Bhai Baldeep Singh
Bhai Baldeep Singh is a classical vocalist (Dhurpad, Vār & Chaṅtt), joṛī & pakhāwaj exponent, luthier, poet, photographer, ex-aviator and aeromodeller and designer, archivist (audio restoration & film editor) & Founder - Chairman of The Anad Foundation.
Bhai Baldeep Singh (PA: ਭਾਈ ਬਲਦੀਪ ਸਿੰਘ ) has descended from a long tradition of Gur-Sikh masters, warriors, builders, reformers and custodians of the Gurbani Saṅgīt (Sangeet), and today, as its 13th generation exponent, heads this hallowed tradition. In 1989, he renounced a promising career in aviation, choosing instead to devote himself to the study of the highly evolved and complex heritage of Gurbani Kirtan. Bhai Sadhāraṇ, a disciple of Guru Nanak Dev, and who was granted the Sewā of a Manjī by Guru Amar Das, Bhai Sahib Singh (Das) a close associate of Guru Gobind Singh, Baba Mehtab Singh, Baba Tehel Singh aka Bhai Punjab Singh (Sikh Encyclopaedia), Bhai Sahib Deva (Diwan) Singh, his two illustrious sons, Bhai Sahib Narain Singh (d.1906) and Bhai Sahib Jwala Singh of Thaṭṭā Tibbā (1872-1952). Gyani Bhagat Singh (1897-1986), the son of Bhai Sahib Narain Singh, and his younger cousins, Bhai Avtar Singh and Bhai Gurcharan Singh, the sons of Bhai Sahib Jwala Singh were all important memory bearers of this oldest surviving Gurbani Sangeet tradition.
His pilgrimage began with intensive meditation on the classical shabad-ritaan taught to him by his granduncles, Bhai Gurcharan Singh and Bhai Avtar Singh, who themselves were savants of Gurbĝni Kīrtan tradition. The vast knowledge that they bequeathed to Bhai Baldeep Singh included masterpieces that were first composed by the Sikh Gurus themselves. From the highly distinguished and eminent Bhai Arjan Singh ‘Tarangar’, he learnt the system (silsila) of pakhawaj/mridang playing known as Amritsari Baaj. Today, Bhai Baldeep Singh is the prime exponent (khalifa) of this gharana of classical percussions of Punjab.
During his long journey he pursued masters all over India, Pakistan and indeed the world, seeking any fragment of the Guru’s tradition that might be still remembered. Many of these teachers had fallen into obscurity or were in the twilight of their lives. Fortunately, their knowledge has been preserved in the imprint they left on Bhai Baldeep Singh.
Following Gurmat Sangeet exponents of yore, who often included instrument making in their repertoire, Bhai Baldeep Singh sought out master craftsmen to learn their art. Among them was the legendary Gyani Harbhajan Singh who helped Bhai Baldeep Singh sharpen his skills as an instrument maker. The rich fallout of his encounter with this master luthier resulted in Bhai Baldeep Singh undertaking an astounding project to revive almost all the instruments from the Gurus’ times by personally handcrafting them. Today, he has the unique distinction of having carved the nomadic rebĝb (also known as the dhrupadi-rebĝb), saranda, taus, dilruba, tamburni (tanpura), jori and pakhawaj - mridang. In January 2002, he made a violin based on the Stradivari violin in Spring City, Utah (USA), under the guidance of his friend Paul Hart, a renowned bow instrument maker.
He has designed four new bows for the taus, which have been handcrafted by Allan Herou in Paris (2003) and Nicola Galliena in Milan (January and March 2007, January 2008).
His detailed audio-visual presentation, The Musical Instrument of Gurubani and Bhakti Tradtions, has received rave reviews at some of the leading universities as well as other venues around the world.
Since 1988, Bhai Baldeep Singh has inspired people around the world to take up the musical instruments of the Gurus’ court. Many institutions around the world have now included the playing of some of these instruments as a part of their curriculum.
