Musings on Gurmat Sangeet, or Gurbani Kirtan, Sikh Sacred Music

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Waho Waho Gobind Singh Appe Gur Chela

January 18 2013

On the occasion of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji's prakash purb, I would like to share with my readers, some of my favorite Dasam Bani recordings.

The first shabad, in Raga Bilawal, is a stirring rendition of Waho Waho Gobind Singh Ape Gur Chela by Bhai Sahib Dharm Singh Zakhmi Ji and his Jatha.

Waho Waho Gobind Singh Ape Gur Chela

An interesting side-note : This shabad is by Bhai Gurdas Ji (the second), who was a Sindhi poet from Shikarpur and a contemporary of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. The other, better known Bhai Gurdas Ji, Guru Arjan Sahib's scribe passed away before the birth of Sri Guru Gobind SIngh Ji.

The second shabad, one of my personal favorites is also by Bhai Sahib Dharm Singh Zakmi Ji; it is in Raga Chandrakauns :

Kirt Tuhari Kou Na Paar Paiyat Hai 

Chandrakauns is not a Raga that is heard often in Gurdwaras! This variant of Chandrakauns is the more common one; it is close to Malkauns, differing from its better know cousin as it employs the Shuddha Nishad (Ni) as opposed to the Komal. The shabad starts with a masterful Manglacharn in Vilambhit (Slow) Iktaal. It truly makes one yearn for the great Kirtaniyas of yore! Bhai Shamsher Singh Ji, who did the musical heavy lifting in the Jatha, in my view had few equals among his contemporaries. And Bhai Dharam Singh Zakhmi Ji's erudition; his outstanding language skills and his ability to communicate powerfully and succinctly is quite apparent in the short vyakhya that is interspersed with the shabad. Truly a gem!!

Staying with  Bhai Dharm Singh Zakhmi Ji, the third shabad is a masterful rendition in Raga Bihag :

Jagat Jot Jape Nis Basur

Bihag, one of my personal favorites, is a Raga of enduring beauty and nobody sings it like this Jatha. Once again the shabad begins with a majestic Manglacharan that unfolds slowly. The bandish, which to my ears has Dhrupad roots is in Jhaptal. I have been stuck in Bihag for a few months now :-) Not a bad neighborhood to be stuck in, I can assure you :-) and have been enjoying some beautiful renditions by the likes of Thakur Ji, Bhai Baljeet Singh as well as other Namdhari stalwarts.

 Bhai Sahib Dharam Singh Zakhmi with Bhai Sahib Shamsher Singh, Bhai Amrik Singh and Bhai Hariqbal Singh Zakhmi

Since I mentioned Bhai Baljeet Singh, here's a fabulous rendition of a shabad from Dasam Bani in Raga Bihag:

Tum Ho Sabh Rajan Ke Raja (Raga Bihag)

Bhai Baljeet Singh is the crème de la crème of a formidable array of Namdhari musicians, who have been taught old school Gurmat Sangeet compositions by their Ustads, *after* spending years with the great masters of Classical music, where they have painstakingly learned their craft and acquired the tools needed to sing the old compositions with purity and beauty. The recording also showcases Bhai Baljeet Singh's mastery of the Tar Shenai, which he plays while singing! As an interesting side-note, during one of Bhai Baldeep Singh's Boston visits, my daughter Mehr sang for him, this shabad in Raga Nand, to which Bhai Baldeep Singh responded by singing a few lines of the shabad in Raga Bihag; the composition he sang was very similar to the one sung By Bhai Baljeet Singh (above). Of course this is no great surprise! Our great Puratan compositions have been handed down over the generations through multiple teaching lines. The nature of the art is such that each recipient learns the composition and then makes it his own, in the process subtly embellishing it before it is passed on. To hear a familiar Puratan composition unexpectedly is like the delight you feel upon running into an old friend after many many years !!

