My Lovestruck Parents Were Besotted With Jagjit Singh: Today, I Am
As I fell in love, suffered, lost dear ones, made a career, Jagjit Singh’s balmy voice continued to soothe the soul.
Ever heard of the phrase “coup de foudre?” The first time I came across the term was in the iconic Godfather: part 1. Young Michael Corleone suffers from it when he falls madly in love with Kay. I too had a coup de foudre. It was Corleonesque but was not stimulated by the charms of a man.
Coup de foudre is a French phrase which means – to be hit by lightning.
My Coup de foudre was inspired by music. I grew up listening to diverse forms of music which included film music, classical music, Qawwali, pop English and Hindi music and ghazals.
Jagjit Singh, My Besotted Parents and a Resentful Me
My first memory of listening to ghazals is of sitting between my parents and looking at them enjoy ghazals together followed by discussions about what each lyric in the ghazal meant – rather connoted. They had a collection of cassettes which would make the biggest music enthusiasts go green. Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Ahmad brothers, Begum Akhtar, Noor Jahan, Farida Khanum, and Jagjit Singh, they had them all.
However, among a sea of melodic ghazals we listened to as a family, ones by Jagjit Singh were their favourite.
“Sarakti jaaye hai rukh se naqab aahista, aahista…” would play in our room unremittingly, as they sipped their evening tea together. I was too young to appreciate ghazals at that age, and to be perfectly honest, I hated Jagjit Singh for being such a constant presence in my parents’ life. They would listen to him every day. They must have been in their early 30s then, and, I think, madly in love.
I must admit, the man had a charm about him. His ghazals grew on me and I sheepishly admit to being a fan of his magical voice.
There have been great contemporaries but no one like Jagjit Singh!
Here was a man who single-handedly popularised complex and pure Urdu and introduced ghazals to the common music listeners who did not understand the language very well.
He gave his own twist to ghazals, appealing to mass audiences who thought that listening to ghazals was an intellectual affair. He smashed notions of elitism from this genre of music. Jagjit Singh induces memories, sensations, and moods. The man almost singlehandedly pulled the ghazal out of elite corridors of music aficionados and brought it to the common man, in a form that the regular listener could understand, connect with and relate to.
How Jagjit Singh’s Nazms Touched a Chord
His album ‘Unforgettables” catapulted his popularity among listeners. The opening ‘nazm’ of this album was ‘Baat niklegi’. The masterpiece spells out admonition poignantly.
‘Ungaliya uthengi sukhe huye baalon ki taraf
Ik nazar dekhenge gujare huye saalon ki tarah
Chudiyon par bhi kayi tanz kiye jaayenge
Kaanpate haathon ke bhi phikarein kase jaayenge…’
Here, a lover warns his beloved that word about their affair will spread like wildfire and the jury will be out to give their judgements. Her tousled hair, her broken bangles, her chapped cheeks and trembling fingers will be talked about. But he warns her not to give in, not to answer back and not to show how much she loves him – all because, once the word gets out, it will spread too far and too wide.
This nazm touches a chord and makes you think of your own apprehensions of sharing details about your love with those who are only there to judge, give verdicts about your love, delve into details about the relationship without a speck of understanding in their disposition.
Another beautiful ghazal by poet Ameer Minai, musically brought to life in Jagjit Singh’s melodious voice – ‘Sarakti jaaye hai, rukh se naqaab, aahista aahista…’ – spells out love and longing in a way that’s not only poetic but also subtly sensual:
‘Sarakti jaye hai rukh se naqaab ahista-ahista
Nikalta aa raha hai, aftab ahista-ahista
Jawan hone lage jab woh to humse kar liye parda
Hayaa yakalakht ayee or shabaab ahista ahista…’’
In this ghazal, he has paid special attention to the words ‘ahista ahista’. He fuses the right amount of yearning in his voice, thereby giving the audience a sensation of falling slowly in love and the burning desire it brings with it.
My Journey With His Ghazals
Tracks like 'Baat niklegi to phir door talak jaayegi’ by the poet Kafeel Aazer, and ‘Sarakhti jaaye rukh se naqaab ahista’ are testament to the immaculate singing, beautiful lyrical creativity and exquisite orchestral arrangements.
His ghazals described the beauty of love, the meaning of life, dreams and desires, the art of subtle seduction and the profoundness of the idea of surrender, in a way that resonates with people. His songs dealt with the minutiae of both love and separation. His music was simple – yet struck a deep connect with his love struck listeners.
The ghazal, ‘shaam se aankh mein’ penned by Gulzar has the power to fill you with a sense of pensive sadness and nostalgia, ’Aapko dekh kar dekhta reh gaya’ depicts the state of someone being besotted with his lover, ‘Woh Kaagaz ki kashti, who baarish ka paani’ depicts childhood and yearning for simpler times sans the difficulties which swarm adulthood.
Jagjit Singh was known to have an infectious sense of humour which made him immensely popular among his audiences. He would often stop to explain to them the meaning of complicated Urdu words and interlace Punjabi ‘tappa’ (Punjabi folk) in his repertoire. He was famed for making them ‘feel’ a host of emotions – ranging from an abyss of seriousness, to depths of introspection, to ebullient humour.
Jagjit Singh’s ghazals serendipitously spelled out life’s philosophy for me. As I grew up, fell in love, suffered in love, lost dear ones, made a career, fell in love again, his balmy voice soothed the soul and continues to do so.
(Devika is a public affairs professional and finds solace in writing and telling stories that acquaint you with different aspects of the society. She is an engineering drop out and wears it like a badge of honour. She has previously written for Catch News, The Quint, The Citizen, Hardnews Media, Eye Art Collective and Newsgram. Tweet to her @devikaS13)
(This story is from The Quint’s archives. It is being republished to mark Jagjit Singh’s death anniversary.)
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