Down memory lane with Jagjit Singh

This column is dedicated to Jagmohan Singh Dhiman. He’s had millions of fans but many may not know who I am talking of. To cut a long story short, his birth anniversary was on February 8. Am referring to the one and only Jagjit Singh. The ghazal world owes a lot to him and befittingly this month, there were various shows in Mumbai to mark respect to the late singer.

Tauseef Akhtar sang Singh’s songs on February 3 at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA. On February 8, filmmaker Brahmanand Singh organised a concert at the Turf Club. Besides the release of his bio-documentary Kaagaz Ki Kashti, it featured recitals by singer Anil Sharma violinist Sunita Bhuyan and percussionist Nitin Shankar, followed by a stylised dance performance. On February 18, Phoenix Market City hosted a tribute by singers Talat Aziz, Suresh Wadkar, Rekha Bhardwaj and Jazim Sharma, and violinist Deepak Pandit.

Because of other commitments, I couldn't attend any of these shows. Instead, I picked up some earlier Jagjit-Chitra Singh recordings and went yet again into nostalgia mode. Albums like The Unforgettables, Beyond Time and The Latest were, of course, there. But it was their 1980 album, A Milestone that has been regularly on loop over the past two weeks.

There’s something about this album that regularly draws me towards it. With many other albums (with the exception of Sajda, Singh's 1991 collaboration with Lata Mangeshkar), I tend to play select tracks, based on my mood. With A Milestone, it has to be played from beginning to end each single time. There are a few reasons why it’s my favourite Singh album. One, each song is a gem. Secondly, both their singing is flawless. Three, by using only one poet — Pakistan’s Qateel Shifai — there’s a certain lyrical consistency. Finally, the orchestral arrangements are exquisite and sound recording first-rate.

Of the 10 songs, only two are duets. These are ‘Mil kar juda hue to na soya karenge hum’ and ‘Pehle to apni dil ki raza jaan lijiye. There’s perfect coordination between the two singers. The Jagjit solos are ‘Yeh mojeza bhi mohabbat kabhi dikhaye mujhe’, ‘Apni haathon ki lakeeron mein basa le mujhko’, ‘Sadma to hai mujhe bhi ke tujhse juda hoon main’ and ‘Pareshan raat saari hai sitaron tum to so jao’.

Chitra’s songs are, ‘Dil ko gham-e-hayaat gawara hai in dinon’, ‘Angdai par angdai leti hai raat judai ki, ‘Tumhari anjuman se uthke deewane kahan jaate’ and the female version of ‘Pareshan raat’.

Each song has been delightfully orchestrated. The acoustic guitar is a regular feature and the percussion is subtle. The santoor, bansuri, sitar and saxophone are used in right measure. And Shifai's poetry has its trademark style.

I first heard The Unforgettables and A Milestone at a friend’s place in New Delhi in the early 1980s. Before that, the only ghazal singer I had heard was Ghulam Ali. The duo of Jagjit and Chitra Singh came as a breath of fresh air. I soon picked both LPs and though The Unforgettables had great songs like Kafeel Aazer’s ‘Baat niklegi to phir door talak jaayegi’, Ameer Minai's ‘Sarakhti jaaye rukh se naqaab ahista ahista, Firaq Gorakhpuri's ‘Raat bhi neend bhi kahani bhi’ and Tariq Badayuni's ‘Ek na ek shama’, I was more hooked on to A Milestone. Even today, it keeps coming back to haunt me.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 6:58:41 AM |

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