Interview: Young Ghazal Maestro JASWINDER SINGH in Washington DC

By Gurjeet Singh

Editor's note: The author is a Financial Analyst by profession and lives in Germantown, Maryland in the Washington DC metro area. A great enthusiast of Indian-American cultural exchanges, Gurjeet is also an avid  music lover. In her free time she dabs in some water color painting and loves to go on long walks. Gurjeet can be reached at guri070555 [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Artist Bio by One Entertainment, the organizer of Jaswinder Singh's "Ishq 2012" concert in Washington, DC:

Jaswinder Singh is a young Ghazal singer from India with a mesmerising voice. The talented singer has been awarded ‘The Young Ghazal Maestro’ by Indian Music Academy. The title was presented by Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia in the presence of the former President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

A promotional video of Jaswinder Singh's "Ishq 2012" concert in Washington DC

Jaswinder is the son and student of legendary composer Kuldip Singh, composer of ghazals such as ‘Tumko dekha to ye khayal aaya’ from the movie Saath-Saath and ‘Itni Shakti Hame De Na Daata’ from Ankush. He is trained in classical singing by Dr Sushila Pohankar and Pt Ajay Pohankar.

Jaswinder Singh is the young ghazal maestro and without doubt the most promising and sensational ghazal singer of this generation. Gifted with a soft and silky voice, he has proven himself as an artist who is here to stay. Saregama- HMV one of the biggest music archive in India recently launched his Music album “Ishq Nahin Asaan” comprising of all the songs sung by the young soulful ghazal Maestro.

Earlier he has released “Yours Truly” & “Dilkash” by Tips Music and has proved himself as a successor to legendary ghazal singers like Pankaj Udhas and Jagjit Singh. He was chosen to sing for the play ‘Kaifi Aur Main’, a epistolary style play dealing with the life and times of the noted lyricist and poet Kaifi Azmi. The play features the husband and wife duo of Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi. The lead actors share interesting anecdotes from the life of the great revolutionary poet Kaifi Sahib, while Jaswinder lends his voice to some of the most memorable ghazals and songs penned by Kaifi Saheb.

Jaswinder has also performed in "Ghalibnaama" a conceptual show based on the the prose and poetry of Mirza Ghalib.

Jaswinder Singh has his own unique style of performing and has mesmerized audiences at his international concerts in USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai and Muscat. He has performed in over 300 live concerts, and has plenty more to follow. Jaswinder Singh also specialises in few Sufi and foot tapping Punjabi songs which he likes to sing towards the end of his shows making the evening melodious and entertaining.

The author caught up with Jaswinder Singh at the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (GGSF) Gurudwara at 13814 Travilah Road, Rockville, Maryland in the Washington DC Metro area where Jaswinder performed Kirtan on Thursday the 5th of April, 2012.

Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (GGSF) is a Gurdwara that is a Spiritual Center, an institution with a vision to create world wide awareness regarding Sikhs and Sikhism. Since its very inception in 1985, GGSF’s mission has been to enhance the image of Sikhs thru every possible channel and bring them into the mainstream. It has provided the representation to the Sikh community in various platforms in myriad ways. It has consistently worked to create awareness among Americans at large regarding Sikhs and Sikhism. GGSF also focuses on service oriented projects on behalf of Sikhs to implement the Sikh concept of Sewa (voluntary service). For more information on the Gurdwara, please visit the official web-site.

Gurjeet:  Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with Washington Bangla radio. I know you have a very busy schedule , so this is much appreciated

Jaswinder: You are very welcome. I welcome this opportunity .

Gurjeet: do you always perform at the Gurdwara's of the cities you visit.

Jaswinder: Yes, I always make it a point to do that. I love doing Kirtan and it gives me a chance to meet the local community.

Gurjeet: First let me welcome you to DC. Is this your first time here?

Jaswinder: No, it is not. I had come here a few years ago to take part in the “ Kafi and Mein” play with  Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar where I had sung  the gazals for the play.

Gurjeet: Jaswinder, did you always want to become a Gazal Singer?  I know you were trained by your father.. but when did you actually realize, that’s what you wanted to do for the rest of your life

Jaswinder: I knew I wanted to be a singer from a very young age. My inspiration and encouragement always came from my guru and mentor.. my father. Shri Kuldeep Singh.

Gurjeet:  You have received many awards.. Which one meant the most to you?

Jaswinder: Any time your art gets acknowledged and appreciated, you feel good. The one that I was most honored by would have to be the award I was given for "Young Ghazal Maestro" by the living legend Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasiaji,and that too in front  of the former president of India, Shri APJ Abdul Kalaam

Gurjeet:: You perform in India and also abroad.. Do you see a difference in the audience response ?

Jaswinder: Absolutely. The audiences abroad  definitely are much more enthusiastic and  seem to cling to their roots , so therefore  are always more  appreciative.

Gurjeet: I know you performed with the late legend Jagjit Singh. What advise did he give you?

Jaswinder: He was very encouraging and always told me.."Jaswinder you have a great voice, but you have to create your own style.. a style of singing that that becomes your signature, your singing identity., something that sets you apart from every other singer". I always try to do that.

Gurjeet:  Since you sing mostly in Urdu, studying this language must have been part of your upbringing.. yes?

Jaswinder: Yes, it was a very big part of my learning process to be a Gazal singer. If you don't understand the meaning of the words you are singing, then the gazal does not seem to have any depth, any emotion and you cannot connect with the audience . Emotion and a deep understanding of the words lets you communicate effectively with the audience.

Gurjeet: Beautifully said Jaswinder. I agree completely. Tell me have you seen a  decline in interest in gazals as other newer forms of music emerge

Jaswinder: I am trying to revive this genre of music in the younger generation. I hope I can stir their interest and also be a good role model for them.

Gurjeet: I think you are doing a wonderful job of that. So any plans to sing in Bollywood ?

Jaswinder: Yes, I have already  had one offer which I am considering seriously.

Gurjeet: Any parting thoughts for our listeners

Jaswinder: I really enjoyed speaking with you and just would like to add:
Sakht rahon main bhi aasaan safar lagta hai, yeh meri MAA kee duaon ka asar lagta hai.” (Even when the journey gets seems so  easy.. Maybe it is the effect of  my mother's blessings that  make it so.)