Jagjit Singh, born Jagmohan Singh, was a prominent Indian Ghazal singer, songwriter and musician. Known as the “Ghazal King”, he gained acclaim together with his wife, another renowned Indian ghazal singer Chitra Singh in the 1970s and 1980s.
Born: February 8, 1941, Sri Ganganagar, India
Died: October 10, 2011, Mumbai, India
Last album: Maharana Pratap: The First Freedom Fighter
Spouse: Chitra Singh (m. 1969-2011)
Children: Vivek Singh
There was a time, in the decade of seventies to be precise, when people talked about Ghazals they usually meant Noor Jahan, Malika Pukhraj, Begum Akhtar, K.L. Saigal, Talat Mahmood and Mehdi Hassan. But the perceptions changed soon; in 1976 an album by the name ‘The Unforgettables’ hit the music stores. Essentially a Ghazal album, it had a new feeling about it, fresh sounds and melodic lyrics being the notable features of this album. Skeptics had their own reservations, purists scorned at it but the audience was, well, lapping up the album and this is what mattered or matters.
Jagjit Singh with his better half, is single handedly responsible for changing the course of this genre of music known as Ghazals making it more ear friendly, melodic and mass oriented without poaching on the purity, which he has remarkably maintained. An Aquarian, he was born on the eighth day of February in the year 1941 at SriGanganagar in Rajasthan. His father Sardar Amar Singh Dhiman, a Government servant, originally hailed from Dalla village in Ropar district and his mother Sardarni Bachchan Kaur came from deeply religious Sokhi family of Ottallan village near Samralla. His siblings include four sisters and two brothers and he is fondly called Jeet by his family.
The maestro has all the traits of the sun sign like inventiveness, vision, imagination and innovation. Although his late father always wanted him to pursue IAS as a career, he took immense pride in his son`s achievements in the world of music today. Schooling was done from Khalsa High School at SriGanganagar. He passed his Inter in Science stream from Government college, SriGanganagar. He graduated in the Arts stream from DAV College, Jalandhar. He also acquired a Post Graduate Degree in history from Kurukshetra University, Haryana. His association with music goes back to his childhood days when he was twelve years old. He first learnt under Pandit Chaganlal Sharma for two years in SriGanganagar. After which for another six years he learnt under Ustad Jamaal Khan of Sainia Gharana, under whom he learnt all forms of Indian ClassicalMusic – Khayal, Thumri and Drupad. He always had an open mind and was ready to learn from lesser known but talented musicians throughout his college days. The Vice Chancellor of Punjab and Kurukshetra University, Late Professor Surajbhan envinced keen interest of music in him.
Bollywood beckoned him and he reached Bombay in 1965 and his struggle from another wannabe to the pinnacle of Ghazal started. Like any other struggler, he too had his share of trials and tribulations. He never had a god-father and hence it was an uphill task to survive in Mumbai. He lived as a paying guest and accepted every singing assignment that came his way – be it jingles for ad films or performing at weddings and parties.
In 1967 he met Chitra while doing jingles and they got married in 1969.
They first tasted success with ‘The Unforgettables’ released in 1976, this album set new sales records and since then there has been no looking back. They epitomise the first successful husband-wife singing team. The love affair that started with ‘The Unforgettables’ continued well into ‘Ecstasies’. It flew high with ‘A Sound Affair’ and grew passionate with ‘Passions’. Needless to say, that all of them disappeared from the shelves like magic. And magic it was, of the duo’s voice, of the blissful romance and the utter blithesome quality of their Ghazals.
While the above-mentioned albums were breezy, ‘Beyond Time’ released in the opening years of nineties was an experimentation with sounds and conveyed a feeling that was beyond space and time. Around this time the duo was struck by grief as their only son met an untimely death. Shocking, as it was to them, it was as much shocking for the innumerable fans across the world. The album is a tour to the soul, ethereal, conscientious and introspective. Fraught with pain, the album in one word is touching. ‘Someone Somewhere’ has become the last album by the duo together and subsequently Chitra Singh called it quits.
The towering persona of Jagjit Singh braved the tragedy and continued alone treating the listeners with gems like ‘Hope’, ‘In Search’, ‘Insight’, ‘Mirage’, ‘Visions’, ‘Kahkashan’, ‘Love Is Blind’, ‘Chirag’ and a few others. ‘Sajda’ in collaboration with Lata Mangeshkar was another brilliant release and made its mark as a classic Ghazal album. All of these and others further consolidated his position as the numero uno of Ghazal singing. The audience wanted more and Jagjit Singh obliged with his Punjabi albums. Ebullient, effervescent and bubbly, his Punjabi songs are pleasant as well as joyous.
Bollywood was more than smitten by him and tracks of classics like ‘Arth’, ‘Saath Saath’ and ‘Prem Geet’ bear witness to his calibre. The albums sell like hot cakes even today. Apart from singing, Jagjit Singh composed the music of a few films too. Ah, that reminds us of the splendid music he composed for the TV serial, ‘Mirza Ghalib’. The sensitive poetry of Ghalib in Jagjit Singh’s voice assumed a new meaning. It would not be out of place to say that till date if any artist has done true justice to Ghalib’s immortal poetry, arguably it is Jagjit Singh. The album stands out as a magnum opus.
Like a true genius, Jagjit Singh did not restrict himself to Ghazals and has also cut a few albums of Bhajans. ‘Maa’, ‘Hare Krishna’, ‘Hey Ram…Hey Ram’, ‘Ichhabal’ and also ‘Man Jeetai Jagjeet’ in Punjabi, put him in the league of Bhajan singers that has a restricted membership and the prominent members of which are Mukesh, Hari Om Sharan, Yesudas, Anup Jalota and Nitin Mukesh. The soothing effect, his voice has on frayed nerves has prompted psychiatrists in metros to prescribe them to stressed out souls.
Of late, there has been a clear shift in the mood of his Ghazals; they have acquired a more soulful and poignant demeanour, as in ‘Marasim’, ‘Face To Face’ and the latest ‘Aaeena’ ‘Cry For Cry’. But all through this romance never took a backseat! The journey to the soul is punctuated by romantic pauses like ‘Dil Kahin Hosh Kahin’. A testimony to his popularity is his Ghazals in recent Bollywood flicks like ‘Dushman’, ‘Sarfarosh’ and ‘Tarkieb’.
In addition to cultivating his own successful career, Jagjit Singh has been involved in guiding many new talents such as Talat Aziz and Vinod Sehgal. He is also active in several philanthropic endeavors such as the Library at St.Mary’s, Bombay Hospital, CRY, and ALMA, an organization whose focus is to adopt students for further education and development.