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Thursday, December 09, 2021

His awaaz,andaaz

Remembering Jagjit Singh.

Written by Khayyam |
October 11, 2011 2:10:19 am

It is one of the saddest days of my life. When you lose somebody who has been like a younger brother to you,it just leaves a gaping hole in the heart. And this one will be hard to fill. Nobody can take Jagjit Singh’s place. My younger brother has left this world,while I am still alive. I just feel that he should have gone after me.

I still remember the day when a young 25-year-old Sikh boy from Jalandhar walked into my Colaba house and said he wanted to sing a ghazal for me. He had come through a friend’s reference and I agreed to give him a hearing. As the notes of Faiz saheb’s “Gulon mein rang bhare baad-e-naubahar chale” swirled in the air,I was stunned. This youngster was just nailing the notes with his sonorous bass voice,which quavered at the right places and which was straight and high-pitched when required. The awaaz was really good but the andaaz was better. He would just close his eyes and smile while singing certain lines and that was so wonderful. His music spoke to me,as he sang those words with perfect diction. For somebody as young as him,the knowledge of the language was extraordinary. That is when I told him,that for a musician as good as him,he could come to my house whenever he wanted. And then there was no looking back. We had music sessions that went on all night in the company of our choice of whiskey,him on the harmonium and some great music.

Jagjit loved coming to my house also because he enjoyed the sarson ka saag and makai ki roti prepared by my wife Jagjit Kaur. They shared the same name and we always had a good laugh about it. At one of these dinner sessions,he got really emotional and said,“Paaji,is saag mein ghee ki khushboo bilkul meri ma ke saag jaise hai.” I felt so overwhelmed when he said that. That was the man,who could one minute have a hearty laugh and in the next would be so emotional about the life he had left behind before coming to Mumbai.

A brilliant aspect of his gayaki was the sweetness and velvetiness of his voice. It was so adorable that one would immediately fall in love with it. And his ghazals worked best when used commercially. I don’t think any of us can ever get over his ghazals in Arth. Whenever I would compliment him on a brilliant composition,he would say,“Khayyam saheb,aapki ‘Umrao Jaan’ sabse pehle,baad mein hamari ghazal.” And I would marvel at the modesty.

When he removed sarangi and santoor from his concerts,he was adhering to the audience’s demands to make ghazal more popular. He changed it from a genre rooted in the set-up of old nobility. It embraced the masses with his introduction of guitars and dholaks in ghazal concerts. And that is what the audience loved in his concerts. Ghazal,in general,did lose its structure and style,thanks to some trashy Bollywood music,but Jagjit Singh always elevated it.

He never stopped bringing out albums. If his new ghazal CDs were not coming out,then he brought out the gurbani and bhajan albums that became extremely popular with a different kind of audience. In fact,the last time I met him was at the launch of his CD titled Shukrana,which was a tribute by SaReGaMa on his 70th birthday. The CD was released by me. He was so happy that day. Look at the way things have gone,I am on my way to offer my condolences.

A traumatic event in his life was his son’s death in a car crash in 1990. He went into a shell then and did not discuss anything with anybody. His wife Chitra was completely shattered and stopped singing. But what came from that pain,that loss,was the poignancy of a beautiful ditty,which the couple used to sing in concerts when their son was young. When I heard a childless mother’s plight in “Mitti da bawa naiyo bolda,ve naiyo chalda ve naiyo,denda aye hoongara (My doll of mud,it does not talk)”,it just tore through the heart. I want to hum this one for him today. May my dear friend rest in peace.

The writer is a music composer

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