Category

Punjab

Anwar Ali and Group

A SUFIYANA RETREAT

In 1947, at the time of partition, the mass exodus of musicians to Pakistan damaged its cultural landscape beyond repair. This includes the decline and gradual disappearance of the four major gharanas of Punjab—Shyamchaurasi, Talwandi, Haryana Dhunga and Kapurthala—where the finest Dhrupad gayaki evolved in the tradition of Gurbani kirtan. The dwindling charisma of Qawwali and the divine music of the Chishti Sufis of the South Asian region is safeguarded and sustained by a small village called Maler Kotla in Sangrur district in Punjab.

On its musical caravan, the team was fortunate enough to find Anwar Ali ji from Maler Kotla, which is also referred to as the musical capital of Punjab. Anwar Ali is truly a musical person by nature. He has the exceptional flair to convert any conversation into a melodic Sufiana phrase which touches the heart of the listener. This unique style is his USP. An experienced and dedicated Qawwal, Anwar Ali has been into Sufi and Qawwali singing for a very long time. The rhythm of Qawwali is in his blood. With more than three generations of musicians from Sarandhi gharana in Maler Kotla, his grandfather Rehmat Qawwaal Ji has played a vital role in building up his interest in Qawwali music.

Qawwali is a type of music pursued by Sufis to stimulate religious spirituality. The roots of Qawwali date back to the 11th Century with the tradition of ‘sama’, (spiritual concerts) which predate the birth of Muhammad. Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya, who was a follower of the Christi school of Sufism, extensively used music as a medium for his prayer gatherings. However, the godfather of Qawwali is said to be Amir Khusru from the 13th century, a prominent musician and philosopher who mixed elements from Turkey, Persia and India in the creation of a new music. The Persian moqquams beautifully unite with the Indian ragas. The variation, improvisation and repetition are carried out to such an extent that the music becomes hypnotic and meditative, leading to a trance-like state.

It requires a lifetime to learn the art of Qawwaali. Anwar Ali started his ‘riyaaz’ (training) at a tender age of just 5 years. He was deeply inspired by his uncle who kindled his love for the strength of Qawwaali to convey a spiritual message. To draw and hold the attention of a heterogeneous audience is the skill that the best Qawwal (performers of qawwali) excel at. Thus transforming the state of consciousness of the audience in order to make them more receptive to the content is one of the fundamental reasons for the existence of this type of music. Anwar Ji often sits and reminisces his childhood days: he says, the relief, the peace of mind he used to feel while listening to his uncle sing Sufi proses, and their gentle, calming effect was unparalleled. His uncle’s melodious voice still echoes in his head.

Anwar Ali and his group can be seen feeling the beats of the Qawwaali music with their bodies: The rhythm in the form of drums (tabla, dholak and pakhwaz) and synchronized hand-clapping. Once after performing at a show in Ludhiana, he was offered a show in Hongkong because of a recording of his performance there which was sent to an event manager in Hongkong. He still recalls that experience of flying away from the country for the first time, and performing in front of people who were unaware of the wordings, but were connected by a mutual feeling of harmony because of the music.

He is concerned about how the identity of Qawwal musicians is at risk. A myriad of hidden gems are lying in the dark, but he was optimistic and hopeful that with Anahad’s initiative they would get a platform to showcase their talent, and interact with the contemporaries.

Anwar Ali ji breaks up ‘Sangeet’ as ‘Geet Ke Sang’, meaning together with the ‘sur’. He believes that music is therapeutic and it leads to the nourishment of the soul. It heals one from the inside, without taking anything in return, unlike love. Anwar Ji never misses even the slightest opportunity to present a spontaneous ‘sher’ on the bittersweet nature of love and how it drives people crazy, to limits one cannot even imagine. Bidding the team goodbye, he greeted us farewell, singing-

Nachaya tere ishq ne, nachaya tere ishq ne.

