April 11, 2016

"Mere Lalan Ki Sobha" in Raag Kalyan

Dear Sadh Sangat ji:

I have been meditating on this shabad "Mere Lalan Ki Sobha" for the past month or so.  And because you are my saints, to understand this better, I need your perspective on this shabad.  I want to know what this shabad says to you. I would be grateful to you if you can share your perspective about this shabad or answer one or more of the questions either in the comments on this blog or by email (shivpreetsingh @ live . com).

So think about the following questions:
1. What is the meaning of the rahao tuk? (see two perspectives below)
2. How is the rahao tuk connected to the Mool Mantra?
3. Why is this shabad in Raag Kalyan?
4. What does this Shabad say to you? Any personal perspectives?
5. What is the point of mentioning several dieties (Brahma, Mahesh etc.)? How is this connected to the rahao tuk?
6. In the end Guru ji says "I am a sacrifice to the Saints, who are the Eternal Companions of God"? How is this related to the rahao and mool mantra?
7. How can this shabad make us better human beings?

(The questions assume that the rahao carries the central meaning of the shabad, that the raag should add to the central meaning, that all gurbani is related to the Mool Mantra, and that all shabads made us better human beings if meditated upon).

Following is Bhai Nirmal Singh's rendition of this shabad in Raag Kalyan.

Two perspectives on the rahao tuk

Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa:
"O, the Wondrous Glory of my Beloved!
My mind is rejuvenated forever by His Wondrous Love. ||1||Pause||"

Bhai Manmohan Singh:
"Wondrous is the magnificence of my Beloved.
Ever refreshing and pleasing unto the mind is His glory. Pause."

Shabad and Translation

ਕਲਿਆਨ ਮਹਲਾ
कलिआन महला ५ ॥
Kali▫ān mėhlā 5.
Kalyaan, Fifth Mehl:

ਮੇਰੇ ਲਾਲਨ ਕੀ ਸੋਭਾ
मेरे लालन की सोभा ॥
Mere lālan kī sobẖā.
O, the Wondrous Glory of my Beloved!

ਸਦ ਨਵਤਨ ਮਨ ਰੰਗੀ ਸੋਭਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ
सद नवतन मन रंगी सोभा ॥१॥ रहाउ ॥
Saḏ navṯan man rangī sobẖā. ||1|| rahā▫o.
My mind is rejuvenated forever by His Wondrous Love. ||1||Pause||

ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਮਹੇਸ ਸਿਧ ਮੁਨਿ ਇੰਦ੍ਰਾ ਭਗਤਿ ਦਾਨੁ ਜਸੁ ਮੰਗੀ ॥੧॥
ब्रहम महेस सिध मुनि इंद्रा भगति दानु जसु मंगी ॥१॥
Barahm mahes siḏẖ mun inḏrā bẖagaṯ ḏān jas mangī. ||1||
Brahma, Shiva, the Siddhas, the silent sages and Indra beg for the charity of His Praise and devotion to Him. ||1||

ਜੋਗ ਗਿਆਨ ਧਿਆਨ ਸੇਖਨਾਗੈ ਸਗਲ ਜਪਹਿ ਤਰੰਗੀ
जोग गिआन धिआन सेखनागै सगल जपहि तरंगी ॥
Jog gi▫ān ḏẖi▫ān sekẖnāgai sagal jāpėh ṯarangī.
Yogis, spiritual teachers, meditators and the thousand-headed serpent all meditate on the Waves of God.

ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੰਤਨ ਬਲਿਹਾਰੈ ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੇ ਸਦ ਸੰਗੀ ॥੨॥੩॥
कहु नानक संतन बलिहारै जो प्रभ के सद संगी ॥२॥३॥
Kaho Nānak sanṯan balihārai jo parabẖ ke saḏ sangī. ||2||3||
Says Nanak, I am a sacrifice to the Saints, who are the Eternal Companions of God. ||2||3||

Read more ...

January 18, 2016

Mith Bolra Ji Har Sajjan - Imbued with sweet words - Raag Suhi

Do you know how 'Suhaagans' remain beautiful?
They accept peacefully and they speak sweetly!
- Guru Nanak (Raag Sri)

Last week my maternal grandmother, Preetam Kaur, passed away, only a few months after my grandfather. Twice an immigrant, first from Pakistan to India, and then India to the US, this pink complexioned Pindi lady was full of love just like her name suggested.  Gurbani was always on her lips and deep in her heart.  She was dyed in Sehaj and Santokh in a way I have rarely seen anyone else.  You could have known her for ages or just met her, but you could not have met her without being charmed by her smile and overwhelmed by her hospitality. 

There was one quality that everyone who met her remembers her with - her sweet words.  The sweetness of the Nirvair universe had somehow condensed into her. No one ever heard anything harsh from her about anyone.  Whether they were present or not.  She would always look at the positive side of every everyone and every instance. We met her the day before she left and she was in tremendous pain, she could not speak, but she smiled when she saw Geet, my eighteen month old daughter.

