Gurbani Keertan Retreat
Bhai Baldeep Singh
July 10, 2012
Summer 2012 Retreat Review
After attending another course with the family, I feel rejuvenated, more knowledgeable, and at peace with myself and the Universe. I was able to derive conclusions about what my relationship with Gurbani Keertan has done for me on a spiritual level. My encounters with Sikhi had previously been very intimidating ones. Sikhi seemed to be an aloof, unattainable dogma, and without completely changing my lifestyle, I would not be able to procure it. Gurbani Keertan has given me the ability to practice Sikhi in a way that allows me to undergo a memorable experience as opposed to merely compiling a collection of facts and theories. When we sing the Gurus’ poetry the way they would have, we experience their mindset and disposition; we transform into them and in doing so, we preserve their spirit. What better experience to have than to experience as the Guru itself? Sikhi is a religion of artisans, and art is the best way to understand the beauty – encompassing ugliness and reality – of life. Gurbani Keertan has allowed me to catch a glimpse of this beauty.
Sharing this experience with intelligent and wise students has always provided a sense of comfort and enlightenment. While living with the keertan family during the retreats, I’ve always been able to share and gain knowledge from them – whether we are sharing and working on compositions or just swapping information about technology and current events. I’ve always felt like the aura of the company at the courses has bettered me as an individual.
In terms of learning, I have been able to sharpen my listening skills and understanding of the language of notes. This particular course gave me a better understanding of the logic of alaap. With each phrase that is sung, a certain note is emphasized. The note is reached and emphasized through varying patterns, paths and embellishments. Upnyaas and vinyaas notes are used as support systems to highlight more prominent notes. Certain elements, such as meends, can be used to emphasize notes, as well. However, the raag can me mutilated if such techniques are not used with caution, such as if ones approaches a vinyaas note with a meend. This course exposed me to advanced techniques and methods of improving my grasp of the language of notes. The sargam exercises given to us during this course will be extremely helpful in understanding relationships between different note combinations. Additionally, they are beautiful-sounding combinations that will be pleasing to the ears. Another aspect that I have improved in is hearing and feeling the taal while singing. When the class was singing the Bihaagra teeka, and Parminder was accompanying us with Pakhawaj, I was able to listen to his playing and match it with my own taali. However, I need to gain a better grasp at recognizing individual bols. I plan on working on uchaaran and nikaas of thekas of the taals that I sing with
I aim to avidly work on the Bihaagra and Tukhaari teekas composed by Bhai Sahib. There are some notes that are still off-sounding (for example: the consecutive singing of both of the Madhams and singing in the taar-saptik) and there are still certain phrases that need refining. I also need to work on breathing and meticulously choosing which stops to breathe at so that the composition sounds smooth and well-paced. These exercises provide me with a large arena to work on multiple aspects of Keertan: taal (thaat, dugan, chaugun etc.), increasing my vocal range, strengthening my voice, and determining the most effective breathing spaces. Frequent video-chat lessons will keep me in check.