Kitni haseen raat thi - Jagjit Singh

Jagjit Singh was laughing into the mike. It was the laughter of disbelief - an audience so callous, organisers so unthinking that they did not even know how to introduce him.

I too would not be able to, for different reasons. Where would I start? The voice so deep that it was both mountain and valley? Would I call him 'ghazal king' when I have soaked in his film songs, his bhajans, his gurbani?

His is one of the finest nostalgic renditions of childhood with "magar mujhko lauta do bachpan ka saawan, yeh kaaghaz ki kashti, yeh baarish ka paani". When he sang "sadma tau hai mujhe bhi ke tujhse judaa hoon main, lekin yeh sochta hoon ke ab tera kya hoon main" it seemed like one's story, and his. Or, "apne haathon ki lakeeron mein basaa le mujhko"...or, "pareishan raat saari hai sitaron tum tau so jao". Do stars sleep? Do they get exhausted?

The hallmark of truly great singers is that they make it look like the words are about them. Jagjit Singh did not play to the gallery, no flourishes; no one danced in the aisles when he sang. He experimented with instruments and tonal quality, but did not lose the spirit of the ghazal. And if you listen to his spiritual songs, he is not whipping up devotion - it is just a quiet prayer whispered in the ear of whatever god you find.

For me, the popular rendition of "Babul mora" has been the one by K L Saigal. It surprised me when I heard the Jagjit Singh version. It has a similar pathos, a tranquillity...he sings it like something is leaving and he is letting go because its being there was precious.

Jagjit Singh left earth..."haath chhoote magar rishte nahin chhoota karte"...

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And something associated with a personal memory...

Hai lau zindagi, zindagi noor hai
Magar ismein jalne ka dastoor hai

Ravayat hai yeh ke zindagi gehna hai
Ye heera hai aur, issey chaat-te rehna hai
Ke lamhon mein marne ka dastoor hai

Adhoore se rishton mein palte raho
Adhoore se saanson se chalte raho
Yun hi jeene jaane ka dastoor hai
Hai lau zindagi, zindagi noor hai

(Written by Gulzar, sung by Jagjit Singh. Experienced by many)


  1. Jagjit/Chitra Royal Albert hall performance was the first Ghazal audio cassette given to me by my Ghazal connoisseur uncle and I liked couple of them, esp. this:


    I later on enjoyed other maestros like Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hasan and others. I am no Ghazal purist; I just like good lyrics set to a beautiful tune and nice voice.

    Jagjit Singh also has some really memorable playback songs like


  2. Thak gay mai yaad karte karte tuzko.
    Ab tujhe mai yaad aana chahta hun.

    Aakhri hichki teri janno pe aaye,
    Maut bhi mai shyrana chahta hun.

    What a singer!!

  3. Mash, Jitu...indeed...

    Hitesh, I have attended four jagjit Singh live performances, the first with Chitra and the last one with the callous audience. I usually prefer only 'listening' to ghazals or any good music, but there are certain artistes who are worth watching. You can see them almost taking each syllable and giving it new meaning.

    And then there was the time when I was breaking down…I had something to say, but no words. So I took my small record player and sat in the bathroom, not because I am a bathroom singer buit that was the only private place at the moment and sang what Jagjit Singh…my voice cracked, but it conveyed what I had to…”hai lau zindagi”…have put it up in the post…

  4. Farzana,


    >> . . . he sings it like something is leaving and he is letting go because its being there was precious.<<

    There is a sort of simile, according to another tradition, that suggests the kingdom of heaven can be likened to a man that finds a quite precious pearl in a field, and so he goes and sells all he owns so as to buy that field. The sense I get from this simile is that, for whatever reason, the pearl and the field are inseperable. We have this simile from ages past in that someone thought to record it in text. And yet, where you offer that Jagjit Singh takes this ghazal and "sings it like" is the suggestion that performance and/or delivery can oftentimes give an added nuance or more meaning or, indeed, a different meaning to words. With respect to the simile to which I refer, it is not recorded how the simile was delivered and/or performed (though somewhat of a context is provided) . . .

    I have no idea what the ghazal Jagjit Singh sings is about (I am an English speaker only); but I did find his facial expressions -- and the looks he gave his accompanists -- and, by way of context, perhaps, the appearances of those in the audience -- their facial expressions, dress, etc. -- interesting . . .

    >>And then there was the time when I was breaking down...<<

    Great. Thanks, Farzana. Now I can't get this image of you dressed in a hoodie, Jagjit Singh intoning in the background, and you spinning on the bathroom tile, out of my head. :)


  5. Mark:

    I'd go for the pearl in the field...needle in the haystack. Is it lost or is is sought? There comes the nuance. There we find pathos and new meaning...

    Re. the Jagjit Singh performance, indeed the expressions are often the embellishment of words...also, since the form is couplets strung together, it is akin to short anecdotes, or aphorisms, that tell a story or express a state of emotion.

    The image of me is yours, but it is far less nice or not nice at all...I was not spinning, and he was not intoning...I was the one singing what I recalled of his singing. It was transference.

    For you, I shall attempt a rough translation of the ghazal:

    Life is a flame, a light
    But we burn in it, and so it has always been
    It is said that life is a jewel
    And as a diamond, one must keep polishing it
    Since it takes but a moment to die, and so it has always been

    Survive on half relationships
    Breathe half breaths
    This is how life is lived, and so it is said

    Life is a flame, a light...

    (Actually, it has turned out to be quite a nice transliteration)

  6. >>Is it lost or is is sought?<<

    It doesn't say. It could very well be that he tripped over it. :)

    The translation is much appreciated, thank you.

    >>(Actually, it has turned out to be quite a nice transliteration)<<

    I am thinking this also.


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