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The ultimate Gurmat Sangeet Sammelan?


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I found this on the web, it refers to a sammelan that was organised by Baba Partaap Singh Ji (previous Namdhari Guru), who, irrelevent of peoples view on Namdharis, preformed a great service in preserving Gurmat Sangeet.

I was wondering if there is any other information around regarding this seemingly great event, and if any recordings were ever made. Apologies if this has already been spoken of in the forum!

It would be so great if something like this could be organised today... I love the specific mention of "prescribed raag" being the major rule, as this issue seems to be somewhat contentious today, even amongst Namdhari Raagis who have increasingly started performing in non title raag. I think this is probably due to the indian classical influence arising in their training.

"Within The Aad Sri 'GURU' Granth Sahib are Shabads (Verses) dictated by 6 Satgurus in 31 prescribed Ragas. To instill the correct recitation of these Shabads in the respective Ragas as prescribed by the Satgurus, Sri Satguru Partap Singh Ji had organized a Grand 'Gurmat Sangeet Sammelan' in the year 1934 A.D., which was attended by the Sikhs, Hindus as well as Muslims alike. There were two major rules for participants in this event. One was that Gurbani must be sung in the Raga prescribed in the Sri Granth Sahib and the other rule was that only stringed instruments such as Dilruba, Rabab, Sitar accompanied by Tablas could be used. No use of the european instrument, i.e. harmonium would be allowed. The second rule of only allowing stringed instruments posed a big problem to many well-known Ragis as only a handful were proficient in the use of stringed musical instruments. Presiding as judges were four highly qualified classical music enthusiasts which included the well known author of the epic 'Mahan Kosh', Bhai Kahn Singh of Nabha as well as Sardar Mukand Singh of Ambala who was a himself a great singer and prolific in the knowledge of Ragas."

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Baba Partap Singh performed a truely great service to the panth in their attempt to preserve Guru Ji's true kirtan maryada and kirtan asthetics.

They were taught kirtan from the legendary Raagi Baba Harnaam Singh Ji (see picture below), who were also famous for their use of the beautiful Taus.

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Unfortunately no one has really made as great an effort to revive and preserve real Gurmat Sangeet to this extent since Baba Ji left us (in my opinion). We certainly do have people trying very hard today but there are a few different schools of thought re kirtan maryada, especially from people who treat oral tradition passed down to them as more reliable than a direct iand clear instruction from Maharaj in Gurbani.

Baba Jagjit Singh Ji has also made a huge effort towards promoting kirtan, namley by sending many youngsters identified with potential to top Gharanai, Pandits and Ustaads to learn instruments, vocals and raag.

Where as Baba Partaap Singh Ji focused "primarily" on Gurmant Sangeet, Baba Jagjit Singh Ji has also taken an interest in Indian Classical Music in general, in other art forms too such as classical dancing.

Unfortunately, although it is excellent that a huge amount of Indian Classical Sangeet/art knowledge has been brought into the Namdhari camp and that they now are recognised as having some of the best practitioners in the world, one sad point has also started to occur, non-adherance to kirtan maryada.

I am in no way saying that there isn't maryada any more, just that non adherenace is steadily increasing, I saw Bhai Baljeet Singh Ji during his recent tours in the UK, and they are a totally amazing raagi, their voice is astronimcal (regularly using the 4th octave, most of us struggle with the 3rd), and their tar shanai skills are amazing.

But I never saw them complete the programmes I attended in "Ramkaali" Anand Sahib, which is the only shabad they announced the raag in, so it should have been adhered to, instead it was the normal 1 minute, superfast Anand sahib (possibly due to commitee pressure/Langar being ready, I don't know). And in the Shabad they sang, most were not in title raag, some were, others were possibly in raag outside of Maharaj.

Also, I have been around a few very well known Namdhari Ustaads who I know practice non-title raag kirtan alongside hukmi raag.

This is becoming common practice today. Although raag is being adhered to, the years of training under Indian Classical Guru's, is leading to huge influence of non Gurbani raags being used.

I know of a person that met Baba Jagjit Singh Ji in the last few years and discussed with re "Nirdaareth" (title) raag not being adhered to, and asking them if they thought it should be, they replied it should be. Yet many Namdhari are not respecting their wishes?

The mainstream is of course not innocent either, the very, very, very large majority haven't adhered to Sat-Guru Ji's hukum over the last half century. Where as Namdhari have at least kept to raag in general, and thus have the knowledge to apply title raag, the mainstream (in general) have near enough completely gone the other way, with wanting to please the sangat rather the Guru, and bringing in popular styles of music that most families felt comfortable with due to their bollywood hobbies, today we see ghazal, tumri, qwaali, pop, bhangra, folk (non-hukmi), Indian Classical and many other styles confusing the message of our Guru, which Guru Arjun Dev ji dedicated his life to presenting in the most perfect and unadulterable method - to ensure that all that heard Guru Ji' message heard it in the correct tone, felt it in the correct emotion and therefore understood it in the correct context.

For those who could not understand Guru Ji during his Udasis, they could feel his message throught the magical rendition of the raag that Guru ji would have instructed Bhai Mardana Ji to play.

Today, if a non-Sikh/Punjabi comes into the Gurwara seking spirituality and taste of the ancient and Bhai Daya Singh Ji's daughter (of OZ fame) is doing a shabad to the tune of Michael Jacksons latest offering, for someone who can't understand the words, what is this person going to feel?

And same goes for latest craze of raagis doing kirtan to Tumri style of Indian Classical, which was developed in the Mughals cotiyan (dancing courts), and which aims to evoke sensual/lustful moods... normally done to the tune of famous bollywood film and an inappropriate scene...