4 Generations in a Picture ... 

I usually sing Gauri at the occasion of death.  This weekened, one person at her funeral mentioned that a soul like her descends to earth once in a generation.  I thought it was apt to sing Raag Suhi in this case.  Raag Suhi is named after the color "Suhaa" or red.  The word has a common origin with "Suhaag" which connotes the bliss of a bride that is in love.  Red is also the universal the color of love. This is the raag we sing when someone gets married.  The laavan are sung in this raag. It would only be apt to sing Raag Suhi to remember this pink complexioned lady imbued in love. 

This simple composition in Raag Suhi is dedicated to her sweetness ... I am sharing here the recording I did at home on the piano before singing the same shabad at the San Jose Gurdwara. Listen, enjoy, download and share with loved ones ... 

For Lyrics and Translation:

Suhi Mahalla 5 Chhanth

Mith Bolara Ji Har Sajjan Swami Mora
Hau Sammal Thakki Ji
Oh Kade Na Bolai Kaura

Kaura Bol Na Jaane Pooran Bhagwane
Avgun Ko Na Chitare
Patit Paavan Har Birad Sadaye
Ik til nahi Bhanne Ghale

Ghat Ghat Vasi Sarab Nivasi
Nerai Hi Te Neraa
Nanak Daas Sadaa Sarnaagat
Har Amrit Sajjan Mera

Read more ...

January 3, 2016

Continual remembrance of the scented path - Raag Bilawal

In 2010, I composed a simple melody for Guru Arjan's shabad Charan Kamal Prabh Kay Nit Dhiyaoon, Guru Arjan Dev's shabad focused on continual remembrance of the scented path of the Beloved. The composition was made in raag Bilawal in such a way that the chords repeat in a 4-bar cycle. That way the music meditates while the singer sings every line of the shabad. Many of the melodic elements are also repeated throughout the shabad.  Even when we are singing different words, in different melodies, there is a continuity in the music, a humble attempt to depict melody and music losing their own ego.

Collab with Janapriya Levine and Kimberly Foree

While I have been singing this shabad at different venues over the years, I have never released any studio quality recording.  This year we are launching a new arrangement and video of this shabad.  Much of the work on the arrangement and the video was done by American multi-instrumentalist and video producer Janapriya Levine. Janapriya has intimate knowledge of ancient raagas as well as pop arrangements. His music videos often feature Indian fusion music(1). Additionally, Kimberly Foree has played the Oboe and provided inspiration throughout the process of creation and editing. Both of them really poured their love into this production. We hope that you will enjoy this as much as we have enjoyed creating this. We will be singing this shabad live in various kirtans and hope to see some of you there ...

The video:

The Raag

Bilawal is a raag which uses all "shudha" notes, and is designed to evoke feelings of remembrance of love, the remembrance of one's spiritual guru. Guru Arjan Dev reminds us in the shabad, "let me never ever forget you." Most of the popular compositions in this raag are in an alternative form of the raag called, Alhaiya Bilwal, which uses both Ni's in addition to all shuddha notes.  This composition is truer to the older and more stricter interpretation of the notes of the raag.  But there is one important difference and nuance ... While the raag is uttarang, much of the melody of the shabad is poorvang; this was intentionally done to create a sense of continuity desired by the words of the shabad.

The words:

Charan means feet, and Kamal means lotus. Hence Charan Kamal literally means Lotus Feet.  The most important message from this poem is to remember the scented path of the beloved continually. Following is a translation:

Charan Kamal Prabh Kay Nit Dhiayaon 
I meditate continually on the lotus feet of love.
Kavan sumat jit preetam paaon
What wisdom will lead me to attain my love?

Kavan Sanjog milaon prabh apnay
What blessed destiny will lead me to meet my love?
Pal pal nimakh sadaa har japnay
Each and every moment meditate on love.

Aisee kirpa karoh prabh meray
Please, bless me with such mercy my love
Har Nanak bisar na kahoo beray
That I may never ever forget you.

(1) Learn more about Janapriya's music at https://www.patreon.com/janapriya and watch his other videos at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf4pvyOdaljpTW7NUgOWO4A

Read more ...

September 2, 2015

Chord Progression for Bhinni Rainariye Chamkan Taare - Raag Asa

In response to someone who has asked for the chords for Bhinni Rainariye, I am posting this.  But I want to post a little more than just the chords, so it can help future composers.

When I started composing music in my pre-teen years, I used to compose using very simple chords I had learned from my friends in school. When I did my composition training at Berkeley, I moved on to very complex chord progressions. But lately I have gone back to the roots. Most of my compositions use very simple chords and progressions.

Bhinni Rainariye is not any different. There are just two 4 bar chord progressions that are repeated in the shabad:

1. "Chamkan Taare": Eb Eb Bb Bb
2. All other phrases: Bb Eb Bb Fsus

If you use a different key than Bb, you can use:

1. IV  |  IV  |  I  |  I  |
2. I  |  IV  |  I  |  Vsus  |

In general, if you use I and IV, you are reigning in Raag Asa!  And the classic resolution of Asa is from IV to I.  The classic Tunde Asraje ki Dhun can be sung using (1) IV IV I I ... just in 6/8 instead of 4/4.  Try it!  And notice how you can repeat it again and again and then focus on the words.

