The Sound: Jagjit and Chitra Singh


Chitra and Jagjit Singh

Some artists sing songs that become classics  and live on for eternity. Others are loved for the special charisma they bring to their live performances. Some artists sell millions of records (or CDs or downloads) and grow rich. But few truly change the course of popular music or establish a sound that is instantly identifiable with them.

Jagjit Singh and his wife and singing partner Chitraare in that rarest of rare categories that can claim to have accomplished all of the above.

It is Sunday morning here in Melbourne, the first day of spring. The skies are overcast and a brisk breeze is gusting off Port Philip Bay. As I start the day I’m overcome with a strong desire to hear some ghazals by this wonderful duo, and so I turn to Black Magic an album that seems to date from the mid-late 1980s.

At once I am touched.  The warmth of Jagjit’s unhurried and honeyed voice calms the many mini storms inside of me. I’m drawn completely into a world of spiritual doubt and unrequited love the territory Jagjit and Chitra have claimed as their own since they burst onto the scene nearly 40 years ago.  Jagjit’s voice is iconic in the same way as Johnny Cash‘s: strong, manly, deep and assured.  A creative energy that is able to make you stop, sit up and pay attention.  But where Cash made you tremble, Jagjit makes you glow.

For her part Chitra embodies the reticient but passionate beloved. Her voice is delicate, nearly brittle at times but always full of melody and spirit. Like Jagjit her style is deliberate and precise like she is telling a story to a dear friend.

Black Magic is a wonderful example of the Jagjit and Chitra sound. Essentially acoustic, it relied on simple combination of flute, guitar, tabla (always in the background, never driving), santoor and violin. They rarely sang anything other ballads and this aural environment is distinctively theirs. You hear an intro and you know whose voices will soon come in.

This could become boring and tiresome but it doesn’t. At least not for me, yet. And I’ve been listening for 35 years. You don’t look to Jagjit and Chitra for experimentation. You go to them because you can rest assured you’ll always be welcomed into their gentle and elegant embrace


Track List:

01 Patthar Ke Khuda Patthar Ke Sanam

02 Jab Bhi Tanhai Se Ghabra Ke

03 Jawani Ke Heelay Haya Ke Bahne

04 Yeh Kaya Jane Mein Jana Hai

05 Mai Pilkar Aap Ka Kaya Jayega

06 Hai Ikhtiar Mein Tere

07 Yeh Bhi Kya Ehsaan Kum Hai

08 Agar Hum Kahen Aur Woh Muskraden

Black Magic

The Younger Brother: Ustad Barkat Ali Khan

barkat ali

Barkat Ali Khan

Thanks to the great sleuth work of fellow blogger and music expert, one Mr. Musab  I am very chuffed to share one of the missing 10 volumes from the Music Pakistan* series: Urdu ghazals sung by Ustad Barkat Ali Khan of Kasur.

Ustad Barkat Ali Khan (1908 – 19 June 1963) was a Pakistani classical singer, younger brother of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and elder brother of Mubarak Ali Khan, and belonged to the Patiala gharana of music.

Barkat Ali Khan was born in Kasur, in the Punjab province of then British India. He had his initial training from his father, Ali Baksh Khan Kasuri, and later by his elder brother Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. After 1947 Partition of British India, Barkat Ali Khan, with his family, migrated to Pakistan and focused on the lighter aspects of Hindustani classical music. He was widely acknowledged as one of the great exponents of Thumri, Dadra, Geet and Ghazal, and was well known for both Purab and Punjab Ang Thumris.

Many still consider him a superior thumri singer than his elder brother, though he didn’t receive acknowledgement to the extent Bade Ghulam Ali Khan did. He taught noted ghazal singer Ghulam Ali. Many people in Pakistan say that simplicity and humility were the hallmark of his personality. He started a new trend of ghazal-singing in Pakistan. Before Mehdi Hassan became known as the ‘King of ghazals’ in the 1970s, Barkat Ali Khan and Begum Akhtar were considered the stalwarts of ghazal-singing during the 1950s and 1960s. Barkat Ali Khan, in a rare live radio interview to Radio Pakistan, Lahore, had said,” My forefathers, at one time, lived in the hilly tracts of Jammu and Kashmir, so they used to sing ‘songs of the hills’ (Pahari Geet). I learned to sing those Pahari Geets from them”.

Barkat Ali sahib passed away in 1963 at a very unacceptably young age.

Track Listing:

01 – Hasti Apni Habab Ki Si Hay [Mir Taqi Mir]

02 – Ishrat e Qatra Hay Darya Main [Ghalib]

03 – Uss Bazm Main Mojhay Nahin Banti [Ghalib]

04 – Aah Ko Chahiay Ek Umr [Ghalib]

05 – Ibne Maryam Howa Karay Koi [Ghalib]

06 – Voh Aa Ke Khawb Main [Ghalib]

07 – Navake Naz Se Moshkil Hay [Amir Minai]

08 – Dono Jahan Teri Mahabbat Main [Faiz Ahmed Faiz]

09 – Ab Sawan Ghar Aaja (Thumri Tilak Kamod)

10 – Lagi Nahin Chhote (Dadra Khammach)


*please see previous post for a complete list of Music Pakistan CDs. all missing items are currently being sought. Any leads will be appreicated.



