Jagjit Singh - an interview

Author: Dr. Mandar V. Bichu

In the beginning of our telephonic interview, Jagjit Singh seems like a brusque personality- he brushes off queries about his early life and career and tells me to talk about the present-day scenario. However as our conversation progresses, the ghazal maestro slowly mellows down and shares some interesting observations about his 4 decade- young career. His point-blank, no-nonsense approach is in perfect contrast with his soft and soothing singing image but that’s what makes this conversation colourful.


Here are the excerpts:


What’s so special about your Dubai- concert?


Well, I am coming back to Dubai after a gap of almost two years. The concert venue is the prestigious and state-of-the-art Convention Center in Dubai World Trade Centre. The tiered seating arrangement is perfect for viewing a concert from any row and the acoustics of the hall are perfect. I am very particular about these aspects of any concert. Over the years, I have learnt that the quality of sound that is transmitted to the audience is the most important thing in a live concert.


I am in the process of releasing a new album of ghazals penned by Dr.Basheer Badar and I will be presenting some of the new ghazals from that forthcoming album in this concert. I also intend to present fusion of classical ghazals with western classical and jazz. This concert will be the first one in my planned world tour. So important is this concert for me that we will be even recording it live on video for posterity.


What do you feel about the audience world over?


Over the years, the audiences are definitely becoming choosier and wiser. In terms of nationalities, my concerts are still mainly attended by people from Indian subcontinent. But that’s natural considering the genre of my music.


When people come to my concert, they come with certain expectations and I make it a point to fulfill those expectations. The younger singers are making do with lip-synching in their concerts and then they try to cover up that deficiency through dancing and flashy stage- lighting but I don’t indulge into these gimmicks. I just have my singing to present to the audience and I do it live.


What qualities do you look for in the poetry before choosing a ghazal for a musical composition?


Apart from the technical specifications to qualify as a ghazal, I am looking for a new thought in the poetry. Beauty, romance, social satire, spiritualism, religion- the subject matters may vary but there should always be a surprise element in a ghazal. I also make sure that the words used in the ghazal are simple and understandable for common audience. I have studied and learnt Urdu in detail but even now, I don’t feel awkward to ask an expert about the meaning of a difficult Urdu expression.


Why did you choose ghazal as your musical genre- particularly at a time when playback singing was a more lucrative option?


I agree that film music has been the main and popular musical genre in India. But according to me, most of the film- songs made till the seventies were actually in ghazal format. Take the old film-songs like Teri Duniya Mein Jeene Se, Jaane Woh Kaise Loag The Jinke Pyar Ko Pyar Mila, Waqt ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam, Yuun Hasraton Ke Daag or Katate Hain Dukh Mein Yeh Din and then, you will realize my point. I have sung many of my favourite film-songs in the album ‘Close To My Heart’.


Making ghazals provided me with an opportunity to use melodious tunes and quality lyrics, encompassing the whole gamut of human emotions. I didn’t want to indulge into slam-bang kind of rushed music. The best thing about a ghazal is that ten different artists can sing the same ghazal in ten different way


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