June 6, 2008

Another Bhai Samund Singh Bilawal Masterpiece

Last week, a friend told me that there was a classical kirtaniya from Delhi visiting the bay area, and that he will be singing at the San Jose Gurudwara. I had not heard of him ... Bhai Nitendar Singh. Bhai sahib had some time in the east coast earlier this year and lately he had been singing at the San Jose Gurudwara. Although I couldn't go to the Gurudwara that day, I was somewhat excited because my friend told me he could get a recording of the kirtan.

I have always felt that Kirtan programs are like box of chocolates -- you get a lot of treats, but sometimes you are blown away by a surprise. So, being ever hopeful, I pestered my friend to send me the audio recording of the performance. I got it earlier today. And I was blown away by one of the shabads.

There were five shabads in the recording sent to me. The first one was an asavari shabad in sulfakta. It was a nice composition and I would probably go back to it after I had finished listening to the rest of the program. However, that was not to be.

I started playing the second shabad. It was 'Dheerao Dekh Tumhare Rangaa.' Bhai Nitendar claimed that this could possibly be a Samund Singh composition.

Dheero Dekh Tumare Ranga in Bilawal set to Ek Taal

Right-click > Save As ...

I heard this reet, and I could not stop listening to it.

This is beautiful as bilawal gets. All the elements of the raag are present -- the Ga Ma Re Sa, the Re Ga Ma Pa, the Dha Ni Sa Dha Pa. Still this is not stale at all, it is as fresh as when it was perhaps first sung -- in the middle of the last century. And as someone who has been setting new compositions to fit the rules of a traditional raag, creating a fresh composition that adheres to the quality of the raag is exceptionally difficult. On top of the freshness, the composition has an amazing use of the poetry -- the weight of the composition lies squarely on the rhyming elements. This masterpiece is the work of a master.

I must've heard it 4 or 5 times when my phone rang. It was Friday night and everyone in the family wanted to go out have Pizza. I had opted out of the shopping activities for the evening, but dinner was on.

I dragged myself out and went to a new Pizza place in San Ramon. We must have spent around 2 hours at this Pizza/sports bar, and the pizza was very good. A strong base, colorful toppings, and savory ... just like a finely buttered bilawal reet. Freshness abound! The shabad did not stop playing in my head. I couldn't wait to come back and hit the play button to listen to it several times again.

One possible critique for this composition is the addition of "Mai Vaari" to the rahao line. "Mai Vaari" does not occur in the shabad. Perhaps this was an attempt on the composers part to highlight the first-person appeal of the shabad, which is often misinterpreted. For the purists, who want to adhere to gurbani 'as is', there is an easy way to fix that -- just dont sing the "Mai Vaari" and elongate "Dheero."

This is not the first time I was bowled over by Bhai Samund Singh's Bilawal. This is the second. One of his compostions for Tere Gun Gavaan had gripped me similarly a few years ago. That was my introduction to Bhai Samund Singh. He sang this shabad in a second bilawal reet as well: Tere Gun Gavan; and even that is not the popular bilawal teen taal that is heard across gurudwaras in the world today. Bhai Samund Singh had a liking for freshness, and a liking for Bilawal. I am more confident than by Bhai Nitendar Singh, that the masterful composition came from Bhai Samund Singh.

Alaaps and sargams, which are more dependent on the performer and not the composer, were nearly not as exceptional as the composition. So I really want to listen to this shabad being sung by Bhai Samund Singh, who, like his other recordings, will likely have poured hours of love into it. I looked but I couldn't find any recordings of Bhai Samund Singh singing this shabad. I will keep my search going and if I can't find it, I might spend a couple years honing it myself. Unless I can find a rendition by Bhai Samund Singh, this shabad is a leading contender for my favorite recordings of 2008 which I plan to publish in January 2009.

The other shabads from that morning:

Har ka Bilohna Biloh in Asavari, Sulfakta

Right-click > Save As ...

Rasna Japti Tuhi Tuhi in Shudha Sarang in Teen Taal

Right-click > Save As ...

Man Charnarbind Upaas (?) in Gujri in Roopak.

Right-click > Save As ...

Raajan Kai Raaja in Gunkali set in Ek Taal

Right-click > Save As ...

Read more ...

