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Dya Singh Does It Again





I don’t know how he does it, but he’s done it yet again.

Dya Singh has just released his latest CD -- “Sacred Chants of The Sikhs” -- and once again, he’s broken the mold and introduced a whiff of fresh air into the world of spiritual music.

I acquired my copy of the new CD several weeks ago. Coincidentally, during the same time period since, I’ve made numerous trips into The Great Parking Lot -- also known as the metropolis of Toronto -- which lies about an hour and a half south-east of where I live. I must confess I’ve been able to listen to nothing else but this latest gift from Dya Singh, coming and going, during the dozen hours or so I’ve spent on the road every week.

The player is set on ’repeat’ mode because I simply can’t get enough of it.

It takes a while to grow on you, I should warn you, because it catches you by surprise when you first hear it. The pace is slower than the usual kirtan fare, in fact far, far slower.

And rightly so. It is simran oriented. The instruments weave a cocoon around you and then the voices enter your personal space and present the words, one syllable at a time, not moving on to the next one until you’ve fully imbibed one to the point of understanding its full import.

I’ve yearned for such a collection ever since I came across “Chants of India” 15 years ago. Composed by Ravi Shankar, produced by George Harrison, it consisted of, despite its misleading title, a handful of Vedic and Hindu chants.

They are mesmerizingly addictive; the CD remains part of my must-take satchel of portable music every time I go on long trips. I love their meditational intonations, even though, unfortunately, they make no sense … because all the words are in impregnable, unfathomable Sanskrit.

A large portion of the appeal of song and poetry is, of course, the arrangements of sounds, and that is why I can enjoy them endlessly. But the meaning of the words adds a whole new dimension to the pleasure and lets you enter a vast universe which otherwise remains shut out. That was my frustration with Ravi Shankar’s beautiful creations … they convey no meaning, unless you are a Hindu priest who has been educated in the ancient texts.

Neither the smattering of Sanskrit I learnt as a young boy, nor the Hindi that I know now quite reasonably, are of any help. They can’t be. Sanskrit is a fossilized language, now buried in tomes which remain hidden away on forgotten, dusty shelves. If the Hindu pandits can rattle off passages from them, they make no sense to anyone else and therefore have become entrenched in one meaningless ritual after another and feed into superstitions and religious mumbo-jumbo.

Have you ever seen or heard two people conversing to each other in conversational Sanskrit … anywhere?

Worse, can you imagine two lovers in today’s world exchanging sweet nothings in the language? I can’t. And I was born and brought up for the first two decades of my life in the Hindi/Hindu belt.

Which brings me back to Dya Singh, the singer of my favourite love songs of all time.

His rendition of “nuss vunjho kil vikkho … “ -- ‘O run, O scatter, dear friends, my Lover has come home …!’ ever reverberates within the walls of my mind. 

Or his version of “tujjh bin khurree nimaanee …” - “Forlorn do I stand here, without Thee …” pierces my very soul every time I hear it.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that Dya Singh had partnered with Craig Preuss, a musical genius in his own right, to produce “Sacred Chants of the Sikhs”!

It has all that I had hoped for -- add a world of meaning and substance to the beautiful strands once woven by Ravi Shankar, and you get the exquisite shabads from Dya Singh and Craig Preuss.

The opening rendition of the Mool Mantar alone takes 21 minutes. Every word, nay, every syllable, comes alive with meaning. Instead of putting you into a comatose trance, this ’chant’ brings you alive and alert.

It hits home that if you are conversant in Punjabi, these passages are actually in everyday language; they require no scholarship to fathom them.

Each of the pieces that follow offers a different dish from the overall cornucopia