Jagjit Singh was an Indian music artist who performed composing, singing and writing music. Also known as the Ghazal King, he dedicated his life to write Ghazals. He composed them artistically and gave them a different music. He invented his own style and inspired masses. Along with his wife Chitra Singh who was also a music composer, made music which reached several heights. He has held the record for the largest selling album of all the time for the album ‘Sarja’ (1991). He has worked with many legendary artists and also became one.
He was born to Sardar Aman Singh Dhiman and Sardarni Bachchan Kaur on 8th February 1941. They named him Jagmohan Singh Dhiman which he modified later. His schooling and college happened from Khalsa High school and Sri Ganganagar Government College respectively in Rajasthan. He obtained an Arts degree from DAV College of Arts in Jalandhar, Punjab. He also post graduated in History from Kurukshetra University in Haryana.
During these years of education, he performed on stage for local festive occasions. He was drawn towards music and developed a passion for it. His parents saw the talent in him and encouraged him to pursue music although they initially wanted him to become an engineer. He was a student of great musicians such as Pandit Chaganlal Sharma and Ustad Jamaal Khan from whom he learned various styles of Hindustani music. Later he moved to Bombay for getting better opportunities to showcase his talent.
His life was moving smoothly until he lost his son Vivek in a car accident in 1990. His wife and he were diagnosed by deep depression due to the tragedy. This also affected the musician’s career and his wife completely lost the singing vibe. But this hardly ruined his voice and he recovered to give even better pieces of work.
Journey to Become the Ghazal King
After he came to Bombay like any other artist, he struggled in his beginning years. It started off with jingles for small advertisements. The years of struggles kind off smoothened when he found his lady love Chitra Dutta who was also a raw artist at that time. They got married in the year 1969. They had a son who they named Vivek.
The couple tried a duet titled ‘Unforgettable’ and released it in 1967. Surprisingly the album was an instant hit and turned them into the new stars. Though the genre of Ghazals was dominated by Pakistani Muslim artists at that time, Jagjit Singh along with his wife still made a big place in the department. The singer was getting famous day by day by his new way of writing the ghazals. He started writing them in a simple poetic manner with uncomplicated western tunes. The crowd largely like this new way of presenting them. All of these achievements got him the title of ‘Ghazal King’.
His Famous Works and Contributions
In 1961, he started undertaking music projects at the All India Radio (AIR) in Jalandhar. There he composed some classical music for the station. That was just the start and more to go. His greatest achievements are listed down below.
- The duo of Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh when got the fame and wealth, they started organising concerts around the globe. Their performances in ‘Live in Concert at Wembley’ (1979) and ‘Come Alive’ (1979) and ‘Shiv Kumar Batalvi – Birha Da Sultan’ (1978) became famous worldwide.
- Jagjit gave his contribution in the album ‘The Latest’ in 1980 with his song ‘Woh Kaagaz Ki Kashti…Woh Barish ka Paani’. It is still remembered by people in memory of the singer. Followed by his album called ‘Ecstasies’ in 1984 his career was blooming.
- The playback singing for him started with films such as ‘Prem Geet’ in 1981, Arth, Saath Saath in 1982. This gave him opportunity on small screen serial ‘Mirza Ghalib‘ which was an adaption of the poet Mirza Ghalib’s life. He also worked for ‘Kahkashan’ TV serial in 1991.
- ‘Beyond Time’ was India’s first digitally recorded album which was composed by Jagjit Singh.
- He sang in multiple languages and got projects for the same. His next hit was with the veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar for the album Sarja in 1991. It was in Urdu language. It sold millions of copies and became the largest selling album.
- He gave his voice for the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Nayi Disha (1999) and Samvedna (2000). His close relations with the parliament and talent got him a chance to sing Bahadur Shah Zafar’s ghazal ‘Lagta Nahin Hai Dil Mera’ in the Central hall of Parliament Of India on 10th May 2007.
Awards and Achievements
The term of his fame brought him several awards for his scores. The first one was Sahitya Academi Award in 1998 for his compositions in ‘Mirza Ghalib’. In the same year, he received Lata Mangeshkar Samman. In 1999, Dayawati Modi Award was awarded to him. 2003 was a flourishing year for him as he was honoured with Padma Bhushan and also Doctor of Letters by Kurukshetra University of which he was a former student. He got the Teacher’s Lifetime Award in 2006. After a six year gap, he was awarded with Rajasthan Ratna which was accepted by his wife on his behalf.
Apart from awards, Jagjit Singh’s work was recognised by Google and dedicated a Doodle to him on his 72nd Birth Anniversary in 2013. His biography titled ‘Beyond Time’ was released by Ashrani Mathur in 2013. Then a documentary based on his life was made with the name ‘Kagaz Ki Khasti’. It was directed by Brahmanand S Singh which you can watch on Amazon Prime. He endeavoured in projects such as Bombay Hospital, St. Mary’s School and CRY to help the needy.
Quotes by Jagjit Singh
“The thought content of ghazals must be meaningful, related to life, it’s emotions of joy and sorrow. It must have the human touch, it should not be phoney.”
“The moment one brings competition into music, the soul is lost.”
Jagjit Singh died on 10th October 2011 due to brain haemorrhage. He was in coma for two weeks but lost due to the chronic disease. He may have left for the heavenly abode but he made revolutionary progress in the art of writing ghazals. This musician has received many tributes even after his death.
Written By: Rituparna Desai