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

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Behosh Baash K Hangaam Naubahaar Aamadh : A meandering journey through Basant in the Gurmat Sangeet Tradition

February 9 2013

Winter storm Nemo hasn't quite exited the Boston Area yet. I wake up to a sea of white. In, what is perhaps a futile gesture of defiance, given the more than 2 feet of snow we are buried under, I decide to sing Jaap Sahib and Savvaiye in Raga Basant during my nitnem. (Yes Yes ! I KNOW that Basant is an intimidatingly difficult Raga to sing and I know that robustness is the only virtue of my rendition, but hey! that's the nice thing about singing without an audience; NOBODY cares how besur you are:-))

It *is* that time of year again! From Magh Di Sangrand to Holla Mohalla, notwithstanding the heaps of snow and the subzero temperatures, we will celebrate Basant by singing Bani, revealed to the Guru Sahibaan in Raga Basant, in the various delectable flavors of the Raga as well as other Ragas associated with the spring such as Bahar, Hindol, Basant Hindol, Sohni....

As a side-note, the 2013 Boston Basant Gurmat Sangeet Darbar will be held at the Milford Gurdwara Sahib on Sunday, February 24. Anchoring the program will be Guneet Kaur, one of the most luminous talents in the world of Gurmat Sangeet, accompanied by Gurmeet Singh Jagdev. But, as is often the case, in these ramblings, I digress :-)

Today, my mission is to share some of my favorite Basant recordings :-) which I shall procced to do without further ado. I have had the good fortune to record all of these shabads personally over the years. Each recording is swathed in many memories and rich interactions with some of the finest talents in Gurmat Sangeet. There are many stories and anecdotes that go with these recordings, to be told another day, perhaps. For now, please enjoy my little journey through Raga Basant, in the uplifting company of these brilliant Kirtaniye, young and old.

The first recording is by the redoubtable Bhai Sahib Gian Singh Jogi Ji, recorded in the early 90s at my then home in New Jersey. Bhai Sahib was a sprightly 90 when he sang this scintillating shabad in Raga Basant :

Rut Aile Saras Basant Mahe by Bhai Sahib Gian Singh Jogi Ji 

Bhai Sahib Gian Singh Jogi Ji and his Jatha, many many years before this recording

As a side note, this shabad is in the Prachalit, modern version of Basant, which sits squarely in Purvi Thaat territory. Deftly avoiding the polemics around the kosher flavor of Basant in the Gurmat Sangeet tradition, I shall share reordings in other flavors as well :-)

The second recording is not in Basant at all! It is a composition in Raga Bahar from the Rababi tradition of Gurmat Sangeet, sung by the late Bibi Jaswant Kaur Ji, as taught to her by the legendary Rababi Bhai Taba Ji . Bibi Ji was 85 years old, when I recorded this at her home in Delhi in 2005 :-) On tabla was Bhai Kavinder Singh, a student of Gyani Dyal SIngh Ji's who I brought with me to her home. Gurmat Sangeet lost one of its hidden gems, when Bibi Ji, one of the last links to the great Rababi tradition passed away in early 2010 :

Dekh Phool Phool Phholai in Raga Bahar by Bibi Jaswant Kaur Ji 

Bibi Ji in December 2009 with Gyani Dyal Singh Ji

Its back to the standard Purvi flavor of Basant for the third recording. Bhai Gurmej Singh Ji was a huzoori Ragi at Sri Harmandar Sahib when he visited Bridgewater, NJ in early 2004. There are some kirtaniye, who transcend musical virtuosity and sing with such Tikaav, that every member of the sangat is completely mesmerized. Bhai Sahib's visit can only be described as magical. Accompanying him on tabla was Bhai Iqbal Singh Ji, who is no more. Also accompanying him was a young, very melodious Kirtaniya whose name was Bhai Amarjit Singh. I vividly remember the Sunday morning diwan in which Bhai Sahib sang this shabad. By my side was my good friend Charanjit Singh Jutla, who is a sitariya and connoisseur of Gurmat Sangeet. Both of us were so taken with Bhai Sahib's beautiful rendition; I remember we mucked around with a Vajja after the diwan trying to parse the bandish! I have NEVER heard anybody sing Raga Basant like Bhai Sahib Ji :

Dekh Phool Phool Phool Phoolai ; Raga Basant By Bhai Gurmej Singh Ji

Bhai Sahib Gurmej Singh Ji

As a bonus :-) here's a beautiful rendition of Holi Kini Sant Sev by Bhai Sahib Ji in Raga Kafi :

Holi Kini Sant Sev Raga Kafi by Bhai Sahib Gurmej Singh Ji

As an interesting side-note (yes there is always one :-)) I was once talking to Gyani Dyal Singh Ji about the various forms of Basant and asked him about a form, interestingly called 'Buddha Basant', which a knowledgeable Kirtan Premi had claimed this shabad was sung in! When  I observed that this sounded like a regulation Kafi Ki Hori to me, Gyani Ji chuckled and said that by Hola Mohalla, after Basant had been sung for two months, old Ragis if yore would say that Basant 'Buddha Ho Gya Hai' and sing shabads in Kafi, which was also called Budha Basant. I would love to hear other thoughts on this.  Bhai Avtar Singh Gurcharan SIngh Ji also document Buddha Basant in their book and upon an admittedly cursory examination, it seemed different form Kafi!

