Remove harmonium from Golden Temple? Sikh music scholars strike differing notes

AKAL TAKHT Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh has requested the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to stage out the harmonium in three several years from Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) so that the kirtan, or singing of Gurbani, can be accompanied by common string instruments.

But not all people is on the same note.

1 group of scholars in Gurmat Sangeet, the Sikh tradition that has parallels with Indian classical new music, guidance the shift and say the harmonium was “imposed” by the British. Then there are those people who talk to: the earth simply cannot go back in time, why ought to songs?

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Just about every working day, 15 ragi jathas, or groups of hymn singers, are deployed in turns to carry out at Harmandir Sahib for 20 several hours in one of the predominantly 31 raags that are picked dependent on the time of day and season. In accordance to SGPC officers, only five of these groups have the working experience and competencies to carry out with out the harmonium, making use of only string devices these kinds of as rabab and saranda. Most of the above 20 departments of Gurmat Sangeet in SGPC-operates colleges have started off teaching in string devices only a short while ago.

“The harmonium was an invasion by the British. But then, it produced inroads. We experienced satisfied the Akal Takht Jathedar with a need to revive string instruments. It is fantastic that they are having actions in this direction,” said Bhai Balwant Singh Namdhari, who is a learn in Gurmat Sangeet and string devices.

Bhai Baldeep Singh, a direct descendent of Guru Nanak Dev’s disciple Bhai Sadharan and renowned Gurmat Sangeet exponent, also desires the harmonium out.

“Guru Nanak Dev ji was the initial kirtaniya (kirtan singer)…. The harmonium was introduced as aspect of British interference in Sikh affairs. They experienced no plan about our heritage. Right before the British arrived, each Gurudwara had a jagir (house) and portion of the earnings from this would go to rababis and Sikh kirtaniyas. There were being Muslim rababis, also, who utilized to play in gurdwaras. This method of supporting ragis and rababis collapsed after the British came,” Baldeep Singh explained.

Balwant Singh and Baldeep Singh feel the harmonium affects the high quality of singing. “The harmonium covers up your restrictions as a ragi. String instruments desire dedication and tricky do the job,” said Balwant Singh.

“There is no house for sympathy if an individual feels poor about the harmonium being excluded. The Akal Takht Jathedar should really get in touch with all students of string instruments if he wants to apply the edict in letter and spirit. A mission statement should be designed,” said Baldeep Singh.

Other specialists think the harmonium can co-exist with conventional devices.

“It is stated the harmonium was performed at Harmandir Sahib for the initial time in 1901 or 1902. There are kirtani jathas that use equally the harmonium and string instruments, and nevertheless arrive up with really superior performances,” claims Punjabi College professor Dr Alankar Singh, who has specialised in Hindustani classical new music and Gurmat Sangeet.

“It is correct that the harmonium does not participate in slide notes like string instruments. The British have in a natural way influenced our new music. For illustration, the violin has become a single of the main instruments in South Indian new music. Sikhs believe that almost everything comes about with the will of the Almighty. I would humbly ask for that rather of indicating we will not enjoy the harmonium, we need to say we will need to encourage the use of string devices more,” he mentioned.

“The harmonium brought about a revolution in the subject of kirtan. After we turned slaves of the British, it was quite complicated to understand to play string instruments for a lot of causes, which includes absence of teachers. The art of singing kirtan could have turn into extinct between the typical Sikhs if the harmonium hadn’t loaded the space,” he stated.

Surjit Singh, who heads the SGPC-run Giani Sohan Singh Sital Dhadi/Kavishri Gurmat Missionary College or university, which is an academy for Gurmat Sangeet, claims “the text ‘to section out harmonium’ do not thoroughly express the intention of the Akal Takht Jathedar, which is to revive string instruments”.

“Do we have to have to shun the harmonium? There was only the rabab at the time of Guru Nanak Dev ji. Then came the saranda and taus. The harmonium and tabla arrived with improvements in time. Now electrical instruments have come,” he explained.

“Does reviving heritage signify that we really should go back again in time to when kirtan was done only on rabab? Can we shun contemporary transportation because Guru Nanak Dev ji travelled on foot? There is a require to examine whether the revival of string instruments indicates to section out the harmonium.”

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