Jagjit Singh is often referred to as someone who “brought the ghazals to the masses”. Perhaps he did. But that would be like saying that Michelangelo painted. What Jagjit Singh did was far more: he exposed an entire genre that was mostly reserved until then for the connoisseur-class, those with the means and access to an esoteric form of classical music, and brought it within the reach of the average person. More importantly, in the process he brought sheer poetry -literally- to millions of people who otherwise would never have read the haunting, moving and emotionally charged verse of the likes of Mirza Ghalib, Ameer Minai, Sudarshan Fakir or Kateel Shifai. And in doing so, he pushed the boundaries of what constituted “good” ghazal singing by experimenting with eclectic musical instruments, demystifying complex couplets, and for the first time in Hindi music history, even using digital recording technology.
While Jagjit Singh was not (a la Freddie Mercury/Radio Gaga) “my only friend through teenage nights” he was definitely a proxy friend, philosopher and guide, channeling the depth of sentiment in the lovely poems he brought to life via his rich baritone. I did attend my first concert as an angst-ridden teenager (is there any other kind, anyway?), and as my own life evolved, continued catching his maturing and commanding musical persona over the years through Bombay, Frankfurt, Houston and San Francisco. And amazingly, there was always a verse here, or a rondo there that resonated with and complemented some slice of my own unfolding life. So here is a special salaam to my special king on his special day… Your Unforgettable (1976) Milestones (1980) are Rare Gems (1992), Ecstacies (1984) and Unique (1996) that are Echoes (1985) Beyond Time (1987), an Insight (1994) into our actions In Search (1992) of Desires (1994), Emotions (1989), Passions (1988) and that special Someone, Somewhere (1990). When alone with Main aur Meri Tanhayee (1981) and pondering the Kahkashaan (1992), or as Soz (2002) of Sajda (1991) Forget me Not (2002) when Love is Blind (1998), your Visions (1992) of Silsilay (1998) give Hope (1991) and Samvedna (2002) in my own Life Story (2006).
To borrow the puckish phrase from the recent delightful movie, 3 Idiots, ” Jahanpna, Tussi great ho…!”
p.s. a special shout-out to RM, the dear little boy who shares his birthday with him today (his parents if they are reading this know who he is) 🙂