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Ghazal connoisseurs of Auckland paid a rich and fitting tribute to legendary ‘Ghazal King’ Jagjit Singh with an evening of ghazals, nazms and geets, which the late maestro immortalised in his lifetime.

Tarannum, hosted by Ram Iyer’s CFI Events, featured two of Auckland’s gifted singers Hemant Shirsat and Arpita Chanda, on April 10 at the Green Bay Performing Arts Centre. The pair sang more than 20 ghazals in the three-hour long concert.

While the Late Jagjit Singh was well-known for his solo renditions, he is equally remembered for his duets with his wife Chitra Singh. Hemant and Arpita sang both solos and duets of the legendary pair with great aplomb to lusty applause from the audience that clearly comprised of devotees of Jagjit-Chitra.

Kaagaz ki kashti; Hum to hai pardes mein; and Ye tera ghar ye mera ghar were duet renditions that stood out with both Hemant and Arpita excelling in their joint presentation, displaying good anticipation and coordination.

Hemant’s rendering of the nazm Tere khushboo mein base khat as well as the all time favourites Tum ko dekha to ye; Sarakti jaaye; Hothon se chu lo tum; Hosh waalon ko khabar kya transported the audience to decades past where these great numbers reverberated in ghazal mehfils across India and in homes.

Jagjit Singh’s simple composition and singing style was such that his songs were hummable by everyone – something that contributed immensely to his popularity. It was little surprise that a large part of the Tarannum audience hummed many of the ghazals along with Hemant and Arpita, often at their active encouragement.

Arpita’s Ranjish hi sahi; Tum itna jo muskura rahi ho; Jhuki jhuki si nazar as also her other ghazals were all sung with finesse.

Auckland’s veteran violin exponent and teacher Dr Ashok Malur accompanied the pair on violin, greatly enhancing their renditions while the redoubtable Hemant Thaker added competently, as usual, to the soundscape as did percussionists the talented Navneel Prasad on Tabla/ dholak and Araad on electronic percussion. Swanand Chitnis’ interludes on his guitar were a rich addition, executed with great sensitivity.

Auckland’s well-known singer and ghazal aficionado Kanika Diesh’s well-crafted commentary provided a meaningful backdrop to Tarannum at the start and end of both sessions.

A discovery for this reviewer was Hemant’s talent as an engaging speaker as he introduced many of the ghazals, with rich information about their nuances, their story and sometimes their history with humour and candour. It would be good to see and hear more of Hemant in time to come.

For CFI Events, Tarannum was even more memorable because it was CFI that had organised Jagjit Singh’s last concert in Auckland as part of his seventieth birthday celebrations where he planned to sing 70 concerts across the globe. Sadly, the maestro passed away shortly after returning from his Australasian tour in 2011.

Tarannum was supported by the Mohan Nadkarni Foundation, Travel Corner, City Forex NZ, Eggs & More and the media sponsor was Indian Weekender.