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Music

The Dispeller of Sorrow, The Purveyor of Hope

CD Review by SANGAT SINGH

 

 

 

DUKH BHANJAN TERA NAAM (Thou Art The Dispeller of Sorrow): THE MESSAGE OF HOPE, a CD by Dya Singh. 2012. 

 

Sardar Dya Singh has been referred to as the ‘Pied Piper' of celestial music.

The focus of his brand of kirtan has always been pitched at the younger generation and also non-Sikhs, explaining in Punjabi and English but singing shudh gurbani.
 
His first foray into the international scene was in 1992 when his catchy ‘Mool Mantar’ (in Bilawal),  based on the melody of an old German folk song (he told me in confidence) caught on. Today, its used worldwide as a nursery rhyme-style rendition of the Sikh credal hymn to teach children to sing.
 
He added ‘Game of Love’ (jo tao prem khelan ka chao) in an upbeat martial melody. This was picked up globally and became, in some Sikh quarters, yet another anthem along the lines of the seminal deh shiva bar mohey ihai. Now, invariably, the first - a hymn from the Guru Granth - is sung in conjunction with the second - a composition from the Dasam Granth.
 
His famous catchy sing-song ‘Painti’, the Punjabi alphabet, had an instant global recognition. In fact a Punjabi TV channel even converted it into a cartooned introduction for its Punjabi Childrens' Programme!
 
Dya Singh has since produced 21 albums of world music and gurbani kirtan.
 
I met him last weekend for the second time. He brought with him a gift: his latest kirtan CD album, Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam.

I heard it and now feel compelled to share it with you.

It's an amazing feast of world and Sikh spiritual music cradling pure gurbani.

But before I get to the CD, first a little more about the extraordinary man himself.
 
On Tuesday, April 24, he performed at the Dashmesh Public School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with his world renowned tablist Dheeraj Shrestha, where they entralled some 200 students and their teachers. They gave him a standing ovation.

A standing ovation at a kirtan session? (There was no Guru Granth Sahib parkash - it followed school assembly).

That is the magnetism of the man, and it infects all, young and old.

The young follow him around as they would the Pied Piper of lore, to get his autograph, talk to him, or just throw a high-five with him. Principal Jasvinder Kaur and their school Chairman, Tan Sri Ajit Singh, had never seen scenes like these from a kirtan programme!
 
At times he is described by some as deeply spiritual, yet by others as downright larraaka (obstinate terror)!

How can I describe the man? 

There are two seas in Palestine. Both come from Jordan but are completely  different. One is the Sea of Galilee, whose water is pure and fresh. Fish abound in it. Beautiful foliage adorns its banks. Brilliantly hued birds hover over it. The other sea is the Dead Sea. Its water is stagnant. The air hangs heavy over it and birds shun its surface. Both seas come from the same river but the difference between them is that the Sea of Galilee permits its waters to flow out as freely as they flow in. The Dead Sea hoards every drop it receives.

People can be two kinds, too. 

Dya Singh is like the Sea of Galilee. He pours forth kindness, generosity, love and laughter. He serves the Guru in abject humility.

ha-o moorakh kaarai laa-ee naanak har kamay’ [GGS:449.13] - "I am just a fool, O Nanak, but the Lord has appointed me to perform His Service’.

It is his simple quality of kindness that he expends lavishly on thousands of individuals throughout the world that endears him to them. He is a walking monument of goodwill.
 
His voice encompasses the universality of religion as Guru Nanak envisioned it.

'sir naanak  lokaa paav hai balihaari jaa-o jaytay tayray naav hai’ [GGS:168.14] - “Nanak places his head at the feet of such people; I am sacrifice to Thee, with all Thy Names, as many as there are, O Lord!”

Dya Singh's latest offering - a handsome 2 CD pack, with an enclosed booklet - has been two years in the making. These CDs have indeed "ruined it for me", to borrow a phrase used by T. Sher Singh in a recent article, incidentally also about by him).
 
What an explosion of 'naad' and heart-pumping sound! Perhaps what Guru Sahib had in mind when he said - 'vaajay tere naad anaik asankha kaitey tairey vaavan haare'.

