Baat Niklegi Toh Phir

My relationship with Jagjit Singh dates back to my infancy. My parents, my elder brother and my maternal grandfather have been lovers of his music, that’s why falling for his compositions came naturally to me at an early age.  The delicate charm in the way the words leaned on the tune and the profound poetry was gifted a resonance in his ghazals is one of the many qualities that has made me seek refuge in his music all my life.

I have grown up in the air where my family loved discussing his albums at length, not limiting themselves to the connotations of the poetry or the magical symphony of the musical instruments but going beyond to find bits and pieces of the life of the singing duo ~ Jagjit and Chitra Singh.

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Being a huge fan of Jagjit Singh, picking this book came naturally to me. The book’s title is the opening lines of the Ghazal that are among my all-time favorites since adolescence. Ironically, the melancholy and haunting lyrics of the same bear an uncanny resemblance to my life. It makes me feel a strong connection to it beyond my love for Jagjit Singh and his timeless music.

“Jagjit Singh chose lyrics that went beyond the usual theme of love and longing, wine and roses, to speak of metaphysics or the tribulations of daily life.

He gave the Ghazal a younger, more contemporary appeal.”

Though I have been aware of an earlier work ‘Beyond Time’ mentions of which have been made in plenty in this book, somehow I haven’t had the opportunity to read it.

The book is a beautiful take on the life of inimitable Jagjit Singh whose integrality spans over few known and many unknown aspects of his life. It was a pleasure to read about Jagjit Singh’s childhood, his yearning for music and dedication to learn it from every source he came across.

I enjoyed reading about his college life where Jagjit Singh spent all his time and energy practicing music and performing in various competitions and how he managed to pass the exams. It was fascinating to learn about his journey in the early years where I was amazed to learn he was a skilled hockey player but pulled himself out of the college team to save himself for his ruling passion of life.

I loved the nuggets about how he came across the then strugglers, but now accomplished names of the film industry like Subhash Ghai. The book mentions about his many friends in the early years, who later became an important part of his musical journey.

The book also highlights the phase of life when Jagjit Singh met Chitra Singh, how their paths crossed on a number of occasions before their relationship blossomed into a lifetime affair. I couldn’t help but note that the author has kept the narration as close to real highlighting the flaws of the maestro along with showcasing the treasure trove of his talents and qualities of being a true gem at heart.

“He made the ghazal sound cool with Western instruments and stereophonic recording. Singing easier-to-understand poems set to semi-classical or simple tunes made the ghazal a means of touching the heart of the lay listener.

He made the singing style so attractive that people wanted to understand even the most difficult words of the poem.”

I had always wondered why the Ghazal albums with poetry in Urdu had titles in English, the mystery has been answered in the book and how. It was amazing to learn that besides many languages, Jagjit Singh has recorded in Nepalese too. On the other hand, Chitra Singh who was well-versed in almost 17-18 languages, learnt Urdu from Jagjit Singh.

I was left in awe with Chitra Singh’s learning skills at the way she had learnt and made her diction and voice mold well to the soft, bass notes of Jagjit Singh’s voice.  The book talks at length about the personal struggles of the Singh-ing duo as well as how the various popular albums came to be. The anecdotes are the ones that would tug the heart-strings of every music lover.

I wish to congratulate the author on the successful portrayal of the real face of the tinsel town. It was heartening to read about how the established superstars of the time didn’t feel the need to allow fresh talent an opportunity in the industry when young Jagjit Singh was still struggling to find a break in the industry. The author has put forth the facts without being preachy or judgmental, adding to the grace of the narrative.

For me, the highlight of the book are the many photographs shared from various stages of Jagjit Singh’s life that keep this book from getting dreary at any point. The chapters in the book have been artistically parted using photographs and lyrics from the most celebrated Ghazals. The beauty of this arrangement lies in the fact, that I could almost hear these Ghazals play in my mind as I read through the 225 pages of the book.

The language is rich, narration impeccable keeping the reader feel as if you aren’t reading a biography but watching the events happen live before your eyes. In the final pages, a list of all his works has been mentioned. I couldn’t help but feel proud to own most albums on the list while taking note of the ones I need to get to not miss out on any of his compositions that are accessible.

I particularly felt that the book would have benefited from more interactions with the people whose lives and careers were touched by Jagjit Singh, the ones shared in the book are few and far between. I have been a fan of Jagjit Singh’s spiritual creations (particularly Hey Ram) and also the albums in which he had paid a tribute to the yesteryear legends. Calling his final few albums lacking in appeal doesn’t do justice with his music.

The final pages that showcase a poignant description of Chitra Singh’s life in current times, left me shaken. The book also mentions about Chitra Singh’s campaign to win for Jagjit Singh the title of Bharat Ratna.

The book presented to me many known and unknown facts about Jagjit Singh’s life, leaving me feeling inspired & enthralled beyond words. Having read this ‘book to be treasured’ I feel closer to the man and his music in a way one feels having known someone personally, all his life.

About the Author – Sathya Saran is one of India’s best-known journalists and editors. As the editor, she made Femina the most successful fashion and lifestyle magazine in India.

She is also the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling biography Ten Years with Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi’s Journey and has recently published Sun Mere Bandhu Re: The Musical World of S D Burman with HarperCollins Publishers India. She is at present working on a number of books in her capacity as consulting editor with HarperCollins Publishers India.

  • Title – Baat Niklegi Toh Phir  ~The life and Music of Jagjit Singh
  • Author – Sathya Saran
  • Publisher –  Harper Collins India
  • Genre – Biography Music
  • Pages – 225
  • Price – INR 699 (Get the best deal on Amazon)
  • ISBN – 978-93-5136-382-8
  • Rating – 4/5

The song on my mind: Baat Niklegi Toh Phir 

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