Jagjit Singh (born February 8, 1941) is an Indian ghazal singer. He sings in the Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi languages, and Gujarati language. Jagjit Singh was born in Ganganagar, then in Rajputana in British India. His father Sardar Amar Singh Dhiman, employed by the Government of India, was a native of the village of Dalla in what is now Ropar district in Punjab and his mother Bachchan Kaur came from a deeply religious Sikh family from Ottallan village near Samrala. His siblings include four sisters and two brothers and he Singh is known as Jeet by his family. Although his late father wanted him to join the Indian Administrative Service, he was later reported to be happy with his son's achievements in the world of music. Singh went to Khalsa High School in Ganganagar. He then studied science after matriculation at Government College,Ganganagar and went onto DAV College, Jalandhar in to graduate in arts. He also achieved a post-graduate degree in history from Kurukshetra University, Haryana.
Jagjit Singh's association with music goes back to his childhood. He learnt music under Pandit Chaganlal Sharma for two years in Ganganagar, and later devoted six years to learning Khayal, Thumri and Dhrupad forms of Indian Classical Music from Ustad Jamaal Khan of the Sainia Gharana school. The Vice-Chancellor of Punjab University and Kurukshetra University, Late Professor Suraj Bhan encouraged his interest in music. He arrived in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1965 in search of better opportunities as a career musician and singer. His early struggle in the music industry, though not too harsh by his own account, still had its share of trials and tribulations. He lived as a paying guest and his earlier assignments were singing advertisement jingles or performing at weddings and parties.
During 1970s, in India, the art of ghazal singing was dominated by well-established names like Noor Jehan, Malika Pukhraj, Begum Akhtar,Talat Mahmood and Mehdi Hassan. However, Jagjit was still able to make his mark and carve out a niche for himself. In 1976, his album The Unforgettables (On HMV LP Records) hit the music stores. Essentially a ghazal album, it's emphasis on melody and Jagjit's fresh voice was a departure from the prevalent style of ghazal rendition, which was heavily based on classical and semi-classical Indian music. Skeptics had their own reservations, purists scorned it but it was widely successful among listeners and the album set new sales records.
In 1967 he met Chitra, also a singer, while doing jingles. After a two year long courtship they got married in 1969. They epitomise the first successful husband-wife singing team. Jagjit Singh, with Chitra, has contributed immensely towards changing the course of this genre of music known as 'Ghazal' making it more ear friendly, melodic and enojoyable by a wider audience.
Later successful releases of the duo include Ecstasies, A Sound Affair and Passions. While these albums were breezy, Beyond Time released in the opening years of 1990s was an experimentation with sounds and conveyed a feeling that was beyond space and time. Around this time the duo was struck by grief as their only son, Vivek, who was twenty-one, met an untimely death in a road accident. Not only Jagjit and Chitra, it was a big shock to his numerous fans also. The album is a tour to the soul, ethereal, conscientious and introspective. The ghazals have a moving quality to them since they express the personal loss of Jagjit and Chitra. 'Someone Somewhere' was the last album containing ghazals sung by both. After that, Chitra quit singing.
Jagjit Singh continued singing his later albums, including Hope, In Search, Insight, Mirage, Visions, Kahkashan (meaning "Galaxy"), Love Is Blind, Chirag (meaning "Lamp"/"Flame") also achieved success. Sajda (an Urdu word meaning "offering"), which has ghazals sung by Jagjit and Lata Mangeshkar was another brilliant release and made its mark as a classic Ghazal album. The combined successes of his many albums made him arguably the number one ghazal singer in India. The audience wanted more and Jagjit Singh obliged with his Punjabi albums. Ebullient, effervescent and bubbly, his Punjabi songs are pleasant as well as joyous. Their enchanting ghazals use the choicest poetry by renowned poets including Mirza Ghalib, Ameer Meenai, Kafeel Aazer, Sudarshan Faakir and Nida Fazli…. and contemporary writers like Zaka Siddiqi, Nazir Bakri, Faiz Ratlami and Rajesh Reddy.
Jagjit also sang (as playback singer) for various songs in Bollywood films including Arth, Saath Saath and Premgeet (all from 1980s). The scores remain popular even today. In fact, all the songs of film Premgeet were composed by Jagjit. His compositions for the TV serial Mirza Ghalib (based on the life of the poet Mirza Ghalib), remain extremely popular among ghazal aficionados. The elusive element of Ghalib's poetry was sensitively and wonderfully brought out in the soulful compositions of Ghalib's ghazals by Jagjit Singh. The album could veritably be called a magnum opus.
Compared to his earlier ghazals (sung during 70s and 80s) his later ghazals have acquired a more soulful and poignant demeanour, as in albums such as Marasim, Face To Face, Aaeena, Cry For Cry. But all through this, romance never took a backseat! The journey to the soul is punctuated by romantic pauses like Dil Kahin Hosh Kahin. A testimony to his popularity is his ghazals in recent Bollywood flicks like Dushman, Sarfarosh, Tum Bin and Tarkeeb.
Most of the earlier albums of Jagjit Singh had English titles. Later, these had Urdu names like Sahar (meaning "Dawn"/"Morning"), Muntazir (meaning "In waiting"), Marasim (meaning "Relation"/"Relationship"/"Affinity" ) "Soz" (Pathos) etc.. The switchover may not be deliberate but marks a milestone in his singing. These new albums show a far better selection of lyrics and yes, even the singing has scaled new peaks.
Besides ghazals, Jagjit Singh has also sung Bhajans and Gurbani(Hindu and Sikh devotional hymns respectively) . Albums such as Maa, Hare Krishna, Hey Ram...Hey Ram, Ichhabal and also Man Jeetai Jagjeet in Punjabi, put him in the league of Bhajan singers such as Mukesh, Hari Om Sharan, Yesudas, Anup Jalota and Purushottam Das Jalota. The soothing effect that Jagjit's voice has on frayed nerves has prompted psychiatrists in metros (as large cities in India are called) to prescribe them as stress relievers.
Jagjit Singh is accredited with bringing the ghazal genre, which was previously restricted to the elite classes, to the masses. His music direction can be seen to be pioneering in changing the sound layout by adding more Western instruments while mostly retaining the traditional orchestra (which includes a tablaa, and harmonium, and a couple of string instruments]. Jagjit Singh is also nicknamed Gazaljit Singh.
Jagjit Singh is accredited with finding one of the foremost playback singers in Bollywood in modern times, Kumar Sanu. As he played a big part in Sanu's initial career, in an interview Sanu said that Singh took him to meet the legendary music composers Kalyanji Anandji after hearing his voice, from there on Sanu has become a legend in Bollywood for his range and singing as he went to win five male playback Filmfare Awards in a row. A record that still stands.
Jagjit Singh voiced his opinion against artists from Pakistan being allowed to sing in India, when Pakistan refuses to reciprocate the gesture.
In addition to cultivating his own successful career, Jagjit Singh has been involved in guiding many new, talented singers such as Abhijeet Bhattacharya,Talat Aziz, Ghanshyam Vaswani, Ashok Khosla, Siza Roy and Vinod Sehgal. He also lends active support to several philanthropic endeavors such as the Library at St. Mary's (Mumbai), Bombay Hospital, CRY, and ALMA (an organization that adopts under-privileged students for further education and development).
Jagjit Singh lives in Cumballa Hills, Mumbai.