x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Jagjit Singh, the prominent Indian singer and composer, dies at 70

The prominent Indian singer, music composer, activist and entrepreneur Jagjit Singh died on Monday following a stroke.

Renowned Ghazal Singer Jagjit Singh performing at a concert held to mark his 70th birthday.
Renowned Ghazal Singer Jagjit Singh performing at a concert held to mark his 70th birthday.

DUBAI // Fans, political leaders and family friends mourned the death yesterday of the “Ghazal King”, the Indian music legend Jagjit Singh.

Singh, who was 70, died at Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai, where he had been admitted on September 23 after a brain haemorrhage. The cremation will take place today.

The musician was best known for reviving the popularity of classical Urdu ghazal – originally Arabic love poems that spread to the subcontinent nine centuries ago – and setting them to music.

He has performed several times in Dubai, the last time in February with the Indian lyricist and poet Gulzar.

“The world has lost a great musician, but I have lost a friend,” said Lajwanti Gupta, Singh’s family friend and the daughter of the late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, a legendary Indian classical musician.

“Every country with ghazal lovers is hurting, whether it’s India, Pakistan, the UAE, the UK or America.”

“He brought ghazal to new heights of popularity.”

In a letter of condolence to Singh’s wife, Chitra, the Indian president Pratibha Patil said: “He was known for his unique style of Ghazal singing, which brought out the deepest and innermost feelings. Shri Jagjit Singh connected instantaneously with his audience wherever and whenever he performed in India and abroad.”

Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, said the singer made “ghazal accessible to everyone. He gave joy and pleasure to music lovers in India and abroad. He was blessed with a golden voice.”

Ghazal originated in the Middle East and spread to India in the 12th century. In the 1970s and 1980s, Singh developed a more modern sound by incorporating western instruments.

His big break came in 1976 with his first record, The Unforgettables, sung along with his wife. Soon afterwards he was being sought in the Hindi movie playback industry as a lyricist, composer and music director.

Some of his best known songs were Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho (The way you smile), Yeh Daulat Bhi Le Lo (Take this wealth as well) and Ahista Ahista (Slowly). He sang for dozens of Bollywood movies and recorded more than 40 albums.

Tragedy struck in 1990, when Singh’s only son, Vivek, died in a car accident.

Six months later, after collaborating with some of India’s finest singers, lyricists and poets, the musicians produced some of his strongest work. His comeback included an album called Samvedna, which contained poetry written by the former Indian prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Jogiraj Sikidar, director of the Malhaar choir in Dubai, recalled that Singh celebrated his 70th birthday in February at the World Trade Centre with the song Mein sattar ka houn, meaning “I am 70”.

“It was mesmerising,” Mr Sikidar said. “Until today in Dubai, it is the best show I have attended. Only a legend can perform for five hours at that age. To me, Jagjit Singh will always be remembered for bringing ghazal to the masses.”

rtalwar@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Suryatapa Bhattacharya and Preeti Kannan