Repetition is essential.  Most popular music has repeated chord progressions.  There is a reason for it.  Not only does the repetition make it simple, it also  makes it beautiful ... and approachable ... and meditative.  All these three aspects are very important for kirtan.  Beauty, in addition to truth, has been considered to be the connection to Godliness ... Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram!  Approachable makes it easier for everyone to sing and play along.  And meditative makes it catchy.  It stays with you longer.

Most importantly, repetition helps in subtracting out the music, which in the end is only the instrument to connect to the highest consciousness.  You can even say it is noise.  The human brain has this remarkable capability of canceling out noise.  If everything else is being repeated, it tends to focus on what's changing. With the repetition of chords, you tend to focus on the words -- which are the only thing that is changing. 

This goes to the central aspect of gurbani.  It makes it shabad pradhan.

Happy singing and composing!
Read more ...

June 6, 2014

Karima Rahima Allah Tu Gani - Raag Tilang

I recently started a youtube channel and I will be posting more of the videos from that channel here in the coming weeks. Following is a lyric/translation video of the Bhagat Namdev's shabad "Karima Rahima Allah Tu Gani" in Raag Tilang.

Central idea: This shabad inspires us to remember that compassion lives at the doorstep of our hearts.  We often don't open the door at our heart and let this compassion come in, but it is there. It is present here and now.

Importance of Rahao: Despite this being a popular shabad, I couldn't find any recordings that used the rahao tuk as the refrain. The shabad is usually sung beginning with the line "Main Andhale Ki Tek."  The more I meditated on Gurbani, the more I have found that the essence of any shabad is most easily understood through the "Rahao tuk."  Therefore, in my newer compositions like this, I try to adhere to the Rahao tuk as the refrain.

Raag Tilang: The shabad has been sung in the traditional form of Raag Tilang. Most of Tilang compositions these days are in Mishra Tilang in which komal gandhar and several other notes are added.

Taal: While one can sing this composition in Dadra, it really is a 24 beat taal with 4 cycles of 6 beats each. Repetition of long cycle taals add to the meditative aspect of any composition.  Unfortunately, such long-cycle taals are becoming extinct in this day.

Recording: The melodic composition of this shabad is only around 2 years old. I recorded the music on my laptop mostly during a trip to the east coast.  I recorded the vocals in my home studio in Northern California.  The harmony track was added by a friend, Fontain Riddle, who is an accomplished singer and songwriter from Southern California.  I thought this was apt for Fontain to sing because her son's name is Karim.  Fontain is married to my high school friend Farhan Khan who plays the guitar and the sitar.
Read more ...

October 3, 2012

Jo Mange Thakur Apne Te - Raag Dhanasri

Last month I had the pleasure of singing this evergreen shabad at my parent's anniversary celebration kirtan.  I first sang the shabad in the old Pahadi raag tune and then a dhanasri tune. Dhanasri is the Raag of thanksgiving (see earlier post: The Meaning Behind Raag Dhanasri)

Here is a recording of the live program:


I also made a piano-only composition of the Pahadi tune.  Leah Senibaldi, a young pianist and composer did this arrangement.

Read more ...

January 8, 2011

Jin Prem Kiyo - Raag Asa

In the hope that I can prosper love in myself, I have been singing "Jin Prem Kiyo" in Raag Asa, or the Raag of Hope. I just recently published a version of what I have been singing at home. If you don't see a widget above this paragraph, you can go here to listen to it: Jin Prem Kiyo - Raag Asa

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November 21, 2010

Happy Gurpurab!

Happy Gurpurab Everyone! Lets remember Guru ji's message today ...

Also sharing a nice article from "The Province" in Canada:

As the legend goes, Nanak Dev was only 12 when his father, a revenue official of Talwandi village west of Lahore in Pakistan, decided to test the business acumen of his son.

Read more ...

November 16, 2010

Raag Devgandhari Compilation

My Favorites Devgandhari Shabads
Mai Gur Charni Chit Laiyeh - Dr. Gurnam Singh
Tera Jan Raam Rasaayan - Bhai Mohinder Pratap Singh
Sabh Kich Jeevat - Bhai Darbara Singh (Bad recording)

List of Devgandhari Shabads:
Mere Man mukh har har boliyeh - Prof Kartar Singh
Mai Gur Charni Chit Laiyeh - Bibi Varinder Kaur

Read more ...

October 8, 2010

Ramkali - Dhan Dhan Ramdas Gur

Someone reminded me today that it was Gurpurab (Guru Ramdas), so I was reminded of the shabad I have heard so many times, Dhan Dhan Ramdas Gur.

I checked, like I do now for every shabad when I hear it, it was written by Guru Sahib in Raag Ramkali.

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