(Your love makes me crazy)

Rangle Sardar

COLOURING THE CANVAS OF LIFE WITH MUSIC

At a time when hip-hop and rock music is wielding its clout on the youngsters, ‘Rang Le Sardar’ has emerged as a quintessence by playing the rich folk songs, which depict the significance of the teachings of our great ancestors, and of course, LIFE. Arshdeep Singh, Maninderpal Singh, Inderjeet Singh, Jaskarn Singh, and Ajam Khan, are only in their twenties. But if one listens to their music, it would be difficult to believe so. Their voices as ‘buland’ (strong) as possible, but harmonious at the same time, they conquer the hearts of people wherever they perform. Standing in the open fields of Punjab, Arshdeep and Ajam Khan sing in unison:

Bade auliye peer faker aaye

There have come many saints and holy beings in the world..

Hami dukhi mazlooma di bhare koi

To sympathize with the destitute and the impoverished..

Badi damk ae kach de motiyan di

The pearls have a distinguishable sparkle..

Hunde laal boh kimti khare koi

Although some have been considered precious, a few are worthy…

The song beautifully exhibits the value and importance of a true Guru, and how to identify one.  

Arshdeep Singh is a young folk musician in his twenties, from Moga district in Punjab, who leads this group of four, which is known as ‘Rang Le Sardaar. He sings and plays Bhugchu, and Tumba. His close friends call him ‘Arsh Riyaz’. His interest in folk music was triggered when he was in school, as most of his friends were into the native folk music. He was around 10 years old when he started singing. He learnt singing folk from professor Major Singh. He finds himself devoted to folk music and wants to represent the rich cultural tradition of Punjab through his music. People deeply appreciate his music as the lyrics leave a social message as well. He feels that he still has a long way to go when it comes to folk singing, and he is learning further from his Guruji, Baba Jora Singh Ji in Dharamkot.

 When it comes to playing the Harmonium, Maninderpal Singh can never compromise. He is a 24 years old folk musician from a small village called Baaga Braana in Punjab.  He did his Bachelors and Masters in Indian music. His family is into farming, and his father has always encouraged his passion for music. He started learning singing folk from Ustad Baba Jora Singh in Dharamkot when he joined college. He has been playing for almost 6 years now. He is very fond of taking part in competitions organized in the fairs and festivals in his village. Giving him company is Inderjeet Singh, who is a 24 years old folk musician from a small hamlet called Baaga Brana in Punjab. He sings and plays Dhol, Tabla, and Dholak He is pursuing his masters in music- both vocals and instrumental from Punjabi University, Patiala. He started learning music at the age of 6 years from his Guruji Rakesh Kumar Ji, who is a famous Dhol player, who plays along with renowned folk musicians like Rajan Gill. His father does stitching work, but he has always been fond of folk music. He always motivates his children to learn music. His sister is pursuing M.Phil in music. Inderjeet belongs to Nirankari Mission, and he started singing by performing at Satsanga and jaagrans.  

Jaskarn Singh is a 23 years old folk musician who hails from Moga district in Punjab. He plays the harmonium with the group. He completed his masters from Punjabi University in Patiala. He also works as a music producer, and has just completed setting up his own studio, by the name of ‘Black Music Production’. He even did a couple of courses in music production from an institute in Chandigarh. Music is his passion, and he works day and night to excel in this field. His is father sings Kavishri, and out of his own interest in music, he gifted a Harmonium to Jaskarn in 2003. Since then he has been learning and practising the different folk songs on it.  

Ajam Khan simply loves to sing and plays the Sarangi with all his heart. At the age of just 20 years, he has released 4 songs. He has performed in various competitions and youth festivals. He had learnt to play the Sarangi from Ustad Kulvant Singh from Khanna. For Tabla, he took his training from Baba Sohan Singh Ji. He had interest in Tabla initially, inspired by his school teacher, he started playing the Sarangi too, and gradually it became his main instrument. He feels that people are deviating from their cultural values and morals, but through some of his songs, he has tried to show that there is still some good left- there are young people who are involved in devotional activities, who respect their elders and who are responsible as well. He also has a good interest in classical music as well. He thinks that passion is very important to pursue any goal.

All of the members met in college and decided to form the group two years ago. They have performed locally in fairs and festivals in Punjab only. Wherever they perform, they always win the hearts of the audience with their melodious music. They wish to exhibit their talent in front of more people so that they can make them acquainted with their culture. The group displays unity and mutual respect, which strengthens with each passing day. Their passion for folk music coupled with their determination to practice each and every day is what keeps the group going.

