It has been an eventful start to my trip to say the least. There was last minute drama before I even got on the plane where I had to rush to buy my return ticket at the airport as, under new regulations, passenger’s on a tourist visa are no longer permitted to travel with a one way ticket. Having arrived in Delhi I went to Rajouri Garden where I was to meet Jas Bhai, my dear musical comrade. I was pretty pessimistic about finding him in the chaos of Delhi streets given that I was 2hrs late and that I had no means of contacting him. Sure enough he was nowhere to be seen and so I took to wandering the streets in search of WiFi to try and make contact. Becoming slightly frustrated by what was turning into a wild goose chase orchestrated by the incredibly unhelpful Delhi shopkeepers whilst lugging around my 6 months worth of luggage I suddenly heard someone shouting my name. I turn around to see none other than Ustad Sukhvinder Singh Pinky with raised arms and a smiley face. What luck! He had taken breakfast with Jas Bhai and then was out to change some money so he brought me to him. Smiles all round!
For those who don’t know Pinky ji, he is one of the greatest Jori and Tabla players in the world. Check out his website.
Me and Jas Bhai went on to spend an action packed week together consisting of searching for old records of Sikh music and wrapping up interviews with members of the oldest surviving lineage of Sikh musicians (Ragis) who hail from the times of the 3rd Sikh guru – the family of Bhai Avtar Singh and Bhai Gurcharan Singh.
We also got to witness the dark side of Delhi when my brand new iPad was plucked from out of my very hands whilst in a moving auto-rickshaw by two guys on a motorbike in a scene like something out of a movie leaving us with no chance of catching them! A lesson in in unattachment and being more streetwise perhaps…
We also spent a few days in Varanasi and managed to get some nice footage of us and my gurū bhais (co-students), Pratap Awad on Pakhawaj and Prassanna Vishwanathan on vocals, overlooking the Ganges.
We then went our separate ways and I’m now in Calcutta after finally arriving by my 5-hour delayed train!
To mark the beginning of my trip I leave you with a small clip which highlights the very narrative which first sparked my interest in the Dhrupad music genre and which illustrates the fall of dhrupad within Sikh music.