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

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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

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