The Ghazal King – A Tribute to Jagjit Singh
“He was the first real Ghazal singer from India. Before him there were clones. The poetry in his music was beautiful,” – Actor Anupam Kher
Jagjit Singh is often credited with breathing new life into the Ghazal, and making the Pakistani dominated art form accessible to the wider public. With songs such as “Ye Kaure Aur Wo Kare” and “Uski Baten To Phool Hon Jaise”, Jagjit was able to channel the lonely heart. Needless to say, his sudden passing came as a shock to millions who have been moved by his melancholic voice.
Although Singh was able to single-handedly revive the dying genre in the seventies, his romantic relationship with Chitra Dutta bloomed into another first for the genre. Like the couplets of a Ghazal, the two struck a harmonious balance and saw much commercial success together, often being referred to as “the first couple of Ghazals.” Chitra joined Jagjit’s doting fans, becoming enamoured with his voice.
“Through your ears it reached your heart. Even I started singing in his style — he was my guru,” she once revealed. Their first LP together, “The Unforgettables,” was composed for HMV and captured the unorthodox style of Ghazal that Jagjit had become renowned for. But, Chitra fell silent on July 28, 1990, after a tragedy took the life of their only son Vivek, lovingly known as Baboo. “Someone Somewhere” was their last album together.
After a struggle with depression, the tragedy gave new life to Jagjit’s voice.
“After Baboo’s death, my focus sharpened and I concentrated entirely on singing and composing,” Jagjit said.
This shift was felt in “Man Jite Jagjit,” which expressed a somber acceptance through Sikh devotional Gurbani.
Jagjit Singh was the child of a government employee and a simple housewife. Born on February 8, 1941 as Jagmohan Singh, he was renamed after a saint of the Namdhari, a Sikh sect, heard him sing hymns.
At the age of seven, Jagjit studied under blind teacher Pandit Shaganlal Sharma. Later, he dedicated six years of his life to learning Khyal, Thumri,and Dhrupad, which is believed to be the oldest form of classical Indian singing. He was captivated by the voices of singers such as Jagjit Noor Jehan, Talat Mahmood and Mehdi Hassan.
His journey from humble roots was a difficult one, and the singer admitted that, at one point, he was so destitute that he “traveled by train from Bombay to Jalandhar minus a ticket, hiding in the bathroom.”
His refusal to “sing a cheap song” paired with an undying devotion to the art was his gift. The emotional depth he achieved is felt in albums such as “Marasim”, “Face To Face”, “Aaeena”, and “Cry For Cry”. They earned him the title of “The Ghazal King”. “He was the first real Ghazal singer from India. Before him there were clones. The poetry in his music was beautiful,” actor Anupam Kher said in a tribute.
Able to revolutionalize a genre, Singh’s Ghazals will no doubt be echoing from music players across the globe; the best homage one can pay to a musical genius.
By Amisha Sampat