The 10th of October 2011 marks a sad day for ghazal lovers all over the world. Ghazal or ode literally means ‘to converse with your beloved’, is sung in Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu. Jagjit Singh was one of the best singers the world had ever seen for ghazals, with his deep and soulful voice.
On the 10th of October 2011, the world lost one of the greatest singers in the world of ghazals, Jagjit Singh. He lost the battle against brain hemorrhage from which he was suffering since 23rd September. He was survived by his wife Chitra Singh. Jagjit Singh, lovingly known as the “The ghazal king” amongst his fans, almost single-handedly re-invented the dying art of ghazals by simplifying these verses by a mixture of music and singing. He sang in a variety of languages like Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati and Nepali and his soul-stirring renditions of poems by various Urdu and Hindi poets were so mesmerizing that it left the audiences spellbound for hours even after his concerts were over.
Born on 8th Feb, 1941 at Sri Ganganagar, the northernmost city of Rajasthan, India, Jagjit Singh was amongst four sisters and brothers. He was associated with music from his younger days. He learned music from eminent personalities like Pandit Chhaganlal Sharma and Ustad Jamaal Khan. As any budding artist in Bombay (now Mumbai), he started off his singing career by singing in weddings and stage shows. In fact, one of his first publicized voice records was for a soap jingle shown on Indian national television.
In the 70’s, the world of ghazals was saturated by well-known personalities like Mehdi Hassan, Talat Mehmood and Begum Akhtar. In these circumstances, Jagjit Singh came out with an album “The Unforgettables” which was an instant hit with the public. People appreciated this new talent and welcomed it with open arms. The freshness of his voice combined with his unique music compositions released a totally different flavor into the hearts and souls of people worldwide. There was no turning back from that point of his career and he went ahead and created albums named ‘Hope, In Search, Insight, Mirage, Visions, Kahkashan (galaxy), Love is Blind etc., which propelled him to the top of the Ghazal Industry. He was the only person to have written and composed songs written by the Indian Prime Minister – Atal Bihari Vajpayee in two of his albums, Nayi Disha (New Direction) and Samvedna (Compassion). In 2003, he was awarded with the nation’s third highest civilian honor, the Padma Bhushan.
While Jagjit Singh was a budding artist, he met his would-be wife Chitra Singh. They married in 1969 after a long two-year relationship. The husband-wife duo produced many melodious ghazals in their career but this combination was cut short in the year 1990 when their only son Vivek, met with a road accident and was killed. The duo released an album ‘Someone somewhere’ which was their last joint effort together.
Jagjit Singh did not limit himself to shayaris (poems) only but also sang a wide number of songs in Bollywood Hindi movies like Sarfarosh, Arth, Tum Bin, Prem Geet, Dushman and Tarkeeb. He also sang Punjabi songs which are still very popular.
One of the earliest memories I had of Jagjit Singh was of him singing devotional songs for Lord Ram. My father owned a vinyl record of the same and used to play it when he had some free time. I rediscovered Jagjit Singh in college as a medium for expressing my love, as many other teenagers do, and have been his fan ever since. His death came as a shock to me implying that no more of such timeless poetry will ever come out in the market again. His albums are masterpieces and he will always remain as the undisputed ghazal king.
In typical Hindi or Urdu poetry, the poem or shayaris comprises a couplet. The plural form of this couplet is called an Ashaar. A collection of multiple Ashaars forms a ghazal.