On Jagjit Singh’s 5th death anniversary, Aadil Moosa pens an emotional tribute to the maestro. If Ghazal was to be personified into a human being, it would be the face, body and soul of Jagjit Singh. He brought Ghazal to the forefront, and made the genre a worldwide phenomenon.
His voice is synonymous with melody; and to that he added his own style which wooed his listener’s hearts. Jagjit’s initial vocation began with Pandit Chaganlal Sharma, and later on with Ustad Jamaal Khan of the Senia Gharana, where they laid the foundations of Hindustani Classical music, namely khayal, Dhrupad, Thumri and Ghazal. His body of work ultimately speaks heaps on the talent that we have come to love and cherish.
I fondly recall driving to Durban with my family as a child, and hearing ‘Hothon Se Choo Loo Tum’ blasting through the radio, and feeling this beautiful calmness as Jagjit’s voice caressed my inner being. Jagjit’s songs were constantly played at home, even his live concert Vinyl’s were always present in our family listening. In a world completely overruled by Bollywood, this man stood out and carved his forte.
Jagjit’s repertoire inexorably stretches way beyond Ghazal, to far reaches of filmdom and great music. Two very special compositions spring to mind, his Raag Bhairavi tarana rendition in the ‘Different Strokes’ album and his Raag Hari-Kauns rendition of ‘Ab Ke Hum Bichade’. These two tracks are powerful classical renditions which showcased Jagjit’s vocal prowess beyond the Ghazal genre. His energy and style remained loyal to the Senia Gharana, and was probably the most famous artiste of that gharana.
If we, just for a few moments delve deep into the Ghazal genre and see how Jagjit revived this light form of classical music, it will astound you. Jagjit explained that “I was determined to polish up the genre and make it more acceptable to modern tastes, so chose simple poems and set them to simple tunes. I also introduced western instrumentation to make them livelier.”
He also did this remaining loyal to the classical foundation, this can be demonstrated by listening to his music; his compositions retained Indian instruments and vocal ornamentations found in classical music. In all its austerity, Ghazal is a about Jazbaa (feelings) and expressing a story, which Jagjit did exquisitely good. In fact he did this so well, that he gave his listeners memories that were attached to his compositions.
The quality of his albums are also quite evident, as they still remain popular to day with a bevy of artistes that still pay tribute to this great man. His collaboration with so many artistes gave them the opportunity of singing side by side with Jagjit, and he gave them an amazing depth. Take the song and composition of ‘Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua Ban Ke Mera’ for example, it was sung by Siza Roy and composed by Jagit Singh. The song remains a heartfelt plea across borders for peace and he only lent his name to the song by composition.
Majority of people will remember Jagjit for his renditions of ‘Hothon Se Choo Tum’ and ‘Hoshwalon Ko Khabar’ but those were just the tip of the ice berg. It is heralded that his film songs were of great quality especially the songs from Khal Nayak, Pinjar and Dushman; but compared to his entire body of work, these were just mere drops in the ocean. Even his Bhajan albums transcended the religion barrier; ‘Jai Jai Maa’ and ‘Jai Radha Madhav’ are of breath taking beauty which exude melody.
From memories to reality, I was lucky enough to attend his farewell concert at the Linder Auditrium in Johannesburg in 2006. He enthralled us with his music; I still remember staring at him while he sang ‘Tum Ko Dekha To’ and thought to myself, this is the legend himself. The standing ovation he received at end of the concert laid testament of Jagjit’s contribution to our lives, music and nostalgia.
On the 23rd September 2011, Jagjit succumbed to a brain haemorrhage which ultimately led to his demise on October 10th 2011. It was a sad day for all music lovers; as this legend was laid to rest. His music however, still reigns and continues to inspire many. I still remember the Jagjit Singh of my younger days full of happy memories, and then later on the man I saw in person. His gentle demeanour always stays with me, his slight smile and his interaction with the audience will forever be cherished. Music composer Sanjeev Kohli sums it up:
“He made the common man’s drawing room a darbar. He brought his beloved ghazal out of the confines of the silver screen and aristocratic mehfils into the warmth of the middle class home.”