Bilawal Compilation

Har Ke Naam Bina Dukh Paveh
Har Ke Naam Bina Dukh Paveh - Bhai Avtar Singh
Bolo bhaiya ram nam - Principal Dyal Singh
Bolo Bhaiya Ram Nam - Bhai Nirmal Singh
Bolo Bhaiya Ram Nam - Bhai Avtar Singh
Das tere ki benti
Sewak Kai Bharpoor Jug Jug - Bibi Harmeet Kaur
Right-click >Dhiro Dekh Tumhare Ranga - Bhai Nitendar Singh
Dhiro Dekh Tumhare Ranga - Principal Dyal Singh
Mohan nind na aaveh
Mohan neend na aavai havai
Barse megh sakhi - Gurmit Singh Shant
Simar Manaa Raam Naam - Shivpreet Singh
Mai Naahi Prabh Sabh Kich Tera - Dr. Gurnam Singh
Saant Paai Gur Satgur Poorey Raag - Bhai Avtar Singh
Kavan Sanjog Milo Prabh Apne - Bhai Balbir Singh
Shaant Pai - Bhai Avtar Singh (Dhrupad)
(Prabh Ji) Tu Mere Pran Adhaar - Bhai Avtar Singh
Jagat Jalanda Rakh Lai Apnee Kirpa Dhaar - Dr. Gurnam Singh

Bilawal Dakhni
Mundra Naveladia Koyal Aai Raam - Dr. Gurnam Singh

Bilawal Gaund
Aaj Nav Main Beethal Dekheya - Dr. Gurnam Singh

Bilawal Mangal
Mera Har Prabh Sejai Aaya - Dr. Gurnam Singh

Read more ...

June 2, 2008

My Sree Favorites

Sree is quite a tough raag to sing because of awkward jumps in the aaroh. Fortunately for us, several contemporary keertaniyas have spent ample time perfecting Sree. As a result, despite the rarity of Sree in live kirtan programs, there are several good recordings of Sree shabads. Bhai Sarabjit Singh's rendition of Raag Sree Raag live at the Darbar Sahib is quite magnificient in my opinion; one of the masterpieces of our generation. Principal Baldev Singh's 'Tohi Mohi' and Bhai Gurmeet Singh Shaant's 'Raja Raam' are quite exceptional as well. Bibi Ashupreet has definitely outdone Bibi Geeta Kaur's original recording of 'Rang Ratta,' in her new album 'Prem Lago Har Teer.'

Sree Favorites

For more shabads in Sree click here.
Read more ...

My Suhi Favorites

After having listened to more than a dozen compositions since the Hemkunt competition last week, I am still at a loss to find one bandish that has a lasting impact. The two compositions that I am posting as my favorites are really a compromise. I like Bhai Amarjit Singh's riyaaz perfected voice, however, I like Bhai Avtar Singh's composition in the following renditions:

I hope to add to this list as I get more bandishes. I have started a bandish for Guru Arjan Dev's Eko Ekankara, which I will likely take 2 or 3 years to record and publish here.

For a compilation of Suhi shabads, see my previous post, Suhi at Hemkunt Foundation Competition
Read more ...

May 28, 2008

Suhi Unforgotten at Kirtan Competition

This memorial day weekend I was invited to judge a kirtan competition for the Hemkunt Foundation. This is their second year this competition was conducted and that I was judging young kirtaniyas. The organizers had selected an interesting set of raags for the competition: Sarang, Suhi and Sorath. Sarang, especially Vrindavani Sarang, is not a rarity among current kirtaniyas. However, despite their simplicity and beauty, Suhi and Sorath are forgotten raags, Suhi even more than Sorath. So I decided to do some research on existing Suhi compositions.

Because the majority of existing Suhi renditions are very similar to Alhaiya Bilawal, my research also included media in that raag. The following playlist includes Suhi and Alhaiya Bilawal compositions that I collected before the competition.

If you listen to these compositions, it is clear that there are two distinct forms of Suhi sung by recent and contemporary kirtaniyas. Although both seem to originate from bilawal, the most prevalent of the two stresses the vaadi note 'Pa.' Gyani Dyal Singh and his disciple Bhai Kanwarpal Singh, stress 'Ma' as the vaadi and the effect is just not the same. Next time I see Bhai Kanwarpal Singh I will ask him about the reason for the difference; however, at this point my conclusion from the collective set of media data is that 'Pa' should be the vaadi for Suhi.

In fact, in most compositions the use of "Ga Ma Pa Ni(Komal) Dha Pa," following a rest on vaadi 'Pa' is distinct to Suhi in gurmat sangeet. This is also a distinction of Alhaiya Bilawal making these raags very similar in their feel. "Sa Re Ga Ma, Re Ga Ma Pa" with a slide from Ma to Re reminds one of Bilawal, creating a minor differentiation between Alhaiya Bilawal and Suhi.

