Much has been said about the great ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, who passed away this morning, and much more will be said and written about the musical genius. My mind goes back to the late 70s when I, a collector and avid listener of ghazals and semi-classical music, heard the poem Baat niklegi to door talak jayegi. It swept me off my feet. I had never heard him or his name before.
Jagjit had the finesse of Talat Mahmood and the skill which may not have equalled but came pretty close to Mehdi Hasan’s in the field of ghazal rendition. He said Mehdi Hasan was his guru. That showed not only Mehdi Hasan’s stature but also Jagjit’s greatness in acknowledging it.
In 1979 he and his singer-wife Chitra came to Karachi to perform at concerts. Both of them clicked. EMI Pakistan released the recordings of live performances on audio cassettes. To say that they flew off the shelves of music stores is to say the very obvious. Among the places that the duo performed was the Karachi Press Club, where he was besieged by music fans. That was the only time I met him.
During this trip, he took the ashirwad of his ideal, Mehdi Hasan. He spoke warmly about his ‘spiritual guru’ in subsequent years. When I was doing a book on Mehdi Hasan, he was among the first to give his views in print and subsequently recorded his comments for one of the two CDs that accompany the slim volume. The tributes are worth listening to.
In a telephone conversation, he regretted that Mehdi Hasan had been suffering for so long and added that at least he was still with us. “I would love to see him back on his feet and back in front of a mike,” said Jagjit. But the younger singer couldn’t wait for that to happen, he passed away. By the way, Mehdi Hasan’s family members haven’t told him about Jagjit’s demise. He is in no position to bear that shock.
Excerpts from Jagjit Singh’s comments published in the book Mehdi Hasan: The Man and his Music may well be recalled: “Mehdi sahib’s selection of ghazals is remarkable. His pronunciation is flawless and the magic of his rendition is heightened by the impeccable manner in which he enunciates the words. His voice retains its balance whether he touches the low notes or hits the high ones.” If any singer ever came closest to Mehdi Hasan then he was none other than Jagjit Singh.
The writer, who jointly authored the bestselling ‘Tales of Two Cities’ with Kuldip Nayar and more recently compiled and created ‘Mehdi Hasan: The Man and his Music’ writes and lectures on music, literature and culture. He also reviews books and pens travelogues and humorous pieces, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org