Gurbani Keertan Retreat
Bhai Baldeep Singh
January 9, 2012
Winter 2011-2012 Retreat Review
This winter’s retreat has further exposed me to different dimensions of Gurbani Keertan. I have better practice in seeing taal as a foundation, and the percussion and vocal compositions as being built on top of this base. In the last days of the course while we were singing “sant payee gur satgur pooray,” I felt lost, as I was initially unaware of how to maintain my clap for mat taal. This is exactly how I should have felt. I was able to recognize that without the taal the composition is incomplete and the experience of the shabad is fractional.
I’ve set a few concrete goals for myself during this retreat. They are listed as follows:
- Practice dugan and chaugun of the teekas given to me to help maintain my laya
- Practice keeping tali in beats I am not comfortable with -> 9, 11, 13, 15 beats
- Practice playing the thekas that I have written down so I know what each bol sounds like
- Practice kampan, lehak and gamak
- Figure out WHAT (which notes, and how they are approached) I’m singing when I sing it
- Listen to recordings (ex: Dagur vani album) and try to sing along, as well as figure out the path of the notes
- While singing, measure where to take breaths
- Increase vocal range by means of singing compositions (ex: bihaagra teeka which explores 3 saptiks)
- Continue with akaar
- Memorize the words to the shabads that I have been taught
- I hope to have skype lessons with you on a more regular basis in order to maintain consistent checkpoints in my practice and learning.
The manner in which you have taught us Gurbani Keertan has had a profound effect on how I connect with Sikhism. One cannot fully comprehend the gravity and totality of a concept until it is experienced by that individual. You’ve guided your students through a unique experience. I would not have been able to understand the humility of prayer until you took us to gandhaar . I have now seen that the taar-saptaak-kharaj is not merely euphonious in sound, but exudes a sense of absolution and embodies the comfort of brahma; contrarily, nikhaad bears the anxiety of shaytaan. I am forever grateful for this journey, and it is one that has been etched in my soul.
As mentioned earlier, the knowledge and methods of riyaaz taught to us are multi-faceted – the work ethic has been applied to other situations in my life. Similarly, I see the practice of akaar as not only a means to strengthen my voice, but a way of meditating. If I am having a frustrating day, I seek comfort in akaar – it is a time to receive peace and calm myself.
Lastly, I would like to comment the environment established throughout the course. Having other students to share with and learn from gives us a unique perspective in learning, and provides a comforting, familial sense of togetherness. Your epigrammatic humour never ceases to provide comic relief and reminds us that we can incorporate our individualities into how we carry and present the Gurus’ knowledge. While being both a tradition bearer and a socially conscious, technologically up-to-date individual, you’ve demonstrated that this tradition is essentially sada bahaar and not an anachronism of today’s age.