Valour Gatka Group

THE FIERCE GATKA WARRIORS

Jo Bole Sonihaal Sasriyakaal!

You enter Punjab, and these words keep echoing in your ears. Punjab is characterized by its vigour and vibrant, and a perennial flow of energy amongst its inhabitants. The culture of Punjab is one of the oldest and richest cultures in the world history, and also one of the most flourishing. The Indian state of Punjab exhibits a unique cultural landscape, which thrives in both traditional values and utilitarian aspects. Anahad’s pilot project in Punjab started off with a dynamic performance staged by the fearless Gatka performers coupled with an energetic recital of the bravery of the warriors of Punjab immersed in Veer Rass, was an altogether unique experience for the entire team.

Gatka is the name of an Indian martial art associated with the Sikh Dharma. It is a style of stick fighting, with wooden sticks intended to simulate swords. The Punjabi name gatka properly refers to the wooden stick used. The word originates as a diminutive of Sanskrit gada “mace”.

The art originated when the sixth Guru of Sikhs: Guru Hargobind decided that the Sikhs need to learn self-defence to combat the atrocities ushered upon them. He formulated Gatka as a martial art and it was passed to succeeding generations. Gatka has been revived again at the time of British invasion of India. Gatka can be practised either as a sport (Khel) or ritual (rasmi). The ritual form is demonstrated and is performed to music during spiritual ceremonies, or as part of a theatrical performance. A practitioner of gatka is called a gatkabaj while a teacher is addressed as Guru or Gurudev.

Talvinder Ji led the Gatka team of fifteen fighters who were astonishingly synchronized with each other. Though Gatka is a fierce martial art form, Talvinder Ji knows how to keep his calm while mastering it. He is an extremely humble and patient person. He finds himself devoted fully to his art form. He has been performing Gatka since he was 5 years old. He had learnt this Punjabi art from his Guruji – Sukhdev Singh ji. He trains kids in Gatka art form for free.

He told us that he packs his bag in the morning and leaves for his shows. Talvinder ji feels that Gatka as an art form is not getting the amount of recognition that it should get. Age is not the limit for them. Art knows no boundaries- he usually performs with his group of 15 other Gatka performers from varying backgrounds and ages, 2 small kids of 4 years of age, performing in full grace with the poise of a warrior. At the same time, his group consists of 2 old men as old as 70 years of age.

The open fields, the cold breeze in the morning and the charged Gatka performers, gave all of us an adrenaline rush and charged us all with the enthusiasm and zeal of theirs.

Avtar Ji, the lead of the singer group: told how he started learning Daddh Sarangi from his father and grandfather at a tender age. He writes his own compositions and does commentary in a lot of Gatka performances. He is totally devoted to his music and believes in seva-bhaav through his enlightening music. He often goes to the Gurudwara for service and finds himself in the comfort of the highest power who guides us all.

The visually appealing formations of the Gatka group and their martial arts gave us all goosebumps. There is absolutely no measure of their dedication and laboriousness.

Nazar Pander and Group

LOST IN LOVE WITH THE CADENCE OF SARANGI

Ashiq ashiq sab jag banda,

Everybody calls himself a lover…

Sir tedi pagdi dhar ke

Just by wearing a fancy turban…

Ashiq ohna de dur thikaane

The true Lovers have their destinations far away..

Jithe poncheya banda mar ke

One goes through great adversities to reach there..

Ashiq ashiq sab jag kainda

Everybody calls himself a lover..

On the land where love legends like Heer Ranjha are the epitome of love, people who call themselves lovers, without having to go through the ferocious storms of love, are brought back to reality by an enchanting folk music group in one of their songs. Nazer Pander Ji leads this Dhad-Sarangi group of four young and talented boys, who study music together in college. They all hail from a small village called ‘Rakhrha’, which is near Gurmehrpur, in Nabha, Punjab.