For classical Kirtan enthusiasts I highly encourage listening to Kishori Amonkar's rendition of Alhaiya Bilawal on youtube. In Chotti Teen taal (which also appears prominently among Suhi renditions), she uses only 6 notes to define the raag in her bandish. Simplicity of the composition and clarity of meends create an extraordinary atmosphere of tranquility. Just like a masterful Suhi, which is often sung in the hot season, this rendition has a cooling influence on the mind.

Read more ...

April 29, 2008

Gond at Darbar Sahib

Yesterday Bhai Harpreet Singh sang a beautiful bandish in Raag Gond in Darbar Sahib. Luckily I was listening live and had my recording software ready. This is bhagat Namdev's shabad. It is difficult to hear Gond too often although it is a simple raag; so it was a pleasure to hear this rendition. I also include a bandish from Bhai Avtar Singh that I found on the web herewith:

Gond, Moko Taar Le - Harpreet Singh

Gond, Moko Taar Le, Avtar singh

Read more ...

March 30, 2008

Second year of Dekh phool phool phoolai

I started singing this basant bandish in 2007. There are several available recordings of Phool Phool Phoolai. The idea was to build a new composition that highlighted the beauty of this shabads rhyme, which in my opinion is lost in most compositions. This year I put more emphasis on the last line, "Har Hare," an emphasis on which solidifies the thoughts in the rahao tuk.

Read more ...

February 1, 2008

January 30, 2008

Question in Gauri, Answer in Kalyan

This bandish was my attempt at evoking a question and answer within composition. Gauri is a contemplative raag and kalyan evokes the feeling of oneness with God. The first line of each antara is in Gauri and the second line is in Kalyan. For example asking the question, 'how does one remove grief from one's life' is in Gauri, and the answer 'sing the praises of God' is in Kalyan. This recording was done in 1997. The Sthayee bandish comes from my Guru, Pandit Raghunath Prasanna and is likely an old Banaras Gharana bandish.

Read more ...

January 19, 2008

Asa compilation

My favorite Asa renditions
Kya jana kya hoyega ri mai - Bhai Gurmeet Singh Shaant (Soolfak)

Har ka naam ridhae nit - Bhai Mohinder Partap, Devinder Partap Singh (Dipchandi)

Kaam Krodh Lobh Tyag - Principal Baldev Singh, Start at 2:57"
Oha Prem Piri - Bhai Baljeet Singh, Bhai Gurmeet Singh
Chal re baikunth tujhai lai taroon - Bhai Surjit Singh (Ek taal)
Milon Santan Kai Sang - Bhai Rajbrinder Singh (Teen taal)
Kabir Laagi Preet Sujan Syon - Bhai Dharam Singh Zakhmi (Teen taal)

Asa Compilation*
Aiso koun bali re - Gyani Dyal Singh (Chotti Teen taal)
Baapaar Govind Naye - Bibi Nivedita Kaur (Partaal)
Bhinni Rainariye - Bhai Baljeet Singh (Dadra)
Bhinni Rainariye - Lata Mangeshkar (Roopak)
Dekhan ku mushtaq - Bhai Dharam Singh Zakhmi
Chal re baikunth - Bhai Dharam Singh Zakhmi
Chal re baikunth tujhai lai taroon - Bhai Surjit Singh (Ek taal)
Chalange uth naam jap - Bhai Surjit Singh (Chotti Teen taal)
Chandan ka birva bhalaa - Gyani Dyal Singh (Teen taal)
Chuka nihohra sakhi saheri - Bhai Gurmeet Singh Shaant (Matt taal)
Ek achambav dekho bhai - Gyani Dyal Singh (Soolfak)
Hamari pyari amritdhari - Bhai Dharam Singh Zakhmi
Har aradh na janya - Gyani Dyal Singh (Keharva)

