This is to invite scholars to write papers for the referred journal published by Center on Studies in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, which I have been invited to edit. Depending on the number of quality papers, I will decide to have multiple editions of the journal. The ambit (Suggested Themes) is quite large but I guess that is from where I begin.

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2013 Call For Papers – Perspectives on Sikh Musicology

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Hermeneutic and Aesthetic Perspectives on Sikh Musicology

Call for Papers

Journal Perspectives on Guru Granth Sahib, Volume 8, No. 1, 2013, Center on Studies in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab – 144001 (India).

Concept Note

The waters of Sindhu, Saraswati, Beas, Satluj, Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum have long flowed through Punjab (erstwhile Sapt-sindhu) playing host to the writing of some of the most important scriptures, poetry, love ballads and vaars (odes of valour) as well as the evolution of some of the finest musical concepts. Even in the last millennium, in spite of the invasions that plagued this land of five rivers, Punjab, some of the finest music and literary works continued to be produced by the Sufi masters, Bhakti Marg exponents and the Guru-Sikh tradition.

The socio-cultural fabric of South Asia was ripped apart, perhaps like never before. The worst tragedy to befall this land was the partition, done in the name of religion in 1947 and then came further setbacks with further partitions made in the name of imaginary linguistic divides. Indigenous banks of ancient knowledge as well as vernacular pedagogical streams were first disregarded and later decimated. Some of the finest exponents such as Bhai Batan Singh of Mehli, Bhai Harnam Singh of Thatha Tibba, Bhai Dal Singh of Lasada, Bhai Naseera, Bhai Santu and Bhai Arjan Singh Tarangar, all died in anonymity.

The culture of wandering across scriptures and regions created a phenomenon of cross-pollination between cultures, religions, and across eras. Sadly this milieu in which wanderers acted was also lost. Would it then be correct to surmise that cultural pollution and cultural hegemony replaced cultural pollination when local dialects and music were irretrievably shoved towards extinction? A musical rendition was an idea of journeying say, for example, from an ignorant to an awakened state of being. Seekers of knowledge used to travel but nowadays only performers do. Would this be the essential reason why the idea of such journeying, both for the performer and the listener, went missing?

In the 15th-16th century, an udasi, a traveler extraordinaire, Guru Nanak brought the music of the Sufi masters, Bhakti Marg exponents and his own together maintaining them all in his pothi (collection of hymns). It needs to be explored if he gathered only the verses or also the original music of the respective authors. Subsequently, the works of his succeeding guru-lineage and that of their disciples was compiled and edited in 1604 AD as Adi Granth by Guru Arjan Dev, fifth Sikh guru. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, gave the final shape by adding the Bani of the ninth guru, Guru Teg Bahadur, and ordained it as the living guru calling it Guru Granth Sahib (1708). Uniquely, the whole of Guru Granth Sahib or its content, Gurbani, is indexed in 31 ragas, with many of them perhaps rarely sung such as raga-s vadhans, tukhari, majh, nat-narayan, mali gaura and gauri-bairagan.

Gurbani Sangeet includes the performance of Gurbani Kirtan as well as the art of making and playing techniques of instruments used in the Sufi, Bhakti and Gur-Sikh traditions. Gurbani Kirtan is mutualism of four elements, namely, raga, tala, shabad and surti/chitt. Although all streams of Gurbani Sangeet are studied and perfected independently, they developed as parts of an organic whole rather than as separate streams necessarily signifying, perhaps, the interdependent nature of the music-word-art-instrument dimension.

The four vani-s of Dhrupad have academically been well attended to, but the reservoir of Gur-bani Kirtan is yet to be fully explored. Although following the socio-political upheavals that plagued South Asia in the first part of the 20th century many art forms were lost, we are still fortunate to have a significant repertoire of this tradition available to us. Notably, the two volumes# containing 497 vintage compositions (shabad reet-s) by the two brothers, Bhai Avtar Singh (1926-2006) and Bhai Gurcharan Singh (b. 1915), the 11th generation exponents of an unbroken tradition of Gurbani Kirtan, was the result of an effort to locate and document the original Gurbani Kirtan repertoire.

Gurbani is indexed in ragas but does not speak of music as such, that is, the raga forms are not stated nor any notations are given. We, the researchers, will have no other option but to rely on the memory carried on by the oral traditions. Before the partition of Punjab in 1947, the Muslim bards known as the Rababi-s also used to perform daily at the Sikh shrines. They had been doing so since the very first guru, Guru Nanak Dev’s times (1469-1539), until the partition when most of the Rababi-s migrated to the newly formed Islamic Republic of Pakistan. No known effort was made by anyone to document the repertoire of the Rababi-s, be it their knowledge of the string instruments played in the Gurbani Kirtan tradition, namely dhurpadi or Hindustani Rabab, saranda, pakhawaj, jori, and taus, or their musical repertoire. The works of Bhai Avtar Singh and Bhai Gurcharan Singh gain more significance for the reason that it was the first conscious attempt by a University to academically seek and document the vintage repertoire.

