Living Music through Jagjit Saab

I listen to music mostly while I work either sifting through vital documents or creating one. Nothing has a more positive impact on my day than catching up on my kind of music. Like most Indian music aficionados, my love for music is mainly influenced by Hindi films.

I was 5 when my voice lessons in Indian classical music began and as I grew, I found myself listening, playing and singing Ghazal, without even knowing its history or form. Being a follower of the art form, I found this genre extremely powerful and stirring amidst all forms of music.

Needless to mention thus, my favourite Ghazal singer is the king of this genre, Jagjit Singh. There’s magic in his voice. Unlike many musicians, Jagjit Singh finds a coveted place in the hearts of the youth and the older generation.

I realized that his form of music has a deep liaison with your heart since it binds you in words that have deep meaning and melodious harmony. The underlying shades of romance, hues of pathos and tones of passion strike an immediate cord with an Indian audience.

Initially, Ghazals largely meant the popular list of tracks like “Tum Itna Jo Muskura rahe ho” , “Ye tera ghar ye mera ghar”, “Jhuki Jhuki si Nazar” , ”Hothon se choo lo tum” ,“Hoshwalon ko khabar kya” and an endless count of such melodies. Slowly, the playlist added soulful numbers like “Bas ek waqt ka khanjar” , “Benaam sa ye dard” , “Kabhie yun bhi toh ho” , “Koi ayega yahan” , “Koi ye kaise bataye” “Kaagaz ki kashti”– I can simply go on!

His music paved way for our emotions that were articulate in form and deeper in meaning. His world of lyrical poetry was so fascinating that I would imagine what it would be like to attend his live concert.

Such strong was the string of adulation, that one day I finally got to attend a live concert by the Ghazal maestro. The year was 2006 & he was performing at the Music Academy, Chennai. Thronging ardent music lovers, popular performing artists and members of the academy, the auditorium was jam packed. I immediately felt an absolute rush of joy I had never known before. I was in august company. One could hear hushed tones secretly discussing their favourite songs and hoping a live original rendition. After moments of anticipation and excitement, Jagjit Singh took to the stage and mesmerized the audience with his famous bhajan “Tu hi Mata tu hi Pita hai”. The musical evening poured magic as he continued to sing filmi and non filmi ghazals. Within moments, he captured the audience with his narration, experiences and mellifluous voice. The darkness of the hall was clouded with gloom tiding high in the hearts. When he touched the chords of “Chitthi na koi sandesh”, the audience couldn’t hold on to their emotions and broke down. Unlike his serious image that I had read about him, he appeared rather casual and fun loving never missing an opportunity to interact with the audience. He sang numerous songs from his albums – Hope , Search, Insight , Mirage, Kahkashan, Love is Blind , Chiraag and Visions. It must have been well past midnight when the magical evening came to an end with the evergreen romantic ghazal , “Tera Chehra kitna Suhaana”, evoking a collective sense of longing.

One musical evening gifted us so many emotions to savour -Joy, hope, despair, grief and love!

I have been his ardent follower ever since I was 16 and vividly remember his music associating my memories of all kinds. Little did I know then about the history of Ghazals.

Only later did I read up about ghazals, understanding lyrics and learning about the meaning of words and melody evoked by them.

The word GHAZAL is pronounced as “Ghuzzle” (‘Gh’ from the epiglottis). It is an Arabic word that means “conversing with the beloved”. It developed in the 10th century AD in Persia from the Arabic verse “Qasida” (means ballad or long poem in Urdu or Persian). Traditionally, a ghazal contains minimum 5 couplets and goes up to 15, however, typically, they are around 7. The opening couplet of the ghazal is called MATLA that sets the tone for the entire poem.

Singh is credited with the revival and popularity of ghazal 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 the melody evoked by them. 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 critically acclaimed poet — in two albums, Nayi Disha (1999) and Samvedna (2002). He was regarded as one of India’s most influential artists.

Jagjit Singh along with legendary Gulzar has gifted us masterpieces that will be treasured for eons. The magical combination of poetry and compositions will continue to mesmerize and enthral the world of music. His silken voice has been an essential part of my growing up creating wonderful memories like many Indians of my generation.

I can only express my highest regard for Jagjit Singh through the sensitive tribute by Gulzar:

Ek Bauchhar Tha Wo..

Ek Bauchhar Tha wo shakhs bina barse

Kisi abra ki sahami se namee se jo bhiga deta tha

Ek Bauchhar Tha Wo..

Jo kabhi dhoop ki afshaan bhar ke

Door tak sunte huye cheheron par chidak deta tha

Neem taareek se hall mein aankhen chamak uthti theen

Sar hilaata tha kabhi jhoom ke tahanee ki tarah

Lagta tha jhonka hawaa ka tha koi chhed gaya hai

Gungunaataa that toh khulte huye baadal ki tarah

Muskurahat mein kaee tarbon ki jhankaar chupi thi

Gali Qasim se chali ek ghazal ki jhankaar tha woh

Ek awaaz ki bauchhar tha wo…