February 8 will mark ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh’s 80th birthday. On the occasion, we choose 10 of his well-known ghazals and nazms.
The list does not include ghazal-based hits he sang in Hindi films or the devotional songs that adorned the later part of his career. Instead, we focus on songs with rich poetry, and thus choose 10 different writers whose work he sang.
While Mirza Ghalib and Amir Meenai were classical poets, the others were active in the post-1950s era.
1. Baat Niklegi Toh
An immensely popular nazm written by Kafeel Aazer, this was first used in the album The Unforgettables. It was a must at most Jagjit shows, and everyone hummed along lines like “Baat niklegi toh phir door talak jaayegi, log bewajah udaasi ka sabab poochenge, aur yeh bhi poochenge ke tum itne pareshan kyon ho”.
2. Sarakti Jaaye
Written in the classic ghazal style by Amir Meenai, this was one of Jagjit’s early hits. The opening lines “Sarakti jaaye hai rukh se naqaab ahista ahista, nikalta aa raha hai aaftaab ahista ahista” always drew tremendous applause at concerts.
3. Duniya Jisey Kehte Hain
One of the most popular Jagjit-Chitra duets, this ghazal written by Nida Fazli was in huge demand at concerts. The matla, or opening couplet was, “Duniya jisey kehte hain, jadoo ka khilona hai; Mil jaaye toh mitti hai, kho jaaye toh sona hai”.
4. Milkar Juda Huye
From the album Milestone, this was another popular Jagjit-Chitra number. The brilliant poet Qateel Shifai tackled the subject of separation wonderfully with the lines “Milkar judaa huye toh na soya karenge hum, ek doosre ki yaad mein roya karenge hum”.
5. Woh Kaagaz Ki Kashti
The poet Sudarshan Faakir was known for work rendered by the legendary Begum Akhtar. Jagjit chose this nazm which took a nostalgic look at growing up in one’s small town. The line “Magar mujhko lauta do bachpan ka saawan, woh kaagaz ki kashti, woh baarish ka paani” often brought tears to one’s eyes.
6. Aah Ko Chahiye
Jagjit composed and sang for Gulzar’s teleserial on Mirza Ghalib, played by Naseeruddin Shah. Though this song has been rendered by many others, Jagjit’s version had its own charm. The main lines were “Aah ko chahiye ek umr asar hone tak, Kaun jeeta hai teri zulf ke sar hone tak”.
7. Allah Jaanta Hai
In 1991, Jagjit teamed up with Lata Mangeshkar on the album Sajda. This was one of the gems, written by Akhtar Azad. The lines were, “Jo bhi bura bhala hai, Allah jaanta hai; Bande ke dil mein kya hai, Allah jaanta hai”. The song was about keeping a clean conscience.
8. Kabhi Yoon Bhi Toh Ho
A beautiful romantic nazm written by Javed Akhtar, it was used in the 1998 album Silsilay. The words were, “Kabhi yoon bhi toh ho, kabhi yoon bhi toh ho, dariya ka saahil ho, poore chand ki raat ho, aur tum aao; Kabhi yoon bhi toh ho, kabhi yoon bhi toh ho, pariyon ki mehfil ho, koi tumhari baat ho, aur tum aao, kabhi yoon bhi toh ho, kabhi yoon bhi toh ho”.
9. Ek Purana Mausam Lauta
In this song from the 1999 album Marasim, Gulzar wrote, “Ek purana mausam lauta, yaad bhari purvai thi; Aisa toh kam hi hota hai, woh bhi ho, tanhai bhi”. Jagjit’s singing brought out the right amount of nostalgia.
10. Zindagi Jaisi Tamanna Thi
In 2013, Universal Music posthumously released the album The Voice From Beyond, containing previously unreleased gems. This song, written by the brilliant Shahryar, had the lines, “Zindagi jaisi tamanna thi, nahin, kuch kam hai, Har ghadi hota hai ehsaas, kahin, kuchh kam hai”.
Besides choosing relatable poetry, Jagjit was known to use modern orchestrations, aiming at a wider audience. His contribution to the ghazal genre was immense.