Our Guru's took oldest and most powerful of ancient vedic arts back from the Mughals (Darbari Rababis) (who had taken it and transformed a devotional tool to one for entertaining themselves, thus changing it's use and style) and gave it back to the people in it's most pristine pure form, Shabad Kirtan. There is a reason why Guru Ji has specified a certain raag before every shabad (par the start and finish of Gur-Bani), it is not just an historical reference.

Luckily concerted efforts are today being made by a few people to revive and promote Guru ji's purtan kirtan and adherance to their instructions, alongside researching the effect of Guru ji's specific chosen raags and their effect on the human psyche, Guru di kirpa, there should be some publications coming out soon.

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I agree with Ragis becoming more and more like Satta & Balwand and not following Hukam.. but there are many that do, especially young ones, who in my opinion are far more talented than even the adults.

Actually events like this are organized every year in India. In fact there is an inter-school music competition branded under the Name of Satguru Ram Singh Ji to promote the Maryada in the mainstream Sikh fold as well. Last year's winners were children from Guru Harkrishan Public school if I'm not mistaken. The rules are the same: stringed instruments and only titled-Raag

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There is alot of top rated raagis , who know the skills when it comes to stringed instruments, tabla, raags etc.. , regardless of which community they belong , the problem is that no one is willing to share their knowledge openly theres are alot of material available , but the techniques are kept close to the chest.

You take a look at say playing a piano, guitar , everything is written down , step by step , each technique is described and told to the student , whereas ( this is from my own experience) learning raags/tabla/stringed instrument , we lack in sharing this knowledge

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Indian Sangeet has a long established traditions for passing through Gurukuls, the fact that most Sikhs are poor musicians is simply that they wish to narrow themselves to what is frankly a recent innovation in terminology (i.e. "gurmat sangeet") and hence only approach Sikh Musicians for training...a little like the blind leading the blind...

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Yes Indian sangeet does have an ancient Gurukul heritage, but we must not forget that in both South and North India religious tradition, classical sangeet existed in temples and was used for devotional kirtan and pooja.

Only with the onset of Mughal invasions did it's use change, and it was diluted in the Mughal Darbaars.

Although the Sufi's hugely benefited from this huge and ancient knowledge and used it to good and decent effect.

This is the point at which musicians lost their "royal" status, and the slow decline of raaga and beautiful instruments such as the sarangi developed a bad repuation as favoured tools in supporting dancing girls.

Our Guru sahibaan redeemed kirtan (classical sangeet) and brought it back to the house of God, giving it back it's royal status.

The current gharana systems are relatively new, originally sponsered by cultured Raja's, but then declining during the British occupations. They started becomng popular again with stability arising after Independance.

With regards to "Gurmat Sangeet" yes, this is a new term, but one which has been created to try and seperate puratan kirtan from the Bassetts Allsorts influx we see today. Unfortunately, many other new things have now started to appear under the heading of Gurmat Sangeet, so this obviously self explanotory term is now also being diluted.

With regards to Sikh trainees only wanting to recieve training from Sikh musicians, this is news to me, I have not come across this? May be in small pockets i.e. some AKJ youth etc, but generally this is not true.

Most Raagi/kirtani I know have been trained by Ustaads/Pandits/Gharanaas, or from people who have been. They hold basic raag knowledge, but don't use because they think the sangat will not like and thus not pay up.

And actually, it is this very reason, i.e. Indian Classical influence, that many of the "well" raagis today distort kirtan maryada i.e. non use of rahao as astai, lack of drupad, ignoring the folk style, zero understanding of the ordained South Indian styles, and not sticking to title raag.

It is the sangats responsibilty to make kirtna maryada popular again, and give those raagis that comply respect and reward, raagis were once treated as royalty in Guru ji's darbaar, today they are looked at suspiciously irrelevent of their intentions, and given meager incomes and treated badly by Gurdwarai committies.

This is a complex problem with many variables, which needs to be corrected step by step.

1st thing is make Gurmat sangeet vidya freely available so everyone can understand the make up of raag and it's purpose in Gurbani, as well as education re the maryada in terms of the instructions given in Gurbani.

This is happening today, in the UK Gurmat Sangeet Academy lead by Bhai Harjinder Singh Ji Lallie is doing a great service in the Midlands area, Bhai Sahib has been performing kirtan since childhood and has and is researching, whilst learning from top vocal and and intsrumental masters. Bhai sahib has many students and teaches Dilruba, Taus and now Sarangi, alongside vocals. They also study and Drupad.

Raj Academy is an international Gurmat Sangeet school running the 1st Indian Classical/Gurmat Sangeet degree programme at Thames Valley University Music department. Professor Surinder Singh Ji has researched Gurmat Raags, Kirtan Maryada, Musicology (something which forms the crux of kirtan and has not been touched on by anyone to date). Professor Ji has also researched and made gigantic efforts to research, identify and revive traditional Sikh instruments, Taus, Saranda, Dilruba< Sarangi and Jori, and their manufactured instruments are now the instruments of choice of many top artists. They have been designed to replicate the acoustic design and size of originals which have been found.

Professor ji has also released a monumental kirtan album which includes shabads in 59 Gurbani Raags, accompanied by a book which exlains the musicology - emotion of each raag, alongside translations of the shabads sung. The code for the 60th raag, Asa Asavari was finally cracked and can be heard on the 2nd album entitled "Anhad".

There are many more amazing projects lined up that will be released soon, which will shed further light on the beauty of Guru Ji's kirtan.

There may be some "blind" individuals around, but there are most definatley some hugely gifted and generous individuals around also, who have given their life to studying and bringing kirtanback to the people.

Today, classes can be attended nearly 7 days a week in London for those who want to learn real kirtan, thanks to these hardworking sevadaars priceless efforts.

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