For 12 days from July 3, 2013 till July 14, 2013, practitioners of Gurbani Sangeet converged at the joint household of Jasdeep Kaur – Kulmeet Singh and Rameet Kaur – Thomas Roddy Hughes, and their fabulous four children. Students gathered from Europe, India, North and South Americas.
Calling this form as “Gurmat” Sangeet it a problem for one cannot sing Guru’s wisdom (Gur-matt) but Guru’s Bani. In any case, perhaps it be spelt with a double ‘t’ in English at the end as – Gurmatt else it reads as a “mat” —guru‘s mat or carpet…
My argument is that all of Gurbani is not Gurmatt – there is a lot of Gurbani or Bani which is merely information; then there is critique, there is lament, there is sarcasm, there is sarcastic humour, there is taunt, there is devotion, eulogy, seeking, questions, history, narratives and so on, and then there is Gurmatt to sum them all. All of Gurbani is sung and hence it was called Gurbani Sangeet by many vidwan-s including Gyani Gyan Singh of Abotabad, Bhai-s Avtar Singh Gurcharan Singh, Professor Tara Singh and others.
There are a few contemporaries of mine (I am not going to discuss their musicianship or scholarship here) who have propagated a few ideas and have successfully, and sometimes unsuccessfully for I am and many others around our tiny-miny globe are not among their takers, been globetrotting in the name of Gurmat Sangeet. They have made good business and a good name while many think they are messiahs of the field, they are technically merely messiahs of distortions and lies about the tradition. For example, some of these contemporaries have merely borrowed the names of the old instruments and got some lookalikes along with some hybrids such as saranda – a mix of sarangi and saranda – made from ignorant instruments makers who had no background or history in learning and making the originals. I even made three short films on the subject in 2008 (Luthiers of Punjab) which were also shown at the Spinning Wheel Film Festival in Toronto.Nevertheless, this will be remembered as an era when a few matt-s or thesis were propounded such as gurnam-matt, surinder-matt, surinder-yoga, dyal-matt, etc. By way of these, these mechanics of sorts have propagated their interpretations, assumptions and estimations that includes many lies, concoctions, fiction and plagiarism, as history. Preliminary evidence suggests that they all have at least some background in learning contemporary music but especially not the heritage of Gurbani Sangeet.Their work lacks semantic precision and, at most times even, academic integrity but remember my purpose here not to engage in these matt-s bashing. I am merely speaking of Gurbani Sangeet.
Gurbani Sangeet includes the study of Kirtan, that is, the learning of and singing of Gurbani; luthiery, that is, the art and science of making musical instruments traditionally used in court of the Sikh Gurus and other authors; the playing techniques of instruments such as rabab, saranda, pakhawaj, jori, nagara, kainsian, chimta, been, kingari, etc.; as well as learning of the history and other dynamics of Gurbani Sangeet and its protagonists over the centuries. This 35th biannual retreat, one of its only kind and during which I have had the honour of starting from scratch and then over the years handcarving instruments for my students as well as sharing with them the knowledge of the songs —that yet remains which has come down the centuries