Jagjit Singh, born Jagmohan Singh (8 February 1941 – 10 October 2011), was an iconic Indian Ghazal singer, composer and musician. Known as the “Ghazal King”, he gained acclaim together with his wife, another renowned Indian ghazal singer Chitra Singhin the 1970s and 1980s. Their combination album comprising music from the films, Arth and Saath Saath is the HMV’s largest selling combination album of all time.Sajda (An Offering, 1991), Jagjit Singh’s magnum opus double album with Lata Mangeshkar holds the same record in non-film category. He sang in numerous languages. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the government of India in 2003. In February 2014, Government of India released a postal stamp in his honour.
Singh is credited for the revival and popularity of ghazal, an Indian classical art form, by choosing poetry that was relevant to the masses and composing them in a way that laid more emphasis on the meaning of words and melody evoked by them. In terms of Indian Classical music, his style of composing and Gayaki (singing) is considered as Bol-pradhan, one that lays emphasis on words. He highlighted this in his music for films such as Prem Geet (1981), Arth and Saath Saath (1982), and TV serials Mirza Ghalib (1988) and Kahkashan (1991). Jagjit Singh is considered to be the most successful ghazal singer and composer of all time in terms of critical acclaim and commercial success. With a career spanning five decades and a repertoire comprising over 80 albums, the range and breadth of his work has been regarded as genre-defining. He is the only composer and singer to have composed and recorded songs written by former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee – also a poet – in two albums, Nayi Disha (1999) andSamvedna (2002).
Singh’s 1987 album, Beyond Time, was the first digitally recorded release in India. He was regarded as one of India’s most influential artists. With sitar legend Ravi Shankar and other leading figures of Indian classical music and literature, Singh voiced his concerns over politicisation of arts and culture in India and lack of support experienced by the practitioners of India’s traditional art forms, particularly folk artists and musicians. He lent active support to several philanthropic endeavours such as the library at St. Mary’s School, Mumbai, Bombay Hospital, CRY, Save the Children and ALMA.
Early life and career
Jagjit Singh was born in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, India (then Bikaner State) in a Punjabi Sikh family. His father, Sardar Amar Singh was a native of Dalla village in Punjab and was employed with the Government of India. His mother was from a village nearSamrala city of Ludhiana District.
Educated initially at the Khalsa College Sr. Sec. School (Boys), Sriganganagar (Estb. 1928), in Sriganganagar and later at Khalsa College, Sriganganagar, Singh obtained an arts degree from DAV College in Jalandhar where he also began his professional career in 1961 by undertaking singing and composing assignments at All India Radio’s (AIR) Jallandhar station. Later, he studied to obtain a post-graduate degree in history from Kurukshetra University in Haryana. Throughout this time, and as a consequence of a natural talent that was spotted by his father, Singh learned music initially from a visually impaired master of Indian Classical music, Pandit Chaganlal Sharma and later from Ustad Jamaal Khan of Senia Gharana, who taught and trained him in all the prominent styles of Hindustani Classical vocal tradition such as Khayal, Dhrupad, Thumri and others. Throughout his teenage years, he performed on stage and composed music. Although his father, who was a government employee, had hoped that he would become an engineer, Singh pursued his passion for music relentlessly. Like all parents in Indian middle class families, his father aspired for him to become a bureaucrat. However, he also encouraged Singh and his siblings to learn music.
In March 1965, and without the knowledge of his family, Singh moved to Mumbai, where there were many opportunities for music artists because of the Bollywood film industry. He obtained work initially as a singer of advertising jingles and later progressed to playback singing.
Singh with Lata Mangeshkar at the audio release of Saadgi
Singh was still struggling to make a living in 1967 when he met the Bengali-born Chitra Dutta. She divorced her husband and married Singh in December 1969. Following the birth of their son, Vivek, the couple performed as a singing duo but it was not until the 1976 release of the album The Unforgettable that they found significant, and surprising, success. In the interval, the primary difficulty for them had been that the ghazal music genre was dominated by Muslim artists and especially those from Pakistan.
The Unforgettable, which was the couple’s first LP, was an unconventional recording and it turned them into stars. The song “Baat Niklegi” from the album achieved great popularity for the Singhs.The Independent described it in 2011 as “ground-breaking … it became a transformative, before-and-after milestone in the history of Indian popular and ghazals music. It remains that.” Using modern arrangements, it consists of ten tracks that include two on which they sang as a duo and the remainder equally split between Jagjit and Chitra singing the lead. The Independent further noted that “This format of solo and duet performances from the first commercially successful husband-and-wife team in Indian popular music proved astonishingly successful.” Jagjit explained that “I was determined to polish up the genre and make it more acceptable to modern tastes, so chose simple poems and set them to simple tunes. I also introduced western instrumentation to make them livelier.” Thereafter, the couple worked both on solo and joint musical projects and performed concerts worldwide. There was success from involvement with the film industry and they amassed considerable wealth, while Jagjit became known as “the Ghazal king”.