In Punjabi folk music, there are two types of Dhad- one is Sikh Dhad, which is usually played in the Gurudwara about the history of Sikhism, and the second one is Folk/ Sufi Dhad, which is played with folk songs. The group plays the folk Dhad, and sing folk tales of Heer Ranjha, Sohni Mahiwal, and more. The folk songs are embedded in the beautiful Sringar Rass and Viraag Rass.

Nazer Ji is a middle-aged folk musician and has great knowledge of Punjabi folk music. He sings and plays the traditional folk instruments- Dadd and Sarangi. His father, Gurmehal Pander Ji, is also a folk musician, and Nazer Ji inherited all his knowledge about folk music from his father and grandfather. Gurmehal Ji has even composed his own song, ‘Chandrahaas’, depicting the folk culture in his community. Nazer Ji started learning at the age of 13 and formed his own group 15 years ago. Financially, he is dependent on income from music shows, and farming during the off-season. As a child, he used to sit with his father at night, after dinner, for 2 hours, to learn the folk songs, write them down and then memorize them by heart. Nazer Ji feels that a digital recording is very important in the domain of folk music so that the pure form of folk songs reaches the people without any distortion.

Salim made a couple of friends in college whose interests aligned with him as folk musicians. So they came together and formed a group under Salim’s father, Nazer Ji. The members think that one has to understand that folk music, especially that of Punjab, comprises of lengthy songs, and numerous ‘Kali’, narrating the events related to the song, and that one needs to be patient to completely comprehend the essence of that music. It is a tough art because one has to sing, play and dance as well. The same opinion was highlighted in their interview with DD Punjab. The group boasts of a bundle of knowledge about their folk culture, and members of a young generation who are willing to pursue folk music with all their heart and dedication. They are also working on a composition which involves a melodic fusion of Dhad, sarangi and bhugdu with some western instruments, so as to present their music in a contemporary format. They aptly say that folk music is about the community itself. The songs teach people how to live their life happily.

Nazer Ji’s son, Salim Khan is a music honours student from Sangrur, Punjab. He is a folk musician and is carrying forward the traditional heritage of the family. Right from childhood, he was inspired to play folk music instruments, and his passion for folk music was kindled because of his grandfather, Gurmehal Pander. Salim’s uncle and some other relatives are also into folk music, and keep on holding small get-togethers at home to enjoy and celebrate by singing folk songs. His younger brother is also a folk singer.  

Adil Khan developed a taste for folk music from a very young age. He is merely 19 years old and has been singing as well as playing folk instruments, for 5 years now. He plays the sarangi and enjoys folk music to the fullest. He says that Sarangi fills his life with melody and bliss, and besides being his passion, playing the instrument also acts as an escape in difficult times. He loves to experiment with his music and to come up with folk songs embedded in a different tune or style. He has always been inspired by his elders to carry forward the heritage of folk music and staying connected to the roots. Understanding the significance of folk music is a remarkable thing for a boy his age.

Out of all Punjabi folk instruments, Nagendar finds Dhad as his favourite one. He learnt to play Dhad from his Guruji, Kulvinder Singh Ji. His family is also into folk music, his father and sister, both are folk singers. His sister used to sing with Sikh Dhadi groups. Nagendar had met Salim in college, and they had performed together in a lot of college-level competitions, like youth festivals, zonal festivals, and realized that they could do something great in the realm of folk music.

This young group, who refer to themselves as Veer Sahib Punjab, feel that folk music depicts one’s own culture and should not be forgotten. Efforts should be made to revive and protect the dying folk music. They practice together with all their heart and bring laurels to their institution wherever and whenever they perform.

Dalbar Singh and Group

DANCING TO THE TUNE OF THE EXUBERANT AND ENERGETIC MALAWI GIDDHA

Imagine, you are sitting on a cot, in the middle of a mustard field in Punjab, and you are floating in the cool breeze, humming along with the birds. There is a group of men who have just finished cutting the crop, the harvesting season is over and men are celebrating by doing the giddha. What a treat to the eyes!  Different from its counterpart, Malwai Giddha has been a different form of folk dance, especially.

Boliyaan- folk poetry at its best, satirical verses, fun, teasing, and an exhibition of exuberant Punjabi lifestyle- all this composes the essence of Malwai Giddha.

