Dr Gurnam Singh

Dr.Gurnam Singh, is the youngest son of renowned Shiromani ragi Bhai Uttam Singh. Dr Singh, born into a family of famous Kirtankars, was introduced to kirtan at an early age by his father. Later, he studied kirtan under the famous Professor Tara Singh of Patiala. Gurnam Singh Ji has written numerous books and edited some of the books written by Prof. Tara Singh ji. In addition he has an album to his credit in which he has sung shabads in the various raags mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib.

Currently he serves as the Professor and Head of the Gurmat Sangeet Chair and Department of Gurmat Sangeet at at Punjabi University Patiala. Also he is a Senior Fellow at Sangeet Natak Academy in New Delhi. Dr. Gurnam Singh has published many books, research papers, documentary films and with the grace of Guru, for the first time, he has presented a complete recording of 31 main Raags forms mentioned in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib for the students, researchers and listeners of Gurbani.

In 2002 he was honored at the Harvallabh Sangeet Samiti. In addition he also received the Gurmat Sangeet Award.

  • You can contact Dr. Gurnam Singh at: 845 826 3986 or via email at: drgnam@yahoomail.com.

In the news

Singh's expertise is a boon for students

A note worthy effort by Guru Kirpal Singh Ashk, April 25, 2008

With his flowing beard and ruddy face, he could easily be mistaken for a Granthi from the nearest gurudwara. Gurnam Singh’s name even elicits a respectful response from the exponents of Gurmat musicology, an umbrella term for Sikh religious music, for Singh is no ordinary music lover. He has defined and delineated the mellifluous rendition of 31 ragaas, as well as an equal number of rag parkars (forms of ragaas) enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib.

Singh is also credited for being the first exponent to have identified all 62 ragaas and rag parkars in their original forms before reciting them. Founder and head of the Gurmat Sangeet Chair at Punjabi University in Patiala, Singh was drawn towards music right from his childhood.

His blood relations are impressive: he is the son of Shiromani Ragi (the late) Bhai Uttam Singh Patang, and younger brother of Shiromani Ragi Jagir Singh and eminent musician Bachitar Singh.

A Shiromani Ragi, Singh has produced 23 audio cassettes and three video cassettes, besides 13 original, 27 edited and four translated books on music, particularly the Gurmat Sangeet.

Appreciating his work, noted Ghazal singer Jagjit Singh says, “This very simple person is an authority on Gurmat Sangeet.” Notably, he is working on a project with Jagjit Singh, called Dhur Ki Bani.

It is a unique endeavour by Takhat Hazoor Sahib (in Nader, Maharashtra) in which they have recorded the Bani of Hindu saints and Muslim fakirs inscribed in Guru Granth Sahib in the voices of prominent Indian singers.

Singh’s vision includes, essentially, the dissemination of gurbani to every corner of the world, through Gurmat Sangeet. Had he chosen to be a performer, he would probably have joined the deluge of professional ragis, who are literally cashing in on the popular taste for shabad (hymns).

But he prefers to stick to his cause of popularising Gurmat music and restoring it to its pristine glory for the well being of all, or ‘Sarbat Da Bhalla’, as it is said in religious parlance.

When asked about the reason he prefers to work in the field of Gurmat Sangeet, Singh says it is because of the “injustice done to Punjab’s tradition of music.” Asked to elaborate, he says, “Hindustani classical music is based on Punjab’s tradition of music, and the soul of Punjab’s music tradition is Gurmat Sangeet, which contains the classical, Sufi and folk music of Punjab. But, unfortunately, a lobby of Hindustani classical musicians has never recognised this.”

Students practising with their instruments

Singh further claims that without the Punjabi Ang in singing styles, including the Dharupad, Khayal and Thumri, and the Punjabi Baj in playing the tabla, Hindustani classical music cannot be considered complete. “We have given all the major string instruments to Hindustani classical music, as well as great maestros like Ustad Alla Rakha Khan Sahib, Ustad Zakir Hussan Khan Sahib, and Bare Gulam Ali Khan Sahib.

But the powerful lobby has never given due credit to Punjab’s music tradition, neither on an academic level nor in the media,” says Singh, adding that Punjabis are invariably presented as bhangra and gidhdha players only.

To further substantiate his stand, he says, “The Harbalabh Sangeet Sammelan is organised in Jallandhar, but Punjabi maestros are not invited there. This is an example of the attitude of the particular lobby in Hindustani music.”

The Punjabi University, meanwhile, in a clear recognition of his efforts, has established a separate Department of Gurmat Sangeet and a Gurmat Sangeet Chair, with the help of Bibi Jasbir Kaur Khalsa. “I felt that no one was coming forward to save our music tradition, so I took up this challenge and began my work. Now, people are beginning to acknowledge Gurmat Sangeet,” says Singh.

Public exposure to Gurmat Sangeet has been set into motion by Singh’s work thus far. He says that Punjab’s music tradition is now attracting the younger generation as well. “They have always had the potential, but no platform to receive the proper training.

The systematic study of Gurmat Sangeet would provide opportunities to exhibit their talent. An additional advantage is that it would help the unemployment problem as well, since every gurdwara in India and abroad can absorb at least two ragis.”

Singh was also instrumental in reintroducing the use of traditional string instruments in the recitation of the gurbani within the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Harmandir Sahib. On May 6, 2006, people saw, for the first time, a jatha (group) of youngsters, led by Singh, reciting the gurbani in Sri Harmandir Sahib, accompanied by string instruments.

Singh, engrossed in an instrumental session

Just a few days before this, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) President, Avtar Singh Makkar, had been informed about the tradition of string instruments in Sri Harmandir Sahib, which had unfortunately vanished around two-and-a-half centuries ago.

Makkar immediately invited Singh to perform there. Just a day earlier, though, the SGPC, recognising the importance of string instruments, brought a jatha to perform, although it had only one string instrument player.

Makkar, referring to Dr Singh’s efforts, says, “The Sikh community is thankful to Dr Gurnam Singh, who has helped in saving the great traditions of Sikh musicology well in time.”

Singh has also contributed a lot to the field of Punjabi folk music. He has made 32 hours worth of audio/visual recordings, apart from four films, documenting hundreds of Punjabi folk music artistes for the Punjabi University. Noted Hindi film musician Uttam Singh says, “Singh has brought Punjabi folk music artistes together on a common platform, and preserved our rich cultural heritage by recording their live performances.”

Hindustani classical vocalist ‘Singh Bandhu’ Surinder Singh says, “With his contributions, Gurnam Singh has become an institution of music. He has done more work than dozens of institutions put together.”

At present, Singh is busy establishing the Sant Sucha Singh Archives of Music in the Gurmat Sangeet Bhawan of the Punjabi University. All the singing styles of ragaas, by noted ragis and other artists, are being preserved in it for posterity, as well as for researchers’ benefit. An online music library is also being planned.

“The only goal of my life is to make people aware of the true value of Gurmat Sangeet,” says Singh. Luckily for the fans of Gurmat Sangeet, he seems to be succeeding.

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