Thursday, July 23, 2009

Keertan/Classical Music Program

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa

Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

In July 2008, a keertan/classical music program was held at the Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple and was taught by Ustad Gurcharn Singh from Singapore. Here youth came to learn keertan (singing of spirtual hymns) in the classical raag format. Classes were held according to the skill level of the student, from beginners to advanced. Tabla was also taught according to classical teaching style.

This was one of the most well-run and worthwhile camps that the students could ever attend. Firstly, classical raag was taught as opposed to the newer more simpler versions of shabd keertan present today. The shabds/gurbani of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is written in 31 raags including, Bilaaval, Gauri, Dhanaseri etc. According to Baba Iqbal Singh from Baru Sahib, classical raag music is so powerful that it is believed to “melt” even hearts made of stone into softness and sway them to the path of truth and remembrance of Waheguru. The shabds ranged from simple (for beginners) to more complex (for advanced). Shabds were more inspiring and invigorating as they became more complex. Learning different raags and there corresponding keys on the harmonium was the most beneficial thing of attending this camp.

Secondly, usually other teachers teach the student by showing them the keys over and over again. This can be very long and cumbersome as the teacher has to spend time with each individual student. Also, with time the student usually forgets the keys and consequently the shabd. Another problem would be how to play the shabd according to the rhythm of the tabla. Both of the problems were solved with the teaching system. Ustaad Gurcharn Singh wrote out the notes of the shabds to be played out on the harmonium by denoting them by their name (ie Sa Re Ga) etc. He also wrote the notes of the tabla (ie Dhin Dha) next to the shabd to convey the rhythm. In this way, the student could practise and learn the shabd by themselves and without the aid of another person on the tabla. This is not to say that guidance by our music teacher was not needed. Usually only by his trained musical ear could he pick up where our notes were not being hit at the proper time.

Here are some pictures, and also a movie.

An example of a shabd written out in harmonium and tabla notes.

Students of the tabla class

Students in keertan class

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