 Bhai Baljeet Singh with Bhai Gurmeet Singh and Fateh Singh on Tabla

Now! Since I've mentioned the Nand version of this shabad, it must be the next one to be presented :-) This rendition is by Guneet Kaur :

Tum Ho Sabh Rajan Ke Raja (Raga Nand)

Guneet Kaur is in my view, the leading female vocalist in her generation in the world of Gurmat Sangeet. She has studied with Bhai Baljeet Singh and is now under the guidance of Pandit Vinayak Pathak of the Gwalior Gharana. Her singing has an indescribable quality that transcends musical virtuosity or technical competence. More than any other Kirtaniya I have heard, with the possible exception of Virji, Prem Singh Ji, her singing moves every listener, naive, or sophisticated. According to ancient Indian aesthetics, the Rasa or aesthetic flavor that is associated with art cannot be described; only suggested and experienced. Time and time again, I have listened to singers of both Shastriya Sangeet and Gurmat Sangeet, who are clearly very adept at their craft, but whose singing leaves me cold. Guneet's singing, is almost always suffused with Rasa. It really needs to be experienced live.

If this Nand recording of Tum Ho Sabh Rajan Ke Raja sounds a little, shall we say, informal; it is :-) It was recorded in 2009 at a private residence in Salt Lake City, when we were chilling in the evening after a Gurmat Sangeet program. Present were Bibi Amarjit Kaur Ji, Dr. Onkar Singh, the Boston crew as well as many of my friend Sher Singh's merry band of kirtaniyas from DC. Upon being asked, Guneet was kind enough to sing this mesmerizing shabad. On tabla was Harnarayan Singh with enthusiastic support from our own Jaspreet Singh.

 Guneet Kaur accompanied by Gurmeet Singh and her students

Bhai Gurmeet Singh Shant, is a hugely talented Kirtaniya who hails from Jalandhar. He has studied with Pradeep Singh Ji, who was a student of Thakur Ji, the son of the legenadary Gian Singh Almast Ji, whose ghost often makes an appearance in my musings :-) This shabad was sung by Shant Ji when he first visited the US in the late 90s. I recorded this either at my home or at the Bridgewater Gurdwara :

 Bajat Basant Bhairav Ar Hindol Rag

This is a beautiful Guldasta in eleven Ragas from the Krishan Avtar in the Dasam Granth. The composition is by Gian Sing Almast Ji.

bwjq bsMq Aru BYrv ihMfol rwg 
bwjq hY llqw ky swQ hÍY DnwsrI
mwlvw klXwn Aru mwlkas mwrU rwg
bn mY bjwvO kwnH mMgl invwsrI
surI Aru AsurI Aau pMngI jy huqI qhw
Duin ky sunq pY n rhI suiD jwsu rI
khY ehu dwsrI su AYsI bwjI bwsurI
su myry jwny Xw sB rwg ko invws rI [27]

From the flute of Krishna emanate Ragas such as Basant, Bhairav and Hindol.
Raga Lalita and Dhanasri sound in unison.
Krishna’s flute plays  Raga Malwa, Kalyan Malkauns and Maru in the forest.
All the listeners are completely absorbed in the divine melody.
It seems to me that all of these Ragas live in Krishna’s flute.  

In addition to being an excellent kirtaniya Bhai Gurmit Singh Shant is known for his sartorial splendor, which is exceeded only by our very own Professor Ranjit Singh Ji's :-D He had dressed down when this photograph was taken.

Bhai Gurmeet Singh Shant

This can go on for ever :-) but I must bring this to a conclusion with a rendition from one of my favorite Kirtaniyas.

It was early in 2004. Mehr was born later that year in July. We had the the good fortune to host Bhai Gurmej Singh Ji, one of the  Huzoori Ragis from Sri Harmandir Sahib at Bridgewater. When I talk about Rasa in Kirtan, there is no better exemplar than Bhai Gurmej Singh. It didn't matter what he sang.  A shabad, a Reet, a Puratan Bandish. Basant or Sarang or Tukhari. All magnificent and drenched in love. I have never heard anyone sing Basant in particular, like Bhai Sahib.

This final shabad was recorded during that visit :

Pooran Jot Jage Ghat Me

The shabad was sung in Raga Darbari Kanada. On tabla was Bhai Iqbal Singh Ji, who, alas is no more. The other vocie you hear is that of Bhai Amarjit Singh, who now serves the Sangat in North Carolina. I haven't heard this paean to the Khalsa sung with more feeling by anyone!

Enjoy these shabads as we celebrate the Prakash Purb of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Download them. Listen to them. And pelase respond by posting your favorites as well.

Gur Fateh !

Sarbpreet Singh


Blogger Unknown said...

I Love IT

February 19, 2014 at 11:37 PM


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