Jagjit Singh, the singer who made ghazals accessible

Jagjit Singh performing at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall in Chennai, in 2011.   | Photo Credit: S.S.KUMAR

It was September 23, 2011. Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali were to perform together at Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall. A few hours before the show, Jagjit suffered a stroke. He eventually passed away on October 10 (this year is his 10th death anniversary), leaving behind a rich legacy of music.

For an entire generation, he was one of the most prominent voices in ghazal. His versatility helped make the genre extremely popular. Some of his ghazals such as ‘Baat niklegi to phir’, ‘Kal chaudhvin ki raat thi’, ‘Sarakhti jaaye rukh se naqaab’, ‘Sadma toh hai mujhe bhi’, ‘Woh kaagaz ki kashti’, ‘Honton se choolon tum’ and ‘Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho’ remain unforgettable.

Besides his deep, serene voice, what endeared him to listeners was his ability to move beyond the traditional format with innovative orchestration. His ghazal concerts featured not only the harmonium and tabla, but also guitar, keyboard, violin and mandolin.

Whether he performed solo or with wife Chitra, Jagjit’s shows were always sold out. He preferred ghazals with simple lyrics instead of those in chaste Urdu to reach out to a larger audience. In an interview to this writer, he had said, “People will enjoy the songs more if they can relate to the lyrics and situations. But at the same time, the poetry should be good.”

Rise to fame

Jagjit’s journey to fame began through successful albums with Chitra such as The Unforgettables, A Milestone, A Sound Affair, Tum Laut Aao, Ecstasies, and Desires. His albums Sajda with Lata Mangeshkar, Ghalib and Marasim with Gulzar, and Silsilay with Javed Akhtar were also well-received.

The ghazals he sang for films — such as ‘Honton se choolo tum’ (Prem Geet), ‘Tum ko dekha toh ye khayal’ (Saath Saath), ‘Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho’ (Arth), ‘Hoshwalon ko khabar kya’ (Sarfarosh), ‘Koi fariyaad hai’ (Tum Bin), ‘Badi naazuk hai yeh manzil’ (Jogger’s Park) and ‘Jaag ke kaati saari raina’ (Leela) were huge hits, proving his ability to push the boundaries of the genre.

He later widened his repertoire by including devotional songs, and his Krishna bhajans as well as songs like ‘Varde varde’, ‘Vakratunda mahakaya’, ‘Tum karuna ke saagar’ and the Sikh shabad ‘Mittar pyaare nu’ are favourites among listeners.

Chitra gave up singing following the death of their 20-year-old son Vivek in an accident in 1990. So Jagjit performed solo, singing ghazals, film songs and bhajans. While listeners loved his album, Different Strokes, featuring traditional compositions like ‘Babul mora’ and ‘Baaju band’, in the latter part of his career, he also faced criticism for sounding repetitive. Yet, he knew how to reinvent himself and always returned with a hit.

After his death, many tribute shows were organised and albums such as The Master And His Magic and The Voice From Beyond featuring Jagjit’s unreleased songs were launched. While filmmaker Brahmanand Singh made the documentary Kaagaz Ki Kashti, journalist Sathya Saran wrote the biography Baat Niklegi To Phir: The Life And Times of Jagjit Singh. This year, singers Hariharan, Talat Aziz, Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Babul Supriyo and others teamed up with composer Shameer Tandon to record the album, Tribute To Jagjit Singh.

The writer is a Mumbai-

based music journalist.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 2:11:05 PM |

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