Stories in a song

Redemption song: ‘Tum Apna Ranj-O-Gham’ by Jagjit Kaur

The singer sang some of her most memorable songs for her husband, the music composer Khayyam.

Jagjit Kaur sang only a handful of songs and when she did, it was most often for her husband, the music composer Khayyam. She began her playback career with a song in the Punjabi movie Posti (1950). This was also the first Punjabi production in which Asha Bhosle sang for music director Sardul Kwatra.

In Dil-E-Nadaan (1953), Jagjit Kaur sang for the composer Ghulam Mohammed, but the assignment didn’t give her the platform she needed to break into the big league. Khayyam attended a music concert where he spotted Jagjit Kaur singing and approached her for a track for the movie Shola Aur Shabnam (1961). She sang solos for the movie, including a duet with Mohammed Rafi. The film was the beginning of a life-long collaboration with Khayyam, whom she later married.

Tum Apna Ranj-O-Gham song from ‘Shagoon’.

Jagjit Kaur’s crowning moment came soon after the wedding, when she sang “Tum Apna Ranj-O-Gham” for Khayyam for Shagoon (1964). Khayyam had said that the track would immortalise Jagjit Kaur. He had been impressed by her rustic voice and robust ability to render folk tunes, as evident in the song “Ladi Re Ladi” from Shola Aur Shabnam. “Tum Apna Ranj-O-Gham”, in contrast, is a soft and melodious ballad written by lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi. Kaur’s vocals glide from a high to a low pitch, acquiring a mellow finish.

Jagjit Kaur excelled in traditional wedding songs, such as “Kaahe Ko Byahi Bides” (Umrao Jaan, 1981), “Chale Aao Saiyyan” and “Dekh Lo Aaj Humko” (Bazaar, 1982) – all for Khayyam. The unparalleled beauty of “Tum Apna Ranj-O-Gham” overpowers the other tunes, because, as Khayyam recalled in a 2013 interview, Jagjit Kaur was trying to share his suffering and pain through her rendition.

For previous entries in this series, see here, here and here.

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