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
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