Article Hindi

The timeless ghazals of Jagjit Singh


On his sixth death anniversary (10 October), we revisit some of the evergreen tracks of the ghazal maestro.

Mayur Lookhar

He was one of those who popularized the ghazal, simplifying it for the masses. There never will be one like Jagjit Singh again. His death left a gaping hole in the world of ghazals.

While the maestro is no more, his magical songs remain etched in our memories. On his sixth death anniversary today (10 October), we revisit some of the timeless tracks of Jagjit Singh.

Punjabi tappe

Jagjit Singh was a Punjabi born and raised in Rajasthan. Chitra Shome was a true-blue Bengali from Calcutta. Yet, it was commendable how she sang the tappe, a form of Punjabi folk music reserved for weddings. Jagjit and Chitra Singh charmed the Indian community in Birmingham, England, with this thoroughly enjoyable duet. As is often the case with folk music, the artists used their own improvizations to create some magic. If you don’t know the tappe, this Jagjit-Chitra duet is a great way to get introduced to a rich form of Punjabi folk music.

'Haske Bola Karo Bulaya Karo'

This gem of a ghazal was penned by the Pakistani poet Abdul Hameed Adam, better known simply as Adam. Jagjit Singh's voice set him apart from the rest, but his true artistry lay in scoring delightful, magical tunes that brought out the true flavour of the classic poems. There are very few ghazals sweeter than 'Haske Bola Karo Bulaya Karo'.

'Main Nashe Mein Hoon'

It is one thing to listen to a ghazal manufactured in the recording studio, quite another to hear the same ghazal at a live concert. One daresays lyricist Shahid Kabir himself may not have realized the depth, the pain in his ghazal until it was expounded by Jagjit Singh at a live concert in Sydney, Australia, in 1991. Singh's voice was filled with melancholy and resentment, which only elevated the number. There is the long opening alaap to a melange of rhythmic tunes, then a pause as the great man sings ‘T-H-U-K-R-A-O'. Words fail to describe the moment. The applause sums it up better. Apart from Singh his band also displayed true artistry. From the violin, sitar, piano to the tabla, each artist chipped in with a virtuoso performance. For the audience, the experience must have been divine.

'Kaun Kehta Mohabbat Ki Zubaan Hoti Hai'

The words come later, but first it is the eyes that meet to pave the way for two hearts to beat for each other. No words are required as one look in the eyes is enough to suggest what’s cooking. This was epitomized in Sahir Hoshiarpuri’s romantic ghazal, 'Kaun kehta hai ke mohabbat ki zubaan hoti hai, yeh haqeeqat toh nigahon se bayan hoti hai'. A classic duet by Chitra and Jagjit Singh.

'Kiya Hai Pyaar'

A sombre ghazal written by Pakistani poet Qateel Shifai that explained the bitter pain of heartbreak. How one comes into your life, then goes away like a stranger. Another classic Jagjit-Chitra duet that would strike a chord with a million broken hearts.

'Aaye Hain Samjhaane Log'

Jagjit Singh drew inspiration not just from great poets from Pakistan. The ghazal maestro and his wife gave soul to the late Pakistan-born Indian poet Kunwar Mohinder Singh Bedi’s poem, 'Aaye Hain Samjhaane Log', with a delightful composition. This is a relatively unheralded track of the duo.

'Agar Hum Kahen'

Begum Akhtar and Jagjit Singh both had a liking for the late poet Sudarshan Fakir, better known by his pen name Fakir. This is a gem of a poem that has a lover vowing to move the world for his beloved. Agar khud ko bhooley, toh kuch bhi na bhuley, ke chahat ke main unke khuda ko bhula de (I lose nothing if I lose myself, your love can make me forget the almighty himself). Need we say more? No wonder Jagjit and Chitra Singh were so perfect together.

'Sunte Hain Ke Mil Jaati Hai'

When all your efforts come to nought, then you are living on a prayer. Bow to the almighty and pour out your heart. The simplicity of Rana Akbarabadi’s lyrics pierces through your heart while Jagjit Singh’s voice is filled with melancholy. Singh had also sung this ghazal as a duet with Chitra Singh, but this solo performance at a concert in Trinidad in the West Indies was simply mesmerizing.