Har ka naam ridhae nit - Bhai Mohinder Partap, Devinder Partap Singh (Dipchandi)
Gur mere sang sadaa hai naale - Bhai Surjit Singh (Matt taal)
Ik Ghari Dinas Moko - Bhai Iqbal Singh (Jhap taal)
Kabir Laagi Preet Sujan Syon - Bhai Dharam Singh Zakhmi (Teen taal)
Kaam Krodh Lobh Tyag - Bhai Iqbal Singh (Ek taal), Start at 4:40"
Kaam Krodh Lobh Tyag - Principal Baldev Singh, Start at 2:57"
Kau Bikham Gaar Torai - Bhai Narinder Singh (partaal - jhap, chanchal, teen), 18:05"
Kau Bikham Gaar Torai - Bhai Avtar Singh
Kya jana kya hoyega ri mai - Bhai Gurmeet Singh Shaant (Soolfak)
Nam Japo Mere Sajan Saina
Mere Jeareya Pardesia - Bhai Balbir Singh (Keharva)
Madho Sat Sangat Saran Tumhari - Bhai Satnam Singh (Teen taal)
Milon Santan Kai Sang - Bhai Rajbrinder Singh (Teen taal)
Oha Prem Piri - Bhai Baljeet Singh, Bhai Gurmeet Singh (Namdhari)
Oha Prem Piri - Gyani Dyal Singh
Oha Prem Piri - Bibi Nivedita Kaur
Oha Prem Piri - Bhai Avtar Singh
Oha Prem Piri - Bhai Rai Singh
Ram naam saar kal me - Gyani Dyal Singh (Ek taal)
Ramiya Hao Barak Tera - Bhai Avtar Singh
Ratte Ishq Khudaye - Bibi Nivedita Kaur (Dadra), Start at 13:45"
So Kyon Visrai Meree - Dr. Gurnam Singh (Chanchal)
Tau Karan Sahiba Rang Ratte - Bhai Balbir Singh (Ek taal)
Uth Farida Ujoo Saaj - Bhai Rai Singh

* Please send me links to shabads that should be included in this list.

Raag Asa Kafi
Maan Nimane Too Dhani - Dr. Gurnam Singh

Other Asa compositions/renditions
Raag Asa on Esraj:

Meera Bhajan from 1950 movie, 'Jogan':
Prem Diwani - Geeta Dutt

Notes on Asa renditions:

Oha Prem Piri. Several shabads in Raag Asa are about love. The shabad that is sung everyday at the beginning of Asa di waar, is Har Amrit Bhinne Loyena. Oha Prem Piri is another shabad about love. Several renditions in Raag Asa are available. My favorite is Bhai Baljeet Singh and Bhai Gurmeet Singh's rendition.

Chal Re Baikunth/Chalenge Uth. Both shabads sung by Bhai Surjit Singh, a disciple of Giani Dyal Singh, have similar compositions. I find Chal Re Baikunth's rendition very beautiful especially due to its asyncopatic phrasing for Ek taal. Similar Tilak Kamod elements (Sa Re Ga Re Ga Sa), and similar uthav in the antara (Pa Dha Pa Dha Sa*, Sa* Re* Sa* - Ga* Re* Sa* Ni Dha Pa). Also note the use of Komal Ni in the Avroh. Several compositions include Komal Ni, which is missed in several descriptions of this Raag.

Bhinni Rainariye. Lata Mangeshkar's rendition, composed by Singh Bandhu, uses Raag Asa as a base, but includes several non-Asa elements, especially from Kedar (Pa Ma+ Dha Pa Ma) and Kalyan (Ni Re* Ga* Re* Sa*). The rendition by Bhai Baljeet Singh is more closely tied to the original raag.

Uth Farida. This Baba Farid's shabad starts with the hope of waking up and praying in the morning. Action, waking, and morning prayers are often included in Asa. Musically, notice a couple of non-traditional Asa elements: (1) Borrowing from bihag, Sa Ga Ma Pa Dha Sa, instead of Sa Re Ma Pa Dha Sa* . (2) Borrowing from Bilawal, Pa (Ni) Dha Ni Sa* is used in the Antara, instead of Pa Dha Sa*.

Mere Jeareya Pardesia. The beautiful composition sung by Bhai Balbir Singh shows how a complicated melody or taal is not required for staying true to raags.

Prem Diwani. This Meera bhajan, from the movie 'Jogan,' has the characteristic Asa chadaav, "Re Ma Pa Dha Sa" on dard na jaane koye, the Asa-peculiar harkat on Dha: "Dha Ni Pa Dha," an emphasis of "Sa Re Ga" in the taar saptak, and the frequent penultimate taan, "Ni Re* Sa* Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Re Sa." All these elements are present in renditions of Asa sung by kirtaniyas. This is the way Asa is sung in Darbar Sahib. Bollywood composers used to frequent Darbar Sahib in search for compositions in an earlier era. I have a feeling that the composer visited Amritsar, listened to the original Asa in the dawn, and copied key elements of this raag for his bhajan. (I heard the other songs from this movie, but didn't find anything else interesting, even though I was amazed at the number of songs in one movie!!!)
Read more ...