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Smooth operator

music Updated: Oct 15, 2011 00:50 IST
Amitava Sanyal
Amitava Sanyal
Hindustan Times
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Pardon me, but I disagree with anyone who calls Jagjit Singh a ‘ghazal king’. His was indeed a magnificent voice and he did for sure sing a few great ghazals (and geets and nazms and dohas). But he never really ruled the Ghazal League Table, as a disquietingly large number of people seem to believe today.

Till the mid-1980s, before he sang for Gulzar’s tele-serial on Mirza Ghalib, Singh was considered to be on top of another heap altogether. Below him were singers such as Pankaj Udhas and Talat Aziz. Lyricist and friend Javed Akhtar got in spot-on when he said there was an unmatched “serenity” in Singh’s voice. And ghazals are mostly made of angstier stuff, right?

I fell in love with Jagjit’s voice for the second time in the Nineties. (The first time, as with most of us, was over the 1970s’ album, Unforgettables, with numbers such as ‘Sarakhti jayen rukh se naqab’ and ‘Baat niklegi toh phir’.)

Determined to seek out new sounds, I had not carried any of my old collection to Bombay. But my housemate happened to be a rare Carnatic-trained Malayali who loved Jagjit Singh. So albums with titles such as Ecstasies, Passions and Desires — insipid, guitar-heavy albums that put you to sleep — were playing all too often on the communal two-in-one. It’s not that I hated all of it. My favourite album from that era was Insight, based on Nida Fazli’s poems.

Then came Ghalib. And then a long pause. Nothing from the 1990s made much sense to anyone who had loved Singh’s early career. Then, near the turn of the century, his son Vivek passed away. The grief was dignified and all too moving. The album that followed, Soz, made a lot of sense to a number of fans. ‘Meri zindagi kisi aur ki’ makes the hair on my skin stand up even today.

Then came another silence, punctuated only with ‘Jaag ke kaati saari raina’ from Leela. And now, we have a silence that will never be broken.

Got it right this time

For once, Saregama has got it just-about-right. The publisher with the largest repertoire is usually the clumsiest when it comes to recycling back catalogues. But they have done a commendable job with the latest release in their ‘Best of... Ever’ series, on Gulzar.

The producers have, for the first time in the series, published a 12-page booklet that includes a short biography, a fan’s appreciation (by Siraj Syed), and a list of awards.

They have also strung together the songs in a thoughtful manner. They have used, at the beginning and the end of each disc, the lyricist’s commentaries that were originally published in the album, ‘Fursat ke Raat Din’.

The moods have been mixed in a way that doesn’t jar. Apart from 1970s’ classics from films such as Kinara, Aandhi and Khushboo, there are some not-so-common choices from recent years. Among them are Sriradha Banerjee’s ‘Tan pe lagti kaanch’ from Aastha, Roop Kumar Rathod’s ‘Le chalein doliyon mein’ from Filhaal, and Rathod’s ‘Vatna ve’ from Pinjar. The collection also resurrects some rare old gems such as Lata’s haunting ‘Din jaa raha hai’ from Doosri Sita and my all-time favourite, Geeta Dutt’s ‘Meri jaan mujhe jaan kaho’ from Anubhav. In all, it’s an album worth the superlatives in the title.