The sad and untimely death of ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh in October 2011 marks the passing of a remarkable period in the history of Indian music.
The unique contribution of Jagjit Singh (1941 - 2011) to the art of ghazal was to make it an accessible art form for the concert stage. Ghazal has its origins in Sufi music and is characterised by an emphasis on poetry and esoteric concepts whose sheer beauty creates infinite expressions of love and longing. Predominantly sung in Urdu but also in Persian, Braj and Punjabi, the music of ghazal is gentler than qawwali (with its driving rhythms and vocal virtuosity) and can be supremely beautiful, enhancing the meaning of the lyrics. By employing different instrumentation and changing its traditional musical format, Jagjit was able to bring a chamber music art form into the twenty-first century, and to the masses.
His gentle, flowing melodies and superb voice made Jagjit immediately different from traditional ghazal singers going back to the classical era of Akhtari bai Faizabadi. His duets with his wife Chitra will remain some of the most memorable performances of this wonderful art form.
The Asian Music Circuit was fortunate in having Jagjit give a ghazal workshop at our Museum of Asian Music in May 2011 and to have produced his UK tours, including his concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 1999 which brought ghazal to the mainstream stage. He will be dearly missed.