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Jagjit Singh, Ghazal’s crowning glory!
By T.M. Anantharaman
BANGALORE, July 25: I was shattered and devastated. Never before in all these years have I felt so lost, so utterly helpless, so desolate as I did when I heard that Jagjit Singh breathed his last on one fine day in October last year. I recall words from one of his finest ghazals (broadly classified as love songs) “Gham mujhe, hasrat mujhe”. In that song, Jagjit seems to have prophetically guessed how his exit from this world would be because he sings the lines “dekhte hi dekte duniya se main ut javoonga” (even while you are seeing me, I would go away from this world) Every time I hear this song, I can’t believe my favourite singer Jagjit Singh is no more. But like from one of his most adorable and all-time popular songs “Ahista Ahista” (Slowly, slowly), I am now reconciled to the fact that he is no more, but I am sure I will ever remain his fan as long as I live because Jagjit Singh brought to music a rare classical touch even while embellishing the poetry behind the words with a deep sonorous quality in his voice that compelled you to lose yourself and hum along the tune even though you may not know the full lyrical beauty of the words behind the music.

I recall when Jagjit Singh visited Doha, Qatar, where I was working, and gave a memorable concert way back in the 1980s. His opening salvo with the notes “Ni ri ga ri ni ri saa, ni ga maa nee da pa maa ga ri, ni ga maa ga, sa ri ni sa pa ni sag maa ri saa…” before singing the ghazal “Ye Inayeten ghazab ki” was so powerful, and beautifully etched. It is still fresh and lingering with me after so many years.

From the same concert, I also recall the extraordinary range of his voice quality which could plumb the depths when required with great ease and reach the pinnacle when needed with equal facility. For example, while singing the line “shabe furqatse jaga hoon ab toh sone doh” in the ghazal “Ahista, Ahista”, Jagjit Singh plummeted to matnhra-sthayi depths from the high octave end to sing the line “sone doh” (let me sleep) so tellingly that he almost put the audience to sleep uttering “sone doh” quite a few times in the drone-like quality. It showed his ability to connect to the audience, and make them feel with the music.

There are so many wonderful creations which Jagjit has sung over the years which has given immense joy to his countless admirers. Among my own favourites are: “Tum nahin gam nahin sharaab nahin”, “Hotonse choo lo tum mera geet amar kar doh”, Baat nikulegi toh door talak jayegi”, Gham mujhe hasrat mujhe”, “Tum ituna jo muskura raheho”and “Jukhi jhuki si nazar” from 1982 film Arth, music composed by Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh; “Tumko dekha toh ye khayala aaya”from 1982 film Saath Saath, music by Kudeep Singh; ghazal “Aaye hain samjane log hai kitune deeewane log” duet by Jagjit & Chitra Singh; “Hum safar hota koi toh baantulete dooriya”;”Who dilhi kya tere milneki jo duaa na kare”;Kaun aaya raatpe aayina paani hogayi”; “phir se mausam baharon ka aane ko hai”; “dekha toh mera saaya mujse judaa mila”;Patta patta boota boota”; “Apna gham bhool gaye”; Pathar ke khuda pathar ke sanam”;”Agar hum kahe aur who muskura de” duet by Jagjit & Chitra Singh; the Andaleep Shadaani ghazal “ Der lagi aanme mein tumko”; “Umr jalvon mein basar ho ye zaroor toh nahin”; “Saaun da mahina” (a Punjabi geet of Chamanlal Chaman on the season “Sawan”);”Dil mein tum ho” (poignant ghazal based on raag Lalit?);”Kya sach hai kya jhoot hai” (beautiful, philosophical!);”daastun e gham-e-dil unko sunaayi na gayi”; “Kaun kehta hai mohabat ki zubaan hoti hai” (Jagjit & Chitra Singh duet;”meri tanhaiyon tumhilagalo mujkho seenese”; “Sunte hain ke mil jaate hein” ( amost beautiful duet in raga Bhairavi (south Indians call this Sindhu Bhairavi); from film Kalka a brilliant classical geet “Kaise kaise rang dikhaye kaari ratiya” (based in raag todi/ lallit); “Paani mein meen pyaasi” (classical philosophical from album Kabir);”Ayekhuda retuke sehera samundar kar de”; and “Koi pass aaya savera savera” (a lovely ghazal in the classical raga Lalit), “Shola hoon badukuneki guzaarish nahi karta” and “Woh kagazki kashti, who baarishu ka paani” and many more.

But Jagjit Singh is more, much more than a ghazal singer branded as the ghazal King. King he is undoubtedly. His voice had a mesmerizing quality. It was unique because it conveyed emotions vividly, be it romantic exuberance or passionate poignancy; be it flippant tappa or enchantingly classical.

He could, as I have said earlier, plumb the depths of a phrase reaching out to the “anu sur” and “manthira sthayi sur” with great warmth and felicity; he could, with his rich golden-hued voice, give you wings and make you fly in the stratosphere joyfully. Jagjit Singh was not just a singer; he was a composer par excellence - witness his lovely music from the film Arth - and devoted to his art, and even as revealed in his devotional singing as in “Hey Ram, Hari Om Tat Sath”. He, with wife Chitra, brought immense joy and pleasure to countless admirers, including many South Indians like me, my brothers and cousins and friends such as Suriyanarayana Sekhar (now settled in Australia) and Gopal in Chennai.

The magic of Jagjit Singh will live as long as ghazals are sung but we will miss his mischievous presence on the concert platform. I and my friends pray that Jagjit Singh is spreading as always happiness wherever he is. God bless Jagjit Singh!

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