The Eternal Minstrel

Music Review

The Master and His Magic

Jagjit Singh

Sony Music

Rs 499; rating: ***1/2

There's little chance that you have not been exposed to Jagjit Singh's wide repertoire of ghazals. The man's voice is known to have stirred the wistfulness of a lost age for us. In the 70s and 80s, the ghazal metamorphosed itself from a genre embedded in an au courant and aesthetic setup of old aristocracy to become popular among the masses and Singh was at the helm of affairs. He introduced a slew of folk and western instruments, adapting to popular demand to help the genre survive. Around the same time Sanjay Tayal, an ardent Jagjit Singh fan based out of Ahmedabad, was busy travelling with the musician and collecting recordings from backstage technicians. Almost a year after Singh's death, nine tracks out of Tayal's collection have been digitised, restored and curated by the ghazal maestro's wife, Chitra Singh. The ghazals, in The Collector's Edition titled The Master and his Music, tug at one's heartstrings, as effortlessly as they have done in the past.

The album opens with Tu ambar ki aankh ka tara from a concert some months before Singh's 70th birthday, a pleasant ditty from Singh's arsenal, which has given us better and more refreshing tracks in the past. A violin vibrato in the background paired with the beats of the tabla and the dholak make it a good first track. Surprisingly, the voice does not sound aged, breathless or jagged. This is followed by Chitra Singh's description of her life with Singh, referring to him "as friend, philosopher and guru".

A Firag Ruhvi nazm, Dekha jo aaina composed in raag Marwa has Singh's deep baritone flowing effortlessly. The range of Singh's voice is audible in Jao ab subah hone wali hai. With the violin and the harmonium paired with the dholak, he croons Daag reh jayega mere dil par/ rote dekha jo tumko jaate huye and it takes you into his world marred by the tragedy of losing his only son in a car crash (pic on far left). The incident played an imperative role in the kind of poetry Singh chose later in life. His pain also comes to the fore in the mellow Ro lete toh achha hota. Singh's mastery over sad and romantic genres remains unmatched when it comes to Indian ghazal singers. For us, Tu jo aa jaye in raag Durga is a clear winner. Here, the maestro uses komal (dissonant) swaras beautifully to deliver a stellar performance.

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