Comprehensive educational process in the heritage of kīrtan
To ensure that the precious heritage of kīrtan among the Sikhs survives, Bhai Baldeep Singh has developed a comprehensive educative process. It consists of the original practices of naad yog, and the modes of teaching-cum-learning traditionally prevalent among the Sikhs. Besides giving many concerts, he has also conducted workshops and seminars in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia and Australia. His lecture-demonstrations and concerts at many universities including Punjabi University (Patiala), Punjab University (Chandigarh), Universita La Sapienza (Rome), Centre for South Asia Studies in the University of California (Berkeley), Guru Nĝnak Dev University (Amritsar), Sangeet Natak Academy (New Delhi), National Centre of Performing Arts (Mumbai), Dalai Lama Foundation for Universal Responsibility, Benaras Dhrupad Mela (2004 and 2006 ), Conservatory of Hamburg (July, 2006), Conservatorio Di Frosinone (June 2007, Italy), University of Michigan (October, 2008) have drawn enthusiastic response. His concerts at India Habitat Centre, India International Centre, at Batala Sangeet Sammelan, Guru Manyo Granth (Talkatora Gardens, New Delhi), the Concert for Peace and Understanding (St. Paul Episcopal Church, Tucson, Arizona), inaugural concert at the Kalidas Sammelan (2005. Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh) and Concert for Peace at Guru Nĝnak Bhavan (November 15, 2008 at Ludhiana) turned out to be significant markers in a number of ways insofar as the symbiosis of Gurbĝni with raag-naad-laya ved is concerned. He was a Consultant to the Department of Religions, Hofstra University (New York) teaching a credit course (September 11 – October 2, 2008). Several of his articles, poems and papers have been published in renowned academic journals.
In 1997, he received the prestigious Bhai Batan Singh Memorial Award and Delhi State Annual Award (2002-03) for contribution in the field of Music. He has also been conferred the ‘Sikh Gaurav’ Award for the year 2003 at Amritsar and in 2007, the Kapurthala Heritage Award at Kapurthala.
Using the state-of-the-art media technology, Bhai Baldeep Singh has embarked upon an arduous and painstaking task of preservation and documentation of the sacred musical practices of the Sikhs. His impassioned involvement as an archivist eventually led him to produce documentary films on the Sikh kīrtan maryada. His tireless efforts and unwavering commitment led to an astounding collection of over 400 hours’ recording of vintage-value music, ranging from folk to Indian classical and kīrtan, is a rare treasure with him now. In 2006, Bhai Baldeep Singh finally set up one of India’s finest audio-restoration studio.
As Founder of THE ANĀD FOUNDATION and Managing Director of ANĀD RECORDS Private Limited, Bhai Baldeep Singh has been very active in the contemporary Indian cultural scene, by producing and publishing recordings of rare Indian musical instruments and contributing to the inter-religious and inter-cultural exchange organizing musical festivals and lectures. His commitment to the preservation of the traditional kīrtan maryada has been a model and an inspiration not only for his contemporaries, but also for the elder exponents of various kīrtan schools.
The ANĀD Foundation’s successful presentations include Laya Darshan - Revealing the Riches of Indian Rhythm in 2005, Jashan in 2006 and ANĀD Kav Tarang in April 2008. The ANĀD Foundation’s recent presentation in December 2008, Expressions On Nature, brought together artists in different media symbolizing the composite and transforming nature of reality, underlining the unity, symbiosis and interdependency of the multiplicity of forms and expressions. The ANĀD Foundation also offers major awards in the field of music, arts and poetry.
Bhai Baldeep Singh, being an accomplished musician and kīrtaniya, is also a sensitive interpreter of the needs of a cultural transformation and rejuvenation, which would care for the preservation of traditional cultures and humane values. With this perspective, Bhai Baldeep Singh is in the process of developing the ANĀD CONSERVATORY: An Institute of Arts, Aesthetics & Culture.
Over the years, Bhai Baldeep Singh has served in many boards and committees notably in the Core Committee of the Khalsa Heritage Complex (Anandpur Sahib), Executive Committee of the Punjab State Sangeet Natak Academy (2001-3 and 2004-6). He currently serves as member of the Advisory Council of the Punjab Languages Department and the Sultĝnpur Lodhi Development Board. Bhai Baldeep Singh represents the State of Punjab in the General Council of the National Academy of Music and Theatre (Sangeet Natak Akademi), New Delhi and serves on its executive Board.
Name: Bhai Baldeep Singh The Anād Foundation Address: C 26, Nizamuddin East, New Delhi 110013. Tel: 91-11-41825994
- e-mail: [email protected]
- Bhai Baldeep Singh revives Sikh musical Tradition
- The Intangible Heritage of Sikh Music
- Baldeep Singh with Balbir Singh
- Concert with Pinky Namdhari