Updated: July 19, 2022 5:58:34 pm
My friend Bhupinder Singh has passed away. His was a voice that could convey so many things — there was longing, love, loss. It reflected his soft soul, the kindness that he had in him and his largeness of heart and spirit. His personality and incredible talent mean that his death is a loss to the music industry. But it is also a personal loss for me.
I got to know Singh when I first entered the industry, back in 1977. The music composer Jaidev had given me my first break and I was very close to him. Singh had been singing regularly for Jaidev and they were very good friends. So I wound up sitting through a number of Singh’s rehearsals, observing his process. Every time, I would have a number of questions to ask him about his music and technique, to each of which he would always give exactly the right answer, a beautiful answer. Over time, he came to be a guide for me and gave me advice on what and how to sing. I looked up to him as an inspiring force. We also worked together a number of times, notably when we sang Gujarati songs for Ajit Sheth.
Many qualities made Singh the artist that he was. In the first place, his music was always soulful and classy. Look at the list of songs he sang for Bollywood, compositions by the likes of Madan Mohan, Jaidev, R D Burman, and a number of Gulzar songs he performed. He always got the best of songs, because he could emote at a level that very few can. One could describe him as the “creme de la creme” of singers. He worked with the right kind of composer, like Jaidev or Madan Mohan, who could make full use of the gravitas of his voice.
Singh was extraordinarily talented in so many ways. He was an amazing guitar player and composer. As a singer, he had what is known as a “mehfili andaaz”. He could sing a particular ghazal in one raga, and then seamlessly change it to another raga. And he always managed to imbue his ghazals with deep spirituality. In a sense, Singh was a fakir — a carefree man who was, first and foremost, an artist. He was guided by a total love for music that took him through Bollywood music, ghazals, bhajans. He was also a very generous person — a “badshahi” person – who was kind to everyone, regardless of who they are.
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Each of Singh’s songs is an everlasting part of his legacy, whether it was ‘Do deewane sheher mein’ from Gharonda (Jaidev), sung with Runa Laila, or ‘Dil dhoondta’ from Mausam (Madan Mohan). His achievements were towering and while he did get a Sangeet Natak Akademi Award late in life, he should have been given a Padmashree a long time ago. Such an honour is about quality, not about singing thousands of songs.
The last time I met him was just before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Along with a couple of others from our fraternity, I went to meet him. He hadn’t been well for a couple of years, his knees had been troubling him. But like the “badshah” that he was, he ensured we had a grand time, sharing stories and singing. His style, in both music and life, was inimitable. With Bhupi gone, an era is over.
The writer is a singer
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