Jagjit Singh, often referred to as the "Ghazal King", was a versatile and talented Indian Ghazal singer and musician who also wrote several memorable songs. He was born on 8 February 1941 in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan. He, in collaboration with his singer wife Chitra Singh, contributed immensely to ghazal as a musical genre and made it popular across multiple age groups.
Ghazal, a popular and acclaimed Indian classical art form, was transformed by his poetry and melody into a musical genre that the masses could connect to. His unique style of composition, with evocative use of words, earned him a huge following. He used to sing in a number of Indian languages, though his Hindi ghazals remain most popular. While Jagjit Singh's music in Bollywood films became hugely popular, his non-film compositions brought him numerous awards and unfading popularity. With an illustrious career covering five decades and musical compositions comprising 80 albums, Jagjit Singh is possibly India’s most successful ghazal composer and singer. Singh was the sole singer and composer who had the credit of recording songs composed by former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Childhood and early career
Jagjit Singh was born to Sikh parents in a joint family setup in the pre-Independence era. His father, Amar Singh, identified the latent talent in him and sent his son to learn music under guidance of Pandit Chhaganlal Sharma. Later, Singh developed skills in Thumri, Khayal and Dhrupad forms under the training of Ustad Jamal Khan. The signs of his singing talent were evident even in his student life. He studied in Jalandhar’s DAV College, where his voice helped in getting a waiver on fees.
Years of struggle as singer
Jagjit Singh got a chance to sing in All India Radio’s Jalandhar unit, and there he was offered six live musical performances, though the payment was miniscule. In 1961, he reached Mumbai without informing his family, with dream in his eyes to make it big. Initially, success eluded him and he had to return to Jalandhar. But he again came to Mumbai after four years, unfazed. This time, HMV agreed to record a couple of his ghazals. He also worked for ad films and documentaries to find a foothold. Marriage and career growth
During the initial phase of his singing career, Jagjit Singh met Chitra Dutt, who was already married. After she divorced her first spouse, Singh tied the knot with her in 1970. This proved to be a turning point for the couple. In 1975, HMV offered Jagjit Singh to make his first ever LP album, The Unforgettables. Featuring ghazals by the singer couple, this album brought Singh the success he needed, along with critical acclaim. It was followed by the Punjabi Birha da Sultan, which also became immensely popular.
After making double albums like Come Alive and live albums like Live at Wembley, Singh shot to stardom in the music industry. His compositions in Mahesh Bhatt's Arth made bollywood take notice and from here, there was no looking back. His songs in Saath Saath were also much acclaimed. Beyond Time, recorded in 1987, was the Indian musician's first digital CD. His work in Mirza, Gulzar's epic TV serial, was also successful.
Jagjit Singh received a number of prestigious awards during his career. In 1998, he received the coveted Sahitya Academy Award. In 2003, he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan. He was posthumously awarded the Rajasthan Ratna in 2012.
Personal tragedy and subsequent career
When both Jagjit Singh and his wife were at the peak of their careers, a tragedy struck. They lost their only offspring, Vivek, in a car crash in 1990. Heartbroken and shaken deep inside, Chitra quit her career. Jagjit Singh, however, chose to carry on. Man Jite Jagjit, a devotional album, was his first composition after the demise of his son. His collaboration with the legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, titled Sajda, became a critical success.
Despite massive fame, Jagjit Singh did not lose his humility and passion. He once lamented that devotion and practice were less noticeable among the musicians and singers of later generations. His soulful numbers are loved by millions for their touch of empathy and melodiousness. Tracks like 'Kaagaz ki kashti' and 'Jhuki jhuki si nazar' continue to be favorites of millions on Indians across age groups. Along with sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, Singh was vocal about decadence in Indian music and culture. He also criticized politicization of arts forms in India.
In 2011, Jagjit Singh was touring the UK and a performance in Mumbai with Ghulam Ali was scheduled. However, on the same day he was hospitalised after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage. The maestro was admitted to the Mumbai’s Lilavati hospital, where he breathed his last on 10 October 2011. His cremation was done at the Chandanwadi Crematorium. A biography on the talented singer-composer was released in 2012, titled Beyond Time.
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