Initially performed by veteran bachelors, has now taken the shape of a folk dance exclusive to the Malwa region of Punjab. Dalbar Ji, who leads one such Malwai Giddha group, is a 69 years old Giddha performer and hails from Chattha village in Sangrur, which his famous worldwide for this native art form of Punjab. He leads the Malwai Giddha group of fifteen to sixteen people and plays the Sarangi to give melody to the ‘boliyaan’ sung during the performance. He belongs to a Jatt Sikh family in Sangrur and has done M.Phil. He retired as a school teacher in 2009. He has been exposed to the rich cultural art forms of Punjab since childhood. He used to listen to the famous Daddh groups, and Tumbi-Algoze groups, especially from Maler Kotla, in the fairs and festivals organized in his village. He liked Giddha the most amongst all the folk art forms. He, along with his senior, Satbal Sharma, took Giddha to the stage for the first time in November 1976. Dalbaar Ji is an extremely humble person and enjoys playing the Sarangi to the fullest. He performs Giddha on various occasions and shows, with his entire group. He and his children are involved in farming. He takes pride in the richness and variety exhibited by the vibrant culture of Punjab, which dates back to the times of Harappan and Mohenjodaro civilization. He was inspired by his elder brother, who was also a Giddha performer and learnt this art form by observing the art form in fairs and festivals.  

The Malwai Giddha group from Chattha village in Sangrur is one of the oldest Giddha groups in Punjab. It is headed by Dalbar Singh Ji and has 15 other members who perform the different folk instruments, which are- Chimta, Sapp, Iktaara, Tumbi, Bugchu, Sarangi, Algoze, Dhad, Dhol, Gharha, and Dande. Giddha includes dance steps by those who play the Sapp; beats by the dhol; and ‘boliyaan’ or ‘tappe’ sung by the folk musicians. Malwai Giddha comprises all the three types of Giddha- all male Giddha, all female Giddha, and both male and female Giddha. The name arises because this art form is specific to the Malwa region. Punjab state is divided into three major regions on the basis of culture and geography: Majha, Malwa and Doaba. This division of Punjab is basically due to the rivers Sutlej (or Satluj) and Beas flowing through the land of Punjab.

  • Majha: Between Ravi and Beas
  • Malwa: South of Sutlej
  • Doaba: Between Sutlej and Beas

The group performs in marriages, community fairs and festivals, and some art and cultural shows organized by the Government in Punjab, Delhi Rajasthan and Mumbai. They have also performed in front of Rajiv Gandhi in November 1985. The major breakthrough for the group was during a performance in Chandigarh in 1988, after which they started getting a good number of shows regularly. The ‘boliyaan’ sung during Giddha are used to express the feelings of the people in the community. The shepherds used to perform Giddha for their entertainment, and sing ‘boliyaan’ after taking out the cattle for grazing in the fields. The ‘boliyaan’ have a high quotient of fun and teasing attached to them.

The most exciting thing about Dalbar Ji’s group was a 90-year-old Giddha performer, Sadhu Singh Ji. He performs with the Malwai Giddha group till date, without letting his age becoming a barrier. His passion for the native folk art is his strength. He plays the ‘Dande’ in the Malwai Giddha group and enjoys playing ‘Tumbi’ equally. He belongs to Chattha village near Sangrur. Since childhood, he was deeply interested in this folk art form, and he mastered it gradually by observing different Giddha groups in the local fairs and festivals of his village. He started performing Giddha and playing Tumbi and Chimta when he was as young as 14. He devoted all his life to this art form. He also used to sing ‘boliyaan’ in the same group. He also does farming. He has 4 sons who are involved in farming with him. He has won many accolades and has been awarded by the former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. He picked up this art on his own listening to the community singers. His children also learn boliyan from him. He composes his own ‘boliyaan’ as well. Sometimes, he spontaneously sings ‘boliyaan’ while performing, which have always accorded a dynamic touch to his performance.  He plays the traditional wooden folk music instrument, ‘Sapp’, which is native to Punjab. It is also referred to as ‘Kato’ and is played by expanding and collapsing the instrument with both the hands. Dedicated fully to this art form, Malwai Giddha performers never forget to enjoy each and every performance that they present.