Taza Hava Bahar Ki: Mehdi Hassan


Mehdi Hassan

Mehdi Hassan needs no introduction to readers of this blog. But in case you do Wikipedia will give you a good overview. Apparently, a biography was published in 2010 but like most such obscure things, it is hard to locate on the internet.

Without further ado, here are two volumes of ghazals from the Music Pakistan Box Set (2006)

Mehdi Hassan


Mehdi Hassan_0003

Mehdi Hassan_0001

Vol. 1 Track Listing:

01 Taza Hawa Bahar Ki

02 Yun Na Mil Mujh Say

03 Jab Pukara Hai Tujhay

04 Abkay Hum Bichray

05 Rang Pairahan

06 Ku-Baku Phail Gaee

07 Aaye Kuch Abr Kuch

08 Jal Bhi Chukay Parwanay

09 Dekh To Dil Kay Jan Say

10 Roshan Jamal-E-Yaar Say


Mehdi Hassan vol 2

Mehdi Hassan_0001

Vol. 2. Track Listing:

01 Baat Karni Mujhay

02 Chaltay Ho To Chaman

03 Hum Per Jafa

04 Mohabhat Karne Walay

05 Patta Patta Boota Boota

06 Gulon Main Rang Bharay

07 Ghuncha-E-Shauq

08 Go Zara Si Baat

09 Woh Dil Nawaz Hain Laikin

10 Nanak Andaz Jidhar

11 Tum Aaye Ho Na

12 Ulti Ho Gaeen Sab Tadbeerain




The Final Show: Ustad Amanat Ali Khan

Amanat Ali

When  I came to Amanat Ali Khan‘s music–in a time long long ago and land far far away-the first song that caught my attention was Inshaji Utho. I was completely overwhelmed with what I heard. The song seemed to have just dropped out of the sky complete and perfectly formed.  It was held together and driven by a subtle synergy between rhythm, lyric and spirit.  There is a world-weariness about the song. A man at the end of his journey giving in to the eternal and inevitable.

The song, I was told by everyone, had been sung in a concert just before ustadji passed away in 1974. This information heightened the drama of the song and it has been one of my favourite ghazals ever since.

Recently I came across a recording that purported to be Amanat Ali Khan‘s final concert. I quickly looked to see if Inshaji Utho was on it. Alas, it was not. But I picked up the album anyway and I share it here today.   It is an excellent recording of a master singer at the top of his game. While Inshaji is missing, there are renditions of many other wonderful ghazals such as Yeh Arzoo Thi, Mausam Badla and an epic interpretation of the thumri, Piya Tore.



Track Listing:

  1. Yeh Arzoo Thi
  2. Kab Aao Ge
  3. Mausam Badla
  4. Piya Tore
  5. Tum re Daras



Lion in Winter: Talat Mahmood


Talat Mahmood, the gentle, silken voiced ghazal master passed away nearly 20 years ago but remains a much loved voice among South Asian film and music fans.  I wrote a piece on him several years ago which provides some basic biodata of this often overlooked playback singer.

Around the same time that I wrote that article I got my hands on this album but have hesitated to share it.  Though the back cover gives a date of 1966 these tracks were clearly recorded much later. Probably in the mid-late 1980s would be my guess.

Mahmood‘s soft voice with its incredible capacity to emote melody and melancholy is instantly recognisable.  Its a voice from a bygone era. But also gone is the strength and control.  Talat sahib‘s voice wavers frequently and he struggles to hit notes that once came so effortlessly.  From time to time he slips out of key.  And for this reason I kept this record buried deep in my collection.  I didn’t want to do a disservice to the once beautiful voice by sharing a record that was clearly far below the standard he himself set.

But perhaps because I have recently passed a certain chronological milestone myself I now think differently.  We are familiar with the ‘official’ portraits of Queens, Prime Ministers and dictators which show them in that airbrushed eternal moment when they were 40. No matter that they are now twice as old and decrepit, it is this image we are supposed to remember.

I have always found this ridiculous.

Several years before the end of his fabled life Johnny Cash released a couple albums made when he was under real physical and emotional stress. That thunderous trumpet of a voice was now a hesitant near whisper.  And yet if was full of power and conviction. And in its way a necessary part of his life’s work. When I listen to those last tracks I get a complete, honest picture of Cash. If I never moved beyond Folsom Prison Blues not only would I be missing out but I would be cheating Johnny himself.  He was not ashamed of his state and never thought he should censor his voice. Why should I?

And so with Talat. He never made an excuse for not liking the direction—disco, rock n roll, electronic beats–Hindi film took in the 1980s. He settled into semi retirement and seemed content not to partake in the film world again.  But as this record shows, he never gave up on the ghazal. 

This is touching and humane record. A labor of love by Talat and his dear friend and collaborator, the arranger Enoch Daniels. It is a final hurrah of a master who is well aware of his limitations and the dimming of the day.  But it also a triumph of passion. The much weakened but still vital roar of a lion in winter.  And I am pleased at long last to finally share this collection of fine ghazals that should be part of every genuine Talat-lover’s collection.

Talat saaz front 903

Talat saaz back 904

Track Listing:

01 Kahin Sher-o-Nagma Ban ke

02 Har Ek Mod se Milta Hai Rasta Koi

03 Ghazal ke Saaz Uthao

04 Dil Hi To Hai Na Aaye Kyon

05 Main Nazar Se Piraha Hun

06 Jo Tu Nahin To

07 Gulshan Mein Leke Chal

08 Mere Saqiya Mere Dilruba