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Article on Ragi Bhai Avtar Singh


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“Music connects us to Almighty”

Minna Zutshi

Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, October 21

When music traces its lineage through three centuries, harmony seems just the right note. And in case of Bhai Awtar Singh, the eleventh generation raagi of the Kapurthala Raagis, this harmony is not sheer melody, it has spiritual underpinnings too.

“Music connects us to the Almighty. Sound or naad becomes the all-pervasive anhad naad. However, of late, music has become just a diversion. Times have changed. Shortcuts rule the roost. Hard work has become redundant for many learners,” says Bhai Awtar Singh.

However, he is not the one to give in to pessimism. He is trying his best to revive taoos, a string instrument that is fast getting lost in the haze of modernity. It was courtesy his unflinching efforts that a few days back the melody of taoos resounded in the precincts of Darbar Sahib after a gap of 70 years.

“Taoos (literal meaning peacock) is a delicate instrument. It is sensitive to temperature and moisture, and is not too easy to carry,” he explains, adding that in the “good old days”, the instrument mesmerised music lovers with its soulful sound that became all the more alluring after a glance at the peacock-shaped instrument.

His sons Ranjit Singh and Kultar Singh are a part of his raagi jatha that also includes his nephew, Bhai Swaran Singh, whose forte is tabla playing. Interestingly, his younger son, Mr Kultar Singh, a qualified mechanical engineer, was earlier into business. “Joining my father in shabad kirtan has been no mean shift. It is a change that has given me a reason to smile. And this smile is not a put-on smile. It comes from the core of my being,” says Mr Kultar Singh.

These days Bhai Awtar Singh is working on a four-volume book about musical notations. His sons are assisting him in this endeavour. It is another matter that he thinks that the book will be his tribute to the “sanctity of music”, as he told us during his visit here today in connection with the Baba Jassa Singh Kapurthala Heritage Festival being organised by the Kapurthala Heritage Trust in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage.

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