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Jagjit Singh: When the ghazal lost its king! (10/10/2011)

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on October 10, 2011

Mumbai: Stirring millions of hearts with his soulful numbers ‘Jhuki jhuki si nazar‘ and ‘Kaagaz ki kashti’, ghazal king Jagit Singh infused a new life in the dying genre of music in the seventies and carved a niche for himself in Bollywood.

Jagjit Singh (portrait of 2007) - 02/08/1941-10/102011

Jagjit Singh (portrait of 2007) - 02/08/1941-10/10/2011

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.

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 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 to PTI, 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.

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.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today condoled the demise of noted ghazal singer 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”.

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.

Movie success too followed. In 1980, Jagjit gave his voice to Javed Akhtar’s poetry in film “Saath Saath”. Mahesh Bhatt’s “Arth”, which came in the same year saw Jagjit and Chitra’s popularity sky rocket with evergreen numbers like ‘Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho’.

In 1987, Jagjit recorded “Beyond Time”, the first digital CD by an Indian musician. Another milestone was to follow when he was roped in to record and compose Gulzar’s epic TV serial, “Mirza”.

But while he was climbing new heights in his professional life, the singer suffered his life’s biggest tragedy when he and Chitra lost their only son — 18-year-old Vivek — in a car accident in 1990.

The tragedy brought desperation and a pause in their lives. Chitra lost her voice and never returned to stage or a recording studio but Jagjit battled on his depression. “Man Jite Jagjit”, containing Sikh devotional Gurbani, was the first album he recorded after his son’s demise.

The Padmabhushan awardee is also the only composer and singer to have composed and recorded songs written by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in two albums, ‘Nayi Disha’ (1999) and ‘Samvedna’ (2002).

(Source: 10/2011 – Firstpost.com – Bollywood)

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