Professor Ranjit Singh Ji is clearly one of the most colorful personalities I have encountered in the world of Gurmat Sangeet. After retiring from service as a professor of music in India, several years ago, Professor Sahib has made his home in the LA area where he runs the Bhai Mardana Institute of Music. Professor Sahib as had the distinction of learning from a veritable who's who of Gurmat Sangeet. He studied Tabla with the Ustad Bahadur Singh and Sant Nihal Singh Ji. His vocal training was at the hands of Sardar Sohan Singh Ji, student of Ustad Faiyaz Khan Sahib of the Agra Gharana and one of the greatest classical vocalists the Sikh world has ever produced.He had the added distinction of studying with the legendary Gian Singh Almast Ji, whose ghost makes a frequent appearance in my musings on Gurmat Sangeet.  Professor Sahib is easily the most flamboyant Kirtaniye I have ever met ! His sartorial eloquence is matched only by his huge heart and his warm, friendly and generous nature. I feel blessed to have met him and become close to him. The Gurmat Sangeet Project honored Professor Sahib for a lifetime of contributions to Gurmat Sangeet during our annual Gurmat Sangeet Darbar held in DC in 2010. This recording is from the 2011 Boston Basant Darbar. Professor Sahib sings Maha Maha Mumarkhi in a flavor of Basant that owed allegiance to the Marwa Thaat, using the Shudh Dhaivat as opposed to the prominent Komal Dhaivat that is used in the more common Purvi variant. The shabad starts in Chartal and has echoes of the Rababi composition that has been sung by Bibi Jaswant Kaur Ji, which is sung in Ektaal in a faster tempo. Professor Sahib is accompanied on Tabla by his star pupil, young Tabla star Jasmeet Singh Chana. Also accompanying him are Hardeep Singh Chana on Taus and Bhai Iqbal Hussain, another student on violin :

Mama Maha Mumarkhi Chadiya Sada Basant; Basant Marwa Ang Professor Ranjit Singh Ji

Professor Ranjit Singh Ji with Bhai Iqbal Hussain, Hardeep Singh Chana and Jasmeet Singh Chana; Boston 2011

As a bonus,  here is a scintillating rendition of the first Paudi of Basant Ki Var fromt he same program by Professor Sahib :

Basant Ki Var Professor Ranjit Singh Ji Basant Marwa Ang

An additional bonus :-) the same shabad renderd by Bibi Jaswant Kaur Ji :

 Maha Maha Mumarkhi Bibi Jaswant Kaur Ji Basant Marwa Ang

Bibi Amarjit Kaur Ji, who has a big voice and a heart to match, has made her home in the DC area for several years. She credits Harbhajan Singh Yogi Ji for bringing her to the US to teach Gurmat Sangeet. Bibi Amarjit Kaur Ji is also a link to one of the great Kirtaniyas of yesteryear, having studied with the legendary Bhai Santa Singh Ji. She has faithfully preserved his repertoire, which she redners in her own inimitable style. The Gurmat Sangeet Project honored Bibi Ji for a lifetime of contributions to Gurmat Sangeet during our annual Gurmat Sangeet Darbar held in Salt Lake City in 2009. This recording of Basant Ki Var is from the 2009 Boston Basant Darbar. On Tabla was Jashon Singh, one of the rising stars of Gurmat Sangeet, who often accompanies Bibi Ji. Also accompanying her were her daughter Sahiba Kaur and Raviraj Singh on Esraj.The Shabad is in Shudh Basant, which according to vidwns is the traditional form of Basant :

Basant Ki Var Bibi Amarjit Kaur Ji Shudh Basant

Bibi Amarjit Kaur Ji with Jashon Singh, Sahiba Kaur, Raviraj Singh; Boston 2009

The next shabad was recorded in Boston on March 8, 2003 during the first Boston Basant Gurmat Sangeet Darbar. Bhai Sarbjit Singh Rangila is a hugely accomplished Ragi with an outstanding voice and great vocal technique. Here he renders Basant Chadiya Foolie Ban Rai, in what I believe is Basant Hindol. The Jhaptal bandish is superb and rendered with great beauty and aplomb :