It starts off slow and builds into a meditative climax by the seventh rendition - of 'santo har har naam dheaavo' - finishing off with a nine minute simran of 'Waheguru' on a bed of 'Satnaam'.  

Dya Singh's voice booms across from the word 'go' with 'dukh bhanjan tera naam', while his daughter Harsel's angelic voice in a slightly non-Punjabi accent sings - tu mera pita tu  mera maata - 'You are my father, you are my mother - you will look after me!')

The contrast between the voices works very well.

The dual title of the album is admirably represented by Dya Singh's voice with 'dukh bhanjan tera naam' while the English title - 'Message of Hope' - is represented by Harsel's innocent but polished voice.
 
This is a remarkable piece of music, complemented by the tablist Dheeraj Shrestha and his brother Suraj, both from Nepal (giving some lovely 'pahaarri' feel), then polished by Dya's sound engineer and guitarist, Quentin Eyers, and completed with additional ethereal and dynamic sounds on conches, soor mandel and drums by Craig Preuss, the famed Music Director of Gurinder Chadha's movies.  

This is the Guru’s Bard singing. 

bha-ay dyaal kirpal sant jan tab ih baat bataa-ee/ sarb dharma maano tih kee-ay jih parab keerat ga-ee” [GGS:902.6] - “When the Guru became kind and compassionate, He told me this: Understand, that whoever sings God’s praises, is deemed to have performed all religious rites.”

Kirtan dusts away the dirt from the soul - ‘gun gaavat tayree utras mail’ [GGS:289.2]

The booklet carries an invaluable article by Bhai Vir Singh, ably translated by Inni Kaur into English; the whole 'paatth' of Dukh Bhanjani Sahib, as sung in the CDs; and a couple of other great notes by Dya Singh himself and his brother, the columnist and former Principal, Gurmukh Singh of the United Kingdom.

 

The CD set can be purchased by CLICKING HERE.

 

April 27, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Paramjit Singh Grewal (Auckland, New Zealand), April 27, 2012, 3:09 PM.

Congratulations to Dya Singh ji on his latest album. Looking forward to getting a set for our collection. Our daughter was about a year old when we got Dya Singh's Mool Mantar album in late 1992 and she loved it. All the trips in the car were exclusively devoted to Dya Singh's Mool Mantar.

2: Sangat (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), April 27, 2012, 5:20 PM.

Re #1: This earliest fan of Dya Singh was Gursimran, our granddaughter. So you see, this adulation runs in the family. Gursimran is now a dentistry student in the University of Otago, and gathers the few Sikh students for a weekly satsang ... and the staple is Dya Singh's kirtan CDs!

3: Simran Grewal (Dunedin, New Zealand), April 27, 2012, 7:27 PM.

Thanks for the mention, Nanaji and Papa. Yes, I admit I am a Dya Singh fan. He takes kirtan to a whole new level and I think that it is important to follow cultural changes with time. This is important as children only want to listen to what sounds nice and not till later do they understand what is being said. Dya Singh is an inspiration to many young people with his melodious voice. I look forward to the pleasure of hearing this new album!

4: Ajmer Gill (Australia), May 01, 2012, 5:45 AM.

An excellent review. I have often seen Dya peform his mesmersing kirtan and have most of his CD's. Good on you, Dya. Way to go.

5: Amrit Pal (London, United Kingdom.), May 04, 2012, 4:22 PM.

Dya has done for the youth what our gurdwaras have not been able to do: get the youth interested in Sikh culture and teachings, with his music. God bless you and may you carry on with this excellent work.

6: M.K. Suri (Windsor, Ontario, Canada), May 10, 2012, 4:06 AM.

Listened to the new album, the tempo is slower but it is very beautiful. Through all of S. Gurmukh Singh and Dya's efforts, we are able to understand 'nuggets' of wisdom/ philosophy/ messages of hope hidden (to those of us not so conversant) within the Guru Granth. Thank you. Dya is very modest when he writes: "ha-o moorakh kaarai laa-ee naanak har kamay" [GGS:449.13] - "I am just a fool, O Nanak, but the Lord has appointed me to perform His service.". You are doing better ... you're performing His service with distinction!

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