You can subscribe to get latest updates on the site through email in the toolbar at the bottom!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sachkandvasi Bhai Avtar Singh Ji

Guramukh janam savaar dharageh chaliaa Spending this life fruitfully gurmukh goes to the other world. Sachee dharageh jaae sachaa pirr maliaa There in the true court (of lord) he gets his true place.
Bhai Avtar Singh ‘Raagi”, born at Saidpur in the erstwhile state of Kapurthala, passed away on November 24, 2006, after a brief illness in Delhi. He and his brother Bhai Gurcharan Singh were the sons of the legendary Sikh kirtania, Bhai Jawala Singh. They were the 11th-generation flag bearers of the original style of shabad singing of Sikh Gurus in the medieval Punjab. The compositions they sang date back to the period of the Gurus and some of them were sung note by note as the Gurus sang them. For 60 years they performed kirtan. They were accompanied by their nephew Bhai Swaran Singh, an accomplished artist of tabla. Bhai Gurcharan Singh, the elder brother, is still living but he has not sung kirtan for over a decade. With the younger brother’s death, another generation has passed into history.The brothers were apt in singing all the raag variants, lores (dhunian) and the other variants of the music forms incorporated in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. At least for the last half century their kirtan was regarded as a standard against which gurmat sangeet of shabad reet parnali (traditional compositions/ kritis) singing was to be measured.Gurmat sangeet, or shabad kirtan, was not mere singing of gurbani in raags, rather it was a unique fusion of shabad raag and tal. Shabad-reets are compositions of the Guru period. Some of them were the originals sung by the Gurus themselves. Besides other achievements and their contribution to this art form, the two brothers did a great service to the world of musicology by recording 500 of their original medieval compositions (48 hours) and annotating them before donating the same to Punjabi University, Patiala. The two volumes, Gurubani Sangeet-Pracheen Reet Ratnavali, were published in 1976. This was a unique gesture in itself as very few artists of repute would easily share the core of their art with outsiders, leave alone documenting and donating the same to an institution.They extensively disseminated their art in the UK, North America and Canada - both in the community and outside. In fact, there seemed to be more admirers of this tradition of kirtan outside than in India.Bhai Avtar Singh and Bhai Gurcharan Singh were perhaps the only kirtanias who reflected the original intent of the Gurus in their kirtan. Their work is a cherished heritage of the sacred music of North India.The tradition has been passed on to the next generations in the family. Kultar Singh, son of Bhai Avtar Singh, a mechanical engineer by profession, joined Bhai Avtar Singh’s jatha in 1999. Since then he has been practising the family tradition with his father and carrying it forward. Bhai Baldeep Singh, rooted in the family tradition and a grandnephew of the senior Bhai Sahib, is an accomplished musician, researcher, preservationist and a musicologist in his own right carrying the heritage into the 13th generation.

No comments: