Striking a spiritual note: highlighting secular values through music

Chaman Lal Chaman, poet and veteran broadcaster, recalls an important musical event held in London’s Southall recently.

The Surnad Music Academy held its annual music festival from August 28th to 30th at the Dominion Centre in Southall. The three-day musical event was organised in memory of Satguru Jagjit Singh, former spiritual head of the Namdari Sikhs, who dedicated his life to the promotion of the rich traditions of Indian classical music. He promoted the teachings of Guru Granth Saheb, the Holy Book of Sikhs, through the language of performing arts and preached the values of simple living, non-violence and hatred towards none. He himself was an exponent of classical music and he left a treasure of various classical compositions for future generations to learn.
Satguru Jagjit Singh promoted a large number of musicians of India, including string maestros such as Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Shiv Kumar Sharma, shenai player Ustad Bismillah Khan, percussionists Ustad Allah Rakha, Zakir Hussain and Kishen Maharaj, vocalists Pandit Jasraj, Bhimsen Joshi, Kumar Gandharv, Malik Arjun Mansoor, Singh Bandus Rasjan Sajan Mishra, dancer Birju Maharaj and many others. He also organised seven musical festivals in Delhi, Lukhnow, Mumbai, and other major cities in India. Keeping this tradition alive, the founder of Surnad Academy, Gurdev Singh, organised this more recent three-day music festival in memory of the great spiritual leader.

The newly appointed Guru of the Namdari Sangat, Satguru Uday Singh, flew especially from India to open the festival. He also visited an exhibition of musical instruments and photographs of Satguru Jagjit Singh and classical instruments as well as current music maestros from all religions of India, thereby maintaining the secularist tradition of art. The exhibition was organised by Satpal Singh Bhullar in the foyer of the Dominion Centre.

The new Satguru of the Namdaris, Uday Singh, is a young, vibrant person with a pro-active approach to today’s global issues of pollution, female abuse, drug addiction animal welfare and organic farming. He is the founder of Namdari Seeds, a leading producer of organic seeds in India. He also promotes education and school establishment and he is the Chairman of the modern Appolo Hospital in Ludhiana. In accordance with the traditions of his predecessors Satguru Uday Singh runs a school of music at Bhaini Saheb, the headquarters of the Namdari Sangat in India.

The three-day festival in the Dominion Centre included performances by students of the Surnad Academy along with many well known musicians who travelled from India and the USA for the occasion. The performers included Professor Baldev Narang, former Head of Music at Doaba College – Jullandar, Meeta Pandit a leading singer from Gwalior Ghrana, percussionist Shabaz Hussain, sarangi player, Llyas Khan, santoor player Pandit Satish Vyas, vocalists Rohan Virdee from the USA and Ustad Harbhajan Singh, tabla maestros Sukhwinder Singh Pinki and sarod player Gurdev Singh. Tabla students of Guurdev Singh’s son, Navinder Pal Singh (known as ‘Lovely’) and his eleven-year old grandson, Hari Pal Singh, gave impressive performances on the sarod and the tabla.

This was a wonderful festival attended by the Mayor of Ealing, Harbhajan Kaur Dhir and other dignitaries and proved that the students of the Surnad Academy are keeping the Namdari music alive.

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