Basant Chadia Foolie Ban Rae Raga Basant Hindol Bhai Sarbjit Singh Rangila

Bhai Sarbjit Singh Rangila and his Jatha; Boston 2003

Warren Senders is a well known figure in Shastriya Sangeet circles in the Boston Area. He studied vocal music in India for several years, most notably with Pandit Shriram Devasthali Ji of the Gwalior Gharana. In 2003, when we had the first Basant Darbar in Boston, Warren was my vocal Ustad. Upon my request, Warren came to the Milford Gurdwara Sahib and sang this slok in Raga Basant :

Nanak Tina Basant Hai Warren Senders Raga Basant

Warren Senders with Vijaya Sundaram and Amritpal Singh Boston 2003
After listening to some of the greats of yesterday and today, lets listen to some younger Kirtaniye. Shraddha Agrawal is a regular fixture in the Boston Area classical scene. Several years ago, by a happy coincidence, Shraddha was invited to my home to sing at an informal event. Shraddha is under the guidance of Smt. Kumkum Sanyal's, who in turn studies with Pandit Vinayak Torvi. To cut a long story short, Shraddha became a good friend; when I learned that she had learned a few shabads while studying Shastriya Sangeet in Bombay, I suggetsed that she add some  more shabads to her repertoire. One thing led to another and much to the Boston Area sangat's delight, Shraddha became a regular fixture at our Gurmat Sangeet Darbars as well ! This recordign is form our 2010 Basant Darbar in Boston. Table acompniment is provided by the hugely telented Rohit Mukumdar, who is a student of Pandit Suresh Talwalkar's and who used to teach Tabla at the MIlford Gurdwara Sahib. The bandish is in the Purvi variant of Basan; providing Sangat on Harmonium was our own Mehr Kaur.
Shraddha Agrawal with Mehr Kaur and Rohit Mujumdar at the Boston 2010 Basant Darbar

Young lovers of Gurmat Sangeet, particularly those who visit Toronto often, need no introduction to Dr. Onkar Singh, who is one of the finest kirtaniye of his generation. This recording is from one of our visits to Toronto in 2005 for a Basant Darbar that was organized at the Dunwin Drive Gurdwara Sahib. Dr. Onkar Singh is accomnpanied by Karanjeet Singh on sarod and Gurpreet SIngh Chana, also klnown as the Tabla Guy :-) :

Basant Chadiya Phoolee Ban Rae Dr Onkar Singh

Dr. Onkar Singh with Karanjeet Singh and Gurpreet Singh Chana Toronto March 2005

Neetu Kaur Matharu, from Vancouver, is a student of Pandit Jasraaj Ji's. Here she renders a beautiful shabad in Raga Kafi fro our annual 2010 Basant Darbar. Rohit Mujumdar provides Tabla accompaniment; our own Harman Singh on Dilruba; in the picture below, you can see Gyani Dyal Singh Ji in the background :-)

Mai Main Dhan Payo Har Naam Neetu Kaur Matharu

Neetu Singh Matharu with Rohit Mujumdar and Harman Singh
Rattan Singh Bhamra, from Toronto is one of the finest young vocalists in the world of Gurmat Sangeet today and the finest Tar Shenai player of his generation. He is currently under the guidance of Pandit Vinayak Pathak Ji of the Gwalior Gharana.This Shabad in Raga Bahar is from our 2011 Basant Darbar :

Mai Main Dhan Payo Har Nam Raga Bahar Rattan Singh Bhamra

Rattan Singh Bhamra with Bhai Iqbal Hussain and Amritpal Singh

And finally... Mehr Kaur from Boston at the 2012 Basant Darbar singing Mere Sahiba Houn Ape Bharam Bhulani in Raga Basant (Purvi). A student at the Gurmat Sangeet Project for several years, Mehr Kaur is now under the guidance of Pandit Yashpal Ji of the Agra Gharana, who in turn was a student of the legendary Ustad Faiyaz Hussain Khan Sahib and Ustad Yunnus Hussain Khan Sahib. On table was the brilliant Jashon SIngh Bhamra.

Mere Sahiba Hou Ape Bharam Bhulani Mehr Kaur Raga Basant

Mehr Kaur with Jashon Singh Bhamra, Sukhmanjit Kaur and Davejeet Singh; Boston March 2012


Blogger Unknown said...

Your blog post and information you provide about basant in the gurmat sangeet tradition are good.Your singers and Mughal Tents time singers are matching in singing tradition.

March 7, 2013 at 10:28 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

u r doing a great job no doubt..........but pleas don't give such a precius space to the immature and untrained performer in ur blog...............thanks

April 20, 2016 at 10:13 AM


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