Sikh Music Heritage Institute

March 13, 2006

Guru Fateh Ji!

The Sikh Music Heritage Insitute (SMHI) was established in August,2005 in Santa Cruz, Califonia

SMHI’s goals are primarily heritage preservation, education and outreach, with activities consisting of organizing of educational programs, research, and publication, on Sikh keertan in traditional classical and folk styles. These activities are SMHI’s present tools of preservation of, education about, and dissemination of information relating to the Sikh music tradition. There is no teaching yet; that is a long term goal. Educational programs fall in three categories :

  1. Highly accomplished Sikh musicians and musicologists, to showcase and document the grand tradition
  2. Upcoming professionals,to encourage professional pursuit of this tradition)and
  3. Youth and Amateurs, to provide a platform for the dedicated.

The educational component is added in all keertan programs via explanatory commentary on Sikh musicology, with overhead projection of main points of the commentary, and the words and meanings of shabads. These programs are bilingual (Punjabi and English) if the audience composition so requires.

Research on Sikh musicology is an ongoing activity at SMHI. The aim is to develop writings for the general, the professional, as well as the scholarly readership. These will be posted on the web, and hopefully, published in magazines and journals by other publishers.

SMHI publications are aimed to be educational, and also, very importantly, documentation of Sikh music heritage.These publications are therefore limited to works of highly accomplished Sikh musicians. SMHI aims to place these publications in libraries around the globe – community libraries, as well as libraries of educational and research institutions. The hope is that these will create an understanding of the uniqueness and richness of the Sikh music tradition, and also spark interest in learning and research at the professional and scholarly level, by people not limited to the Sikh community.

SMHI’s first program was a keertan program by Bhai Avtar Singh Ragi and Jatha, held at San Jose Gurdwara on July 30th, 2005. This program featured shabads in the raags specified in Guru Granth Sahib, with compositions from the Sikh gurus’ times, as well as explanatory commentary by Inderjit Kaur, PhD, who is on the SMHI Board of Directors. Bhai Avtar Singh Ragi is an 11th generation exponent of the Sikh music tradition, with a family musical line going back to the gurus’ times. That initial program was attended by over 2000 people from the Bay Area Sikh community.

SMHI has produced a DVD of this program, titled “Puraatan Reetaan in Evening Raags,” which was released at a function at the San Jose Gurdwara on March 5th, 2006. The DVD represents the first such audiovisual production of educational and heritage material on the Sikh music tradition, and is therefore a milestone for the Sikh community. A presentation of the DVD was made to the gurdwara for its library. The DVD features English commentary, and subtitles in Punjabi and in English, including full shabad meanings. The accompanying booklet has detailed musical notation, designed for scholars as well as for young Sikhs who wish to study and learn more about their rich musical heritage. One of SMHI’s major objectives is to pass on the Sikh music heritage to the younger generation. The DVD can be bought from their website directly. To read more about the contents of the DVD and to watch some clips click here.

SMHI’s next major program will be a companion keertan-cum-commentary, featuring “Puraatan Reetaan in Morning Raags,” to be held at the Fremont Gurdwara on August 18th, 2006, from 11 am to 1 pm. It is planned to make a DVD of this program as well, for which donations to SMHI will be welcomed. In order to make a high quality professional DVD of this program, SMHI needs to raise $15,000.The two DVDs together will represent a significant documentation of the Sikh music heritage, suitable for placement in university libraries and music institutes all over the world. All members of the Sikh community are invited to participate in SMHI, and to support it in any way that they can.

All functions and duties of SMHI are carried out on a completely volunteer basis: the organization has no paid staff. All donations and proceeds from DVD sales are used 100% for SMHI’s mission of understanding, preserving and disseminating the Sikh music heritage. SMHI is a public benefit non-profit corporation, tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3). The Board of Directors consists of Inderjit N. Kaur, PhD (researcher on Sikh musicology), Jaspal Singh Kohli (software engineer), Deborah Malkin (attorney-at-law), Nirvikar Singh (professor of economics) and Jagdeep Singh (hi-tech entrepreneur).

Guru Ang Sang!

Angad Singh


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