The authors of Gurbani lived in various regions of South Asia between the 12th and the 17th centuries. Gurbani is written in nearly two-dozen languages and over a hundred dialects; likewise, its authors belonged to different eras and regions ensuring musical diversity in terms of genres and musical instruments. In addition to learning about all of these, we would also be interested to learn about the impact of pre-existing musical systems on the tradition of Gurbani Kirtan and the impact of Gurbani Kirtan, if at all, on the music that existed at the time of Gurbani authors and in later periods.

The study of the music of India has been, in some way, incomplete for perhaps the largest compilation of classical music of South Asia, Gurbani Kirtan, has not been studied alongside and in detail. Recently, there have been worthy attempts at establishing Gurbani Sangeet (or Gurmat Sangeet) as an independent subject at some academic institutions in India and abroad where study chairs on the subject have been set up in the last decade. An analysis, however, of all that is still left in the extant memory of the tradition is yet to be attempted. The key may lie in gaining a comprehensive understanding of the memory of the tradition of Gurbani Sangeet: studying its repertoire, its heritage, its instruments rather than only creating a contemporary body of work unrelated to how Kirtan has been sung over the last few centuries. Studying Indian music and Gurbani Sangeet in isolation and independent of each other may not be enough. It is hoped that this journal will serve as an essential contribution to the field.

Suggested Themes: Scholars are invited to focus upon four areas, namely: Gurbani Kirtan period (12th-17th century); non-Gurbani Kirtan related music, musicians and texts (12th-17th century); Pre-Gurbani Kirtan period; Post-Gurbani Kirtan period (advent of newer musical forms and instruments, decline of musical genres such as alapa, dhrupad, dhamar, (their) grammar as well as musical instruments, such as dhurpadi rabab, taus, saranda, and revival of some the lost traditions and intangible heritage treasures. Contributions in any of the following perspectives and categories are invited: 

History      Aesthetics       Hermeneutics       Musicology       Luthiery

  1. Music related scriptures of South Asia such as Natyashashtra, Dattilam, Sangeet Ratnakar and so on.
  2. Musical genres and exponents (such as Nayak-s and Kalavant-s) of South Asia between 12th and 18th centuries.
  3. Comparative research work and studies on the traditions of devotional music and dance forms of South Asia in particular such as the four Vani-s namely, Khandar, Nauhar, Dagur and Gaubarhar, Qawwali, Haveli Sangeet, Carnatic Sangeet, Sufi music, dance forms such as Kathak, Kathakali, Bharatnatyam, Orissi, Chau, Mohinyattam; musical genres such as dhrupad, chantt, khayal, tappa, ghazal and so on including the advent and usage of musical instruments.
  4. Pre-Gurbani music of South Asia including Church music, sacred music of the four Jewish communities of India namely, the Bene Israel, the Jews of Cochin, the Baghdadi Jewish Community of Calcutta and the Bnei Menashe.
  5. Exploring the idea of laya (rhythm) in music.
  6. Music in Guru Granth Sahib: Raga-s and raga forms; Genres such as chantt, pade, tuke, vaar, ghorian, allahunian, etc.; Explanation of terms sometimes musically associated such as Ghar, Numerical insertions such as in Raga Gauri; Rag-mala; Musical affiliations of the respective Gurbani authors; Luthiery: Musical instruments of Gurbani Sangeet – the tools, luthiery traditions, playing techniques, contemporary efforts at the revival of instruments; Kirtaniye, Rababi-s musicians, luthiers, writers, communities and other contributors who served the field since guru times till present; The concept of revival in Gurbani Sangeet; The Kirtan tradition at the five Takhats, namely, Sri Akal Takhat, Sri Keshagarh Sahib, Sri Damdama Sahib, Sri Patna Sahib and Sri Hazur Sahib, respectively, and other significant Gurudwaras.


By way of the referred journal (Journal, Perspectives on Guru Granth Sahib, Volume. 8, Number 1, 2013) and the proposed seminar, we would like to invite papers that will not only help us to engage in an in-depth study on the tradition and discipline of Gurbani Sangeet but also explore the music of the lands and traditions wherefrom the authors of Gurbani hailed.


  1. Language of Publication – English.
    Scholars, especially from Punjab, are encouraged to write in their native languages namely, Punjabi and/or Hindi. The papers in vernacular will subsequently need to be translated in to English for publication.


  1. Editor: Bhai Baldeep Singh, Visiting Professor, Division of Musicology of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
  2. Editorial Board: Prof. Balwant Singh Dhillon, Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal, Dr. Gulzar Singh Kang, Dr. Jaspal Kaur Kang, Dr. Jagbir Singh.
  3. Five member anonymous review committee.


  1. Abstract (Minimum 300 words)            May 30, 2013.
  2. Papers (Minimum 4000 words)            July 30, 2013.

For Correspondence

Please send abstracts and papers to: and

Bhai Baldeep Singh
Visiting Professor, Division of Musicology
Center on Studies in Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Guru Nanak Dev University
Amritsar 143001 Punjab