It was when he was in class nine that Jagjit Singh first tasted the success that would flood his music in the years to come.
With customary seriousness, he prepared diligently for the occasion—a Kavi Darbar, where singers would sing on themes related to the Gurus or on contemporary issues. ‘We used to get a Namdhari magazine at home called Satyug, in which I read a geet I liked so much, I copied it. “Ki tera aitbaar o rahiya”,’ Jagjit said referring to the song he sang at the Kavi Darbar.
It was a philosophical song, melancholy and haunting. Already, the young singer’s choice was being shaped. He would go on to choose such lyrics as he matured; lyrics that went beyond the usual theme of love and longing, wine and roses, to speak of metaphysics or the tribulations of daily life.
Making bold to set the lyrics to a tune, he based his song on Raga Bhairavi. The first milestone of creativity was thus laid. Now it remained for the audience to decide what they thought of it. Their decision would change the course of Jagjit’s life.
As it transpired, the young singer held his own, inspiring a shower of coins on to the stage even as he sang his raga. When the cries for an encore resounded, he took recourse to his love of film music and sang one of his favourites, again a melancholy number, ‘O duniya ke rakhwale’, from Baiju Bawra and sung by Rafi. Predictably, with this extremely popular number, Jagjit Singh brought the house down.
Buy Sathya Saran’s biography of the king of ghazals here.