Now that Jagjit Singh is dead, who would sing for us during those drunken nights with friends? Wait, he’s not dead. His music would live forever, to inspire generations after generations to come close to this musical form called Ghazal.
Personally, I discovered ghazal after watching Penaz Masani on Doordarshan (remember the candyfloss-haired girl; she was utterly mesmerising...), via Anoop Jalota (though known for his bhajans, ‘Lagi aisi lagan’, he’s an accomplished ghazal singer), via Pankaj Udhas (‘Citthi aayee hai’ from the soundtrack of ‘Naam’) via Ghulam Ali (‘Chupke chupke’ from the soundtrack of ‘Nikah’), till Mehdi Hasan (Ranjish hi sahi).
Along the way, there was Jagjit Singh, always. If I would play a ghazal for someone, it would always be a Jagjit Singh number, nothing else. Personally, I found his voice too sweet, his style too mellow, but you could not deny his power, his influence. I would ask my friends to play a ghazal, they’d play a Jagjit Singh number. Those days before CDs and mp3s, I would go and raid a friend’s audio cassette collections, and I would invariably find at least one Jagjit Singh album. I would ask my friend to listen to a particular number, and they’d all listen to the version that Jagjit Singh rendered, even the classic ‘Chupke chupke.’
The way Jagjit Singh inspired a generation of Indian listeners, who did not know anything beyond Hindi film music, to listen, understand and seek out ghazal as an art form is not only extraordinary, but also unprecedented. There were people before him, there were people after him; but there was none like him, so mellifluous, so accessible, and so haunting.
And there are the lines I can recite backwards. And those nazms which have become part of our collective unconsciousness:
‘Tum jo itna muskura rahe ho, yeh kya gham hai chupa rahe ho...’
‘Yeh daulat bhi le lo, yeh shohrat bhi le lo...’
‘Yeh tera ghar, yeh mera ghar...’
‘Tumko dekha toh yeh khayal aaya...’
‘Jhuki jhuki si nazar...’
A Jagjit Singh album which has been my constant companion since it’s release is ‘Marasim’. I got the album for Gulzar, being his devotee, and then fell in love with it, all the numbers, and especially, ‘Woh khat ke purje uda raha tha...