar sang for the connoisseurs among ghazal lovers, Jagjit took the ghazal out of the literary idiom and made it common place.” Mehraj-ud-Din, 34, a fruit vendor in Residency Road area of Srinagar city, concurred.
“I understand Urdu but not the finer points of ghazal singing. However, never once have I felt he isn’t singing for me when I hear him. I am deeply shocked at his death,” Mehraj-ud-Din said.
Farooq Nazki, a renowned Kashmiri poet and critic, said: “It is a great loss to Indian light classical music. But I am sure his rendering of Urdu ghazals will be remembered forever.”
“There are only three big names who have sung Ghalib and helped him reach the masses. These are K.L. Sehgal, Talat Mehmood and Jagjit Singh,” he said.
“His voice was as soft as velvet. He never resorted to a high pitch and never played any classical acrobatics. Yet, in his simplest rendering of the Urdu ghazal, Jagjit excelled. He definitely stands second only to Mehdi Hassan in the sub-continent in ghazal singing.”
Jagjit Singh visited the Kashmir Valley many times for concerts. He last sang for his admirers this June in the auditorium of the Kashmir University.
“Once he started with his famous ghazal ‘Woh Kagaz Ki Kisti, Woh Barish Ka Pani’, everybody in the auditorium was swinging with the poet. He was a phenomenon nobody could resist,” said Fayaz Ahmad, 24, a student who attended the concert.
Abid, 42, who drove 80 km from north Kashmir’s Sonamarg hill station to be part of the concert, said: “Once you heard him, it hardly mattered whether you understood the nuances of ghazal singing or not. He would deliver his words straight into your heart.”
Jagjit Singh would always joke during his concerts to make his audience more participative. This has now become a trend in Urdu ghazal singing in South Asia.
“One did not have to be a scholar to understand a ghazal once Jagjit sang it. He had the divine gift of carrying every type of audience with him. This was proved when he sang in London and other places outside India,” said Habibullah Dar, 65, a retired school teacher.
“Only some of his western audiences would understand the words, but everybody would be with him. That is a rare gift and it will be decades before we have anyone like him,” said Habibullah. PTI/IANS