I would like to share a few words about a gem of a person and a treasure of music hidden away in the town of Leeds, UK.

Ustad ji lives in a tiny room tucked away in the upper floor of a Gurdwara in Leeds which has been converted from an old warehouse building. He grew up in Punjab spending much time immersed in music at Shri Bhaini Sahib, the headquarters of the Namdhari sect of Sikhs. He studied dhrupad music from Pt. Mahadev Prasad Kathak of the Jaipur GharānāGurbānī Sangīt from Hazur Singh Chandrahans and Maharaj Bir Singh, both disciples of Bhai Taba of the Rabābī tradition, Sitar from the legendary Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Jorī-Tabla from Ustad Baba Nihal Singh and Dilruba from Ustad Tara Singh. He represents one of the many fruits of the invaluable investment and preservation work carried out by the Namdharis, in particular their late leaders Satguru Baba Pratap Singh ji and Satguru Baba Jagjit Singh ji, within the field of music.

Beyond having such an esteemed list of teachers, today he is an authority on the Amritsarī Rabābī tradition of Kīrtan and having committed to memory many hundreds, if not thousands, of traditional compositions, he is one of the last direct connections to this priceless heritage, hence my regarding him as a UNESCO living human treasure. He has at least been recognised and valued in India, if not by the wider Sikh community, and is a recipient of the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy award for his dedication to traditional Gurbānī Sangīt.

This video is an excerpt of him performing a traditional composition of a shabad in Rāga Kānarā from the Rabābī tradition in which there is a beautiful, seamless transition between asthāī (refrain) and antarā (stanza) of 16 and 7 beats respectively. Jas bhai is giving accompaniment on the Jorī and myself giving Sarangi accompaniment just out of frame.

 

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