Among their subsequent duo recordings of the 1970s were Shiv Kumar Batalvi – Birha da Sultan (1978), Live in Concert at Wembley (1979) and Come Alive (1979). Of those released in the 1980s, “The Latest” by Sudarshan Faakir was the best selling album with his life time hit “Woh Kagaz ki Kashti…Woh Baarish ka Paani”. It was the first album by the duo with poetry of only one Poet. Ecstasies (1984) has also been described as “one of their finest”. The joint projects ceased in 1990 when their 18-year-old son, Vivek, was killed in a road accident. Chitra felt unable to sing following these events. Monica, Chitra’s daughter from her first marriage, committed suicide in 2009.
Although Jagjit continued to work and to have success after Chitra withdrew from public life he, too, was affected by the death of Vivek. The Guardian notes that he “suffered from deep depression and his anguish was often evident in his live performances.” Aside from occupying himself with solo projects, which he performed in several languages,he collaborated with Lata Mangeshkar on an album titled Sajda, an Urdu word meaning “prostration”.
Singh’s work in filmencompassed playback singing for productions such as Arth, Saath Saath and Premgeet. He composed all of the songs for the latter, as well as for the TV serial Mirza Ghalib that was based on the life of the eponymous poet, Mirza Ghalib.
On 10 May 2007, in the presence of numerous political and diplomatic luminaries at an event held in the Central Hall of the Parliament of India, Jagjit Singh rendered Bahadur Shah Zafar’s famous ghazal Lagta nahin hai dil mera to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Woh Kaghaz Ki Kasthi
Shayad Main Zindagi Ki Sahar
Zindagi Tujh Ko Jiya Hai
Us Mod Se Shuroo Karen
Jis Mod Par Kiye The
Mere Dukh Ki Koi Dawa Na Karo
Badi Haseen Raat Thi
Teri Ankhon Mein Hamne Kya Dekha
La Pila De Sharab Ai Saqi
1 December 1986
Din Guzar Gaya
Meri Zindagi Kisi Aur Ki
Ab Ke Barsat Ki Rut
Fasila To Hai
Aadmi Aadmi Ko Kya Dega
Mere Dukh Ki Koi Dawa Na Karo
Koi Samjhega Kya Raz-E-Gulshan
Dekha To Mera Saya Bhi
Dil Hi To Hai
1 February 1996
Apni marzi se
Dushman ko bhi seene se lagana
Ek barahman ne kaha hai
Koi chaudavi raat ka chaand
Main rahe meena rahe
Mujhe jeene do
Rishta kya hai tera mera
Zindagi se badi sazaa hi nahin
Main Bhool Jaau
Mere Dil Ne Kaha
Jaate Jaate Woh Mujhe
Dard Apnata Hain
Mujhko Yaqeen Hain
Sach Yeh Hain Bekaar
Dard Ke Phool Bhi
Kabhi Yu Bhi To
Singh toured the UK in 2011 and was due to perform with Ghulam Ali in Mumbai but suffered a brain haemorrhage on 23 September 2011. He was in a coma for over two weeks and died on 10 October 2011 at Lilavati Hospital, in Mumbai. He was cremated the following day at Chandanwadi Crematorium near Marine Lines in Mumbai.
A number of tributes have been paid to Singh after his death, and some tried to cash in on his popularity, which was criticised by his wife.
A biography of Singh, entitled Beyond Time based on about 40 hours of interviews with him, was released in 2012. It was transcribed and edited by Ashrani Mathur.
In 2012, State Government of Rajasthan posthumously awarded Jagjit Singh its highest civilian award, the Rajasthan Ratna.
In 2003, Singh was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award, by the government of India
In 1998, Jagjit Singh was awarded Sahitya Academy Award, a literary honour in India. He was awarded for popularising the work of Mirza Ghalib.
Sangeet Natak Academy Award
Sahitya Kala Academy Award by Rajasthan government in 1998
Ghalib Academy by Delhi Government in 2005
Dayawati Modi Award in 1999.
Lata Mangeshkar Samman in 1998 by Madhya Pradesh government.
D. Litt. by Kurukshetra University, Haryana in 2003
Teacher’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.8th Teacher’s Achievement Awards
Google India honoured Jagjit Singh with a doodle on his 72nd birthday on 8 February 2013.
“Laagi Ram bhajan ni lagani”
“Babul Mora Naihar”
Ek Baar Kaho
“Raakh Ke Dher Ne”,
“Phir Pukara Hai”
“Hontho se chhoo lo tum”
“Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar”,
“Koi Yeh Kaise Bataye”,
“Tere Khushboo Mein Base Khat”,
“Too Nahin To Zindagi Mein Aur Kya Reha Jayega”,
“Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho”
“Pyar Mujh Se Jo Kiya Tumne”,
“Tum Ko Dekha To Yeh Khayal Aaya”,
“Yeh Bata De Mujhe Zindagi”,
“Yeh Bata De Mujhe Zindagi”,
“Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar”,
“Yun Zindagi Ki Raah Mein”
Tum Laut Aao
Zulf Ke Saye Saye
“Nashili Raat Mein”
“Hum to Yun Apni Zindagi Se Mile”,
“Main Gar Mein Chunariya”