Raga Suhi (Padtal) Composition – Nanded, Maharashtra


Well well!

In 1996, I visited Takhat Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded for the first time. Ever since then, I have not been there again. At the Adutti Gurmat Sangeet Sammellan there in 1996, I had just refused to sing due to the way members of the Raga Nirnayak committee had concocted raga forms  and in doing so had been disrespected the memory of the tradition bearers. However, despite my disagreement with some of the proceedings at the Raga Nirnayak committee, I shared a good personal relationship with Baba Sucha Singh who was already like a family elder to me. So when a few Ragis did not come to the event as scheduled, and he asked me to sing Nat-Narayan and Suhi I reluctantantly agreed to sing for my younger granduncle, Bhai Avtar Singh Ragi, had also intervened.

I sang one Padtal each in Raga-s Nat-Narayan and Suhi believing that I had done a good enough job. My dear granduncle, however, did not think so. I was not wrong either for if one were to compare that recording in 1996 to my recording of the Suhi Padtal from 1991 (which if nothing else had catapulted me to Punjab’s gurbani sangeet scene as people took notice of me and referred to me as “Preet Preet Guriaa wala“) my voice, vocal ornaments and musical elements seem to be more settled; even composure looks alright. Whenever I view that recording, I am particularly moved to see my esteemed granduncle sitting behind me – listening. After singing, when I got up to meet him, he said “Betea, hale gal bahee banee!” (Son, you aren’t baked yet!) I was sad to hear him say that and wondered what it was that I lacked? Point was- I was still blind!

Look at my alapa at the beginning – it is pathetic. It’s clear that I do not even know what to do with the notes of this raga. Fast forward 16 years from 1996: I did Alapa of Raga Suhi at Navjot’s place in Leicester at an event honouring his dear parents, perhaps the first time in decades someone had sung an alapa in Raga Suhi, for I had traveled a few miles by then. But back in 1996 at Nanded, I was hoping my granduncle would appreciate or say a nice thing or two. Basically, I was looking for praise from my mentor, my teacher – which I understood shortly after was bad etiquette – for the way I rendered the compositions, which were not bad actually. My granduncle was looking at the larger picture. Most singers, young and old alike, often lose sight of the larger picture, looking at their music so very buoyantly produced. A musical rendition doesn’t just have to do with the rendition of a composition but also with the manner in which one places particular notes of a particular raga in time and space. I was only human in doubting my granduncles’ dissatisfaction with my rendition. In a way, I was not being true to his vision – a vision of me dwelling in time and space and in a world in which he would no longer hold any physical presence (tears…) – a time in which I hold him so very dear, when I miss him so very much when I sit to sing – do alapa, dive into a note, a word. I pray that I get to spend more time with my elder granduncle Bhai Gurcharan Singh Ragi, now of 98 – to sing some, to inquire some.

Shortly, after 1996, I had understood (in gratitude) what my younger granduncle had meant, what he had wanted, what he had required of me in my musical attendance.  It was only in 2004 that he hugged and lifted me off my feet after my rendition at the Talkatora Garden, New Delhi (Guru Manyo Granth event) and said that which I had desperately sought but about which I had totally forgotten about when I stopped seeking it nor expecting it.

Imagine O pitiable me,
he who had the fortune
to be honed
and hammered at the hands of
such wondrous godly beings,
sinning by doubting
his own master,
his own mentor,
his own sculptor.

Now think for a moment
about those who rely
on dead ink sprinkled
on dead paper
deciphered upon
dead voices
set to
dead raga-s,
dead tala-s.

Be grateful,
be kind,
be gentle, always.

Never blind!


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