Gurmat Sangeet Darbar
The Boston Sangat at the Gurmat Sangeet Darbar; October 30 2005, Milford, MA
The tradition of Gurmat Sangeet has been evolving from the times of the Gurus to the present. Historically this has largely been an oral tradition, which has been handed from generation to generation often from father to son in families that have been associated with Gurmat Sangeet since the times of the Gurus. The absence of a written tradition and the lack of a consistent framework for the documentation and preservation of Gurmat Sangeet has had a devastating effect, as this centuries-old system for the transmission of the tradition has broken down under the pressures of the modern world.
Fortunately, at the turn of the century, a system for musical notation invented by Pandit Vishnu Narain Bhatkhande was adopted for use by S. Gian Singh Abbotabad, who under the auspices of the SGPC, produced two volumes titled Gurbani Sangeet in 1961. These volumes represented the first notable effort to document centuries old compositions that define Gurmat Sangeet and preserve them for posterity. This work was followed by other notable works by Bhai Avtar Singh and Bhai Gurcharan Singh as well as Gyani Dyal Singh of the Rakab Ganj Kirtan Vidyalay.
Despite these excellent efforts, Gurmat Sangeet suffered the onslaught of ‘modernization’, driven largely by the lure of popularity and financial gain, particularly in the last four decades. Ragis increasingly switched to popular tunes which required less effort and could be plagiarized from readily available sources such as film music, discovering that pandering to popular taste was often the shortest path to popularity and riches. The problem was exacerbated by the ready availability of very cheap mass marketed recordings, which further strengthened the grip of the banal form of Kirtan to the detriment of the Gurmat Sangeet tradition.
In recent times, particularly in the Sikh Diaspora, we have been fortunate to witness a reanissance of sorts, where young Sikhs in particular are beginning to show interest in understanding and preserving the traditions of Gurmat Sangeet.
The Gurmat Sangeet Project and the Sikh Research Institute have joined in this humble effort, dedicated to the preservation and propogation of traditional Gurmat Sangeet. The intent is to honor and recognize Kirtaniyas who have dedicated their lives to the preservation of the tradition. Another goal is to encourage young Kirtaniyas who have attempted to preserve the tradition and to present them to the Sangat at large, in the process, creating archival material that is truly reflective of the rich traditions of Gurmat Sangeeit.
The inaugural Gurmat Sangeet Darbar was held at the Milford Gurdwara Sahib, the principal Boston Area Gurdwara and the home of the Gurmat Sangeet Project on October 29 ans 30, 2005. The program began with Asa Ki Var on both days from 5:30 a.m. - 8 a.m. On the first day, there was a 2 hour Workshop on Gurmat Sangeet, followed by a screening of the documentary film, 'The Saz of Gurmat Sangeet'.
The organizers decided to honor S.Harbhajan Singh Ji, son of the legendary Kirtaniya Bhai Sahib Samund Singh Ji. S Harbhajan Singh Ji has made significant contributions to Gurmat Sangeet by keeping alive the tradition passed down to him by his father, while pursuing a professional career in the United States.
Other invited guests included two Jathas, consistening of young Kirtaniyas. Rupinder Singh and Nampreet Singh of Toronto, accompanied by Shamsher Singh and Arundeep Singh, from the Boston Sangat formed one Jatha. The other consisted of Manmeet Singh, Satpreet Singh and Prabhjot Singh. Since a couple of invited Jathas dropped out at the last minute, Bhai Gupal Singh Ji, a fine Kirtaniya and student of Gyani Dyal Singh Ji was invited to participate. Three young members of the Gurmat Sangeet Project, Sonia Guleria, Mehr Kaur and Amrit Kaur were also asked to participate ion the main program.
This page contains recordings and pictures from the inaugural Gurmat Sangeet Darbar.
Manmeet Singh, S.Harbhajan Singh Ji, Saurabhraj Singh, Shamsher Singh