The credit to help me develop a taste for Urdu poetry and Ghazals goes to my dear buddies-since-school Horil and Moses. These guys introduced me to the world of Jagjit Singh. It all seemed so vague and over-board at first but Horil being a great singer himself has a way with poetry as he not only sings Ghazals beautifully but he also narrates their meaning along the line. Any “mehfil” with Horil and Moses around is a treat. Over the years, Ghazals have grown on me and now I can relate to the meaning of life & relationships better through the various recitals of this ethic form of poetry. The Ghazal Maestro – Jagjit Singh is undoubtedly the king with his unique voice, his elegant style and unmatched compositions.
Last Saturday, 20th August, I had the pleasure to see Jagjit ji sing in person for the first time ever. The Live in Concert event was held at the Civic Centre in the Camberwell suburb of Melbourne. And what a show it was! Me and Ajay (a dear friend who is also influenced by Horil’ and Moses’ Ghazal effect) went to the town hall centre for the show scheduled for 7:30pm. We were shocked to the see the long queue of Jagjit Singh fans at the entrance. I’ve never seen so many people from the Indian-subcontinent gather at one place. We didn’t get the tickets in advance so we were a bit unsure about their availability, also considering the number of people lined up. But we managed to get the tickets and finally took our seats in the hall. The stage was set and well decorated. There were candle shades at both ends, seating for Jagjit ji in the centre & his entourage around it, and some fancy flower pots on the edge. The view to the stage from our seats was good and we were desperately waiting to get a glimpse of Jagjit ji. The show started late by about 15-20 minutes, but it sure looked packed. The arrangement was quite nice and well managed by the usher’s in the hall. While the audience was settling down, Ajay and I were admiring the lovely ladies around – certainly the kind not seen often of. I was expecting more students than families – Melbourne being a large education centre with various uni’s and a majority of Indian students. But on the contrary I could see families, the elderly and the young, all under one roof. After some glancing around, one could easily spot the rich and elite Indian’s of Melbourne, who had little or no clue as to what a bazm is Or who Mirza Ghalib was, and for most of whom it was more of a social event, something to bloat on with their Indian & Caucasian mates on the next barb-e. Then I saw this familiar looking lady walk down from the stage to the front-row seats. She was none other than Chitra Singh, wife of Jagjit Singh, who hasn’t sung after the demise of their son. I still admire some of her early Ghazals like Hum ko dushman ki nigahaun se, Jahan jahan sehra and most others from the album Beyond Time. Finally the compeer for the show took to the podium, and welcomed the audience. She gave a brief bio of Jagjit ji, of which the most surprising fact was that his debut album back in 1976 was titled Unforgettableâ€™s. As the audience was getting anxious, the compeer finally called upon the man himself – Jagjit Singh and his entourage. The grand appearance left me and Ajay in an awe! Dressed in a simple kurta and pyjama, Jagjit ji took his floor-low seat and so did his fellow musicians. As the audience roars and claps, the first thing he says leaves everyone laughing, “Aisa lag raha hai Dilli aa gaye hain … lekin Dilli bhi ab bahut sudhar gayi hai”. That said, as usual he introduced each musician on his team and then they all jammed together a bit to calibrate the sound system and tweaked their instruments to hit the right chord.
While the audience was still eager to hear the first Ghazal of the evening, Jagjit ji started with a raaga. Where it would go was no-one’s guess! Transiting the raaga, the first Ghazal “Main nashe mein hoon” made its way. It’s hard to describe the ambience at this point but it sure did feel intoxicating. While I was on vacation in India sometime back, Horil, Moses and I got together to catch-up on what’s going with life. That night, Horil dedicated a Ghazal to all my friends here, while I was recording the video on my mobile-cam. I had never heard of it before that night but this Ghazal – “Hum to hain pardes main” had a beautiful patriotic perspective to it. Coming to the next Ghazal by Jagjit ji, he touched that emotional nerve of every Indian abroad with this same Ghazal. Listening to the mature and rusty voice of Jagjit ji was a trip to the clouds. After each nazm, the melody was orchestrated on a different instrument – first the violin, then the sitar and then the keyboard. The interlude was great. Next up, Jagjit ji sang a Ghazal which is quite a favourite of Moses’ and one that he himself hums quite well. Ajay and I cracked a bit on how Moses used to tell us that he wrote this Ghazal. The haunting chords on the violin, made way for “Baat niklegi to dur talak jayegi”. “Kal chaudhvin ki raat thi” lightened the mood after that with the audience clapping and whistling. All the Ghazals sung this night were quite different in their orchestration and style than the original recorded versions, and to see an artist improvise so genuinely made it more interesting. The next one sung by Jagjit ji is actually a Punjabi folk song called â€œSaun da mahina yaaroâ€. He plays around with the words “tip tip”, and the interaction seen with his musicians is awesome. Next up, “Yeh daulat bhi lelo …” is beautifully staged. The mood gets even mellower with the haunting tone & tune, which leads to the Ghazal “Koi fariyaad” (from the Hindi movie Tum Bin). After this Ghazal, Jagjit ji and his entourage took a 20 minute break, and so did we. Ajay and I finally got a chance to share the excitement of hearing the melodies and words which we had so far only heard on audio cassettes and CD’s. I must confess though that a few of the timeless Ghazals, which invariably have a deeper root through certain events, people or emotions in my life and the lives of my friends, are still better sung by Horil and Moses. There’s no room for comparison since Jagjit ji is the ultimate ustad but I fancy certain Ghazals more with Horil and Moses singing them.
After this short break, Jagjit ji started the second-half of the show with a very popular Ghazal of his, “Tum ko dekha to yeh khayal aaya” (from the Hindi movie Saath Saath). It mildly cross-faded to his next ghazal, “Hoton se choo lo tum”. The second-half comprised of some exquisite poetry wrapped in classic compositions. Next up, he sang another Punjabi folk song, which I had infact only heard in Chitra ji’s voice earlier. This soft folk song called “Mitti da bawa” is a treat to hear. Continuing with this Ghazal, an amazing dhun on the tabla retreats to the previous ghazal “Hooton se choo lo tum”. The next Ghazal brought a loud uproar of claps and whistles. “Sarakti jaaye rukh se naqaab, ahista ahista” makes way. Towards the end of this Ghazal, there’s this mind blowing interlude between Jagjit ji and the instrumentalists. The tabla beats brought everyone to awe. It’s something very rare that we had witnessed. Jagjit ji cracks a good one next, telling the audience that the show is about to end in 20 minutes (at 11pm) but if they want to hear more they should go out and get a $100 ticket 🙂 As the clock ticked, the rhythm just kept mounting, with another Punjabi folk song called “Chuley agg, na ghade de vich paani”. The audience went berserk with claps and whistles on this very popular Punjabi song. Towards the end of this song and the end of the show as well, some of the guys came next to the stage and danced a bit of bhangra. Jagjit ji also came forward and shook his hands in the air once – and then walked off the stage, calling it the night.
As we were walking out of the hall, I heard one lady say to someone that the Jagjit Singh show was better the last time. Well, it was my first and I surely loved it! I was not only impressed by the voice but by the person as well. For those who might not realize it, Jagjit ji has a fabulous sense of humour. He is a true entertainer. A great performance by a great artist. Truly memorable!
By the way, I recorded parts of some of the Ghazals on my mobile cam. I’ll try to join the parts, improve the audio quality using a digital enhancer and upload the mp3 on this page soon.