Happy 71st Birth
Anniversary Jagjit Singh!!
GP begins a weekly column
by Abhinav Kant Chaturvedi
It was only last year, on 8 February, that I set out to EMCEE for an event that only comes once in a lifetime. The occasion –Jagjit Singh’s 70th Birthday. The occasion even became and bigger as two other stalwarts of India were taking the stage with him. The poet in white, Gulzar Sahib, and the Kathak legend, Pt Birju Maharaj.
The concert was titled ‘Tridhara’ – 3 forms of performing arts - Music, Poetry & Dance - conceived and produced by his most favourite Tabla Nawaaz, Abhinav Upadhyay.
It was a pleasure to stand up for Jagjit Bhaiyya, whom I had known since my first concert with him in my college, St Stephen’s, in 1982. I had come a long way with him in this long journey.
That evening, Gulzar Sahib was possibly at his best and what stole the show was when Jagjitji and Pandit Birju Maharaj, went unplugged with, first, a Holi in Khamaj and then the big surprise “Sarakti Jaye Hai Rukh Se Naqaab – Ahista Ahista” – with Jagjitji rendering the classic ghazal and Panditji doing a live Bhaav. The audience was bowled over.
This is not just it … another memorable incident that I will never forget in my life was in the year 2000. It was my Birthday – 16 January. A charity concert again at the Siri Fort. He was given to understand that it was my birthday. After making an announcement in the interval, I was walking backstage when he called me back and said, “Aaj mere chhote bhai ka janm din hai.” The audience clapped while he presented me a bouquet of flowers. He asked me to stand next to him and proclaimed, “Aaj inka janm din hai aur mujhe inko dekh kar ek Musical Shararat yaad aa rahi hai” ….. and then to my amazement he sang “Happy Birthday in Rag Darbari’. I was later presented a recorded cassette…with none other than Jagjit Singh singing “Happy Birthday’, which is the most cherished rendition in a public concert.
We all know that he was a great performer who loved his audience immensely and was ever committed to them. Another fantastic incident was at a concert for PRAYAS – an NGO for Juvenile Justice headed by Amod Kanth. The concert date clashed straight with an India-Pakistan cricket match and that, too, an ODI final in Pakistan. We all pleaded with him to shift the date as the organising committee feared a very low turnout. But, nothing would deter this legendary artiste. He, instead, suggested that 2 wide video screens be put on “either side of the stage”, all muted …. no sound of the match. He asked me to appear in a Team India T shirt, and I followed suit.
He sang through the night with some classic renditions, but with every wicket that fell he would burst into a “Balle – Balle .. Hoye Balle”… and go back into the Ghazal he was singing.
India finally won the match and he erupted with a strong Punjabi number. India had won…but Jagjit Singh was indeed the Man of the Match. He had given us a universal message – ‘My audience is my King …They (Team India) were doing their job …and he did his …. with a packed audience.
Jagjitji will always be remembered as a prominent Indian Ghazal singer, songwriter and musician …. and perhaps the only composer and singer to have composed and recorded songs written by a Prime Minister - Atal Behari Vajpayee - also a critically acclaimed poet - in two albums, Nayi Disha (1999) and Samvedna (2002).
Jagjit Singh’s original name was Jagmohan Singh – he bettered his own name … from Jagmohan (Jag ko mohne waala) to Jagjit (The one who won the world).
Such a one, who is truly beyond time … in all senses of championing a fathomless musical artistry.
Happy Birthday … Jagjitji ….
We continue to celebrate and salute your music …. to eternity. Rest in peace, while you continue to live in our hearts and souls … Globally.