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Panjabi music and Sangeet

Preserving Indian Classical Music in 1970s Britain

Panjab Cultural Association are very excited to launch our 'Preserving Indian Classical Music in 1970s Britain' Project with the support of Heritage Lottery Fund!

Led by volunteers from the local community, the project focuses on preserving compositions of a rare music form known as Dhrupad, which will be housed in the British Library for the first time. This will all come together and form a basis for a Website, Book, CD of the recordings and an interactive Teaching DVD so that people can learn this music at home.

Our expert team of musicians will be holding of variety of exhibitions and workshops throughout the UK. So watch this space for more information!

Please visit our project website for some more detailed information on what the project entails and how you can get involved, etc...

**Website coming soon!!**

We will be announcing our Dhrupad Preservation Project Launch on Nihal's radio show on BBC Asian Network Monday 9th February 2015 at 12.30pm so tune in!!

Divine music: The History of Kirtan
Kirtan is the science of Sikh Devotional Singing, having its roots in Punjab, Northern India. It is based upon ancient Indian music, more commonly referred to as Hindustani Classical Music. The foundations of both the instrumental and vocal music lie in structured melodies or ‘scales’ called ‘Raags’. Although they are formed from the same 7 notes (Do, Ray, Me, etc) as Western music, there are many more semi-notes and also strict rules which govern the scale of each Raag. Each Raag belongs to a group or ‘family’ and they are related by their notes. Each family of Raags conveys a particular mood; be it happiness, love, separation, longing, sadness, etc. Raags can also express the season like the coming of Spring or the Rainy Season, and can be either sung or played with string instruments. The other essential accompaniment of Raags is ‘Taal’ or rhythm. Indian Classical music has a rich treasure of different cyclic rhythms or beats and tempos, for example, 12 beats Iktaal and 5 beats Surfakta.

In order to sing Kirtan, the 3rd and most important component is required – this is known as the ‘Shabad’( literally the Divine Word). The Shabad is essentially taken from the Sikh Religious Canon, ‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib’ . Sikhism is a modern monotheistic religion having its origins in the 15th Century in Punjab, Northern India. It was founded by Guru Nanak Dev who used ‘Kirtan’ to convey is message of Divine Love and the Oneness of God and Humanity. He travelled to many countries including the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Russia and all over ancient India singing his message of love. He utilised the services of a Rebeck player who played Raags, whilst the Guru sang the Shabad. Together, they started the Sikh tradition of Kirtan which continued until the 5th Successor of the Guru, Arjan Dev who compiled the Shabads of the previous 4 Gurus and other saints into the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, whose 31 chapters are all categorised into Raags. The type of music perfomed for Kirtan during this period was known as ‘Drupad’ which traces its origins back to the Vedas (the Hindu’s holiest and oldest scripture). It has a very strict tempo utilising the pakhavaj or mridang (Classical Indian Drums) Indian, having a profound effect on the listener.

This type of traditional singing evolved until the Tenth Guru, Gobind Singh who patronised kirtan and encouraged its practice as the primal form of worship. He also authored two further Granths which also utilised Raag and Taal, aswell as his Divine Shabads. During this period of Sikh history, the Khyal style of singing became popular in Northern India, as it placed less constraints on the melodies, as well as utilising the Tabla more as a rhythmic accompaniament. With the arrival of the British into India, the Harmonium became more prominent in Sikh Shrines eventually almost replacing the stringed instruments like the Taos, Dilruba and Saranda. Yet, the music retained its original compositions and rhythms. However, as the popularity of Bollywood Music grew towards the latter half of the 20th Centuary, Kirtan developed into a modern mix of old and new, thereby bringing this great musical and spiritual heritage under threat. My joint work with the PCA aims to preserve, record and document some of the most ancient compositions of music, that are recorded in Gurmat Sangeet. - Harminder Singh Bharj - Advanced teacher of Sangeet.

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