It’s never an easy task to pay tribute to great maestros. They have so many shades, which remains elusive from the normal human eyes. Jagjit Singh, the legendary Ghazal singer with infinite beautiful shades, left the world quietly, leaving his fans caught in the fervour of celebrations virtually stunned. It’s hard to believe that he is no more with us. He was recovering fast but ultimately death like always had the last laugh. The icy hands of death prevailed over the wishes of his lovers, proving that nature wanted this singer to give eternal peace. The same peace which his ghazals, songs and bhazans provided to millions of listeners spread across the globe.
Jagjit Singh burst upon the ghazal scene like a whiff of fresh air in the seventies and shattered the established norms associated with the ghazal singing. There were big names like Mehadi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Farida Khanum and Noorjehan but their appeal was restricted to certain class. Let’s also not forget that seventies was age of transition for music world. The western beats were fast replacing traditional appeal and, therefore, making room for qualitative singing was a difficult task. In fact, the early experiences of Jagjit Singh, were bitter ones in the world of Mumbai. This man who sang shabads in Gurudwaras in his early days of singing met with series of bad happenings in an attempt to carve a niche for himself in the Mumbai. He went back to his hometown with heavy heart but he was born to become successful so after a gap he made fresh attempts. The big break came in form of ” ‘The Unforgettables’ and after that there was no looking back for him. Happily he found a sweet partner in form of Chitra Singh. This highly popular duet team gave us number of popular albums like “Someone Somewhere”, “Ecstasies” , “Emotions” , ” A Sound Affair”, “Live at Wimbley” and ” A Milestone”, to name a few.
We need to understand what made them gain such a terrific mass appeal. It was their intimate deep bond with music which made them make a permanent inroad in the hearts of the listeners. They came to be aware of the fact that unless ghazal singing is subjected to new changes both content wise and music wise it would be hard to retain the existence of ghazal among the listeners. However, in the name of changes, he didn’t gave way to gimmicks. His subtle understanding of the music prevented him giving way to lesser traits. Ultimately, he roped in better poetry from both well known names and lesser known names. However, he ensured that selected ghazals conveyed their emotions in simpler language.
As a result of his fine selection, the fine poetry from some well known names like Dr. Bashir Badr, Sudarshan Fakir, Qateel Shifai, Gulzar and Javed Akhtar became hot favourite in Indian households. However, the ghazals became everlasting because of his unique ability to synthesize modern beats with traditional Indian instruments. He has the uncanny ability to create catchy tunes. Probably, his rigorous musical sadhana (practice) paid him rich dividends as he moved ahead in the musical journey.
Remember his ghazal “Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti“? This masterpiece became a darling of the masses. Now anybody interested in taking a step back in time to his childhood had to anticipate this ghazal. For love birds, his ghazals served as surest means to convey their emotions. In fact, I am myself guilty of reaching to conclusions if I hear a young person listening his ghazals that he/she is in love!! One need not forget that ghazals gained prominence in Hindi movie world with his arrival. The albums “Saath Saath” and “Arth” are still the most sought after albums in the music stores across the globe. A fact that I came to be aware of when I interviewed many music shop owners way back in late nineties for one of my articles.
Apart from making ghazals popular in movies, the T V portrait related with great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib attained huge popularity when Ghalib’s ghazals rendered in soulful manner attained a new dimension. May be his golden voice did justice to whatever he came to sang- something that kept him a busy soul till the end of his life’s journey. It’s no secret that how many great ghazal singers lost their relevance in age dominated by cheap gimmicks. So if Jagjit Singh, managed to dictate the rules and worked on his own terms with no compromise, then that in itself is a great achievement.
The tribute would be incomplete if I fail to mention about his bhazans. His tender mellifluous voice gave birth to innumerable beautiful bhazans. His Krishna series with Chitra Singh including albums like Bhajan (HMV), Hare Krishna Hare Rama,Hare Krishna..Hare Krishna, Jai Radha Madhav, Mokasha-Sri Krishna, Saanwara, Hare Krishna and Radha Ballabh Kunj Bihari, to name a few, became great hits. For a huge section of listeners he is more popular as a bhazan singer than a ghazal singer. The wonderful synthesis of western and Indian musical notes worked wonders in bhazan singing as well.
This man was a fearless in his confessions as well. He was not reluctant in admitting that in our age music has gone to the dogs. The media’s devastating role in promoting worthless people has led to demise of good singing. He was also highly critical of A R Rahman’s musical abilities. He found him an incompetent soul, who relied heavily on computerized beats !! He sounds so true because when one listens the songs of A R Rahaman it’s strikingly clear to any conscious listener that there is huge lack of completeness or totality. Jagjit Singh was conscious of the fact that the present age listeners as well as the new age composers have lost hold over refined musical sensibilities. Still , he did not fail to shower compliments upon new talents like Kumar Shanu when Shanu was new in the movie world. In our times, he appreciated the singing of Kay Kay.
In the end, I must reiterate the cliche that artists enjoy an advantage over other souls. While other souls are soon forgotten after their deaths, the creative geniuses like Jagjit Singh always make their presence felt. I am sure he would always make his presence felt in form of his ghazals, bhazans and songs. I am holding back my tears as ”
Ishq meiN GHairat-e-jazbaat ne rone na diyaa
Warna kyaa baat thi kis baat ne rone na diyaa.”
( In love my fear of being shamed/exposed did not allow me to cry )
Otherwise, what reason/thing was it that did not allow me to cry)
Some of my favourites:
Shayad Mai Zindagi Ki Shahar
Us Mod Se Shuru Kare Phir Ye Zindagi
Tere Aane Ki Jab Khabar Mahke
Jai Radha Madhav Kunj Bihari
Tum Meri Rakho Laaj Hari
Tum Dhoondho Mujhe Gopal
A Memorable Interview In Two Parts:
The Economic Times