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Jagjit Singh: Ghazal personified

Jagjit Singh is the pioneer of modern Ghazal singing in India. He has achieved critical acclaim as well as commercial success and is undoubtedly the only artist from this genre to retain such a feat for so long. Tanvi Dube writes.

music Updated: Jul 17, 2011 15:20 IST
Tanvi Dube
Tanvi Dube
Hindustan Times
Jagjit Singh

Jagjit Singh is the pioneer of modern Ghazal singing in India. He is a singer, composer, music director, activist and entrepreneur. In 70’s and 80’s, Jagjit Singer along with his better half, Chitra Singh, another renowned Ghazal artist, came up as the most successful duo outside the dominion of Bollywood music. Jagjit Singh, a legend, has around 80 albums in his repertoire, and has been entertaining his fans with soulful, melodious Ghazals for over five decades now.

Singh was born in Ganganagar located in Rajasthan on 8th February, 1941. His father Sardar Amar Singh Dhiman was a Government official and his mother Sardarni Bachchan Kaur was from a very religious background. His father wanted him to join the Indian Administrative Services. But when he saw his son gradually succeeding in the world of music, he was more than happy. Jagjit learnt classical music under Pundit Chaganlal Sharma and attained proficiency in classical forms like Khayal, Thumri and Dhrupad.

The singer shifted to Mumbai in 1965 chasing his dream. He faced immense struggle and hardships like any other wannabe successful artist. But soon, after the release of his first album The Unforgettables (1976), he made an everlasting, unforgettable impact on the Indian audience. In the age of ghazal maestros like Noor Jehan, Malika Pukhraj, Begum Akhtar, Talat Mahmood and Mehdi Hassan, Jagjit Singh carved a niche for himself and embarked upon a journey which led him to the eternal title of ‘The Ghazal King’ in India.

Singh was first offered to sing in a Gujarati Film, Dharati Na Chhoru produced by Suresh Amin. Since then, he has lent his voice to many ventures on big screen as well as small screen in films such as Prem Geet (1981), Arth and Saath Saath (1982), and TV serials Mirza Ghalib (1988) and Kahkashan (1991). He has achieved critical acclaim as well as commercial success and is undoubtedly the only artist from this genre to retain such a feat for so long.

He met his soulmate, Chitra Singh, in 1967 while he was still in the nascent stages of his music career. They got married in 1969. The Unforgettable established the duo as successful Ghazal singers and their partnership went on to create many more marvels in the music industry. Some of the popular albums of the couple were Ecstasies (1984), A Sound Affair (1985) and Passions (1988). Their passionate and ecstatic affair with musical sounds is the reason their albums still sell worldwide.

JagjitThey came out with an album named Beyond Time in 1987, which is the first digitally recorded album of India. It was recorded in the studio 'Western outdoor' by sound recording duo Daman Sood and Avinash Oak. Around this time, a tragedy struck the couple and their only son, Vivek Singh, died in an accident at the age of 21. After the album Someone Somewhere (1990), Chitra quit singing. In this album, the songs are emotionally very powerful and moving since they connect with the personal loss of the couple.

Apart from ghazals and movies, Jagjit Singh has also sung many Punjabi songs, like Dhaee Din Na Jawaanee Naal Chaldee, which are bubbly and amusing. He also has an album with Lata Mangeshkar named Sajda (Offering) which was a hit and sold innumerable copies. His concerts too are a delight to watch and he often colours his performances with jokes and some interesting tidbits in between songs. Jagjit Singh has also sung many devotional songs, such as Maa, Hare Krishna, Hey Ram...Hey Ram, Ichhabal and also Man Jeetai Jagjeet in Punjabi. His baritone compliments the divinity and serenity filled in the lyrics of such songs.

On May 10, 2007, in the presence of top Indian leaders like, the then President A P J Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the then Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and dignitaries including former Prime Ministers, Members of Parliament, Foreign Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Jagjit Singh did a unique performance to commemorate the 150th anniversary of India's First War of Independence (1857). In this momentous joint session held in the Sansad Bhawan, Jagjit Singh paid tribute to the last Moghul Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar by singing his famous ghazal Lagta Nahin Hai Dil Mera.

Jagjit Singh has a history of philanthropic endeavours too, such as those with the library at St. Mary's School, Mumbai, Bombay Hospital, CRY, Save the Children and ALMA. He is an epitome of humbleness and humility and has catered to his friends, family, fans and the society with care and diligence.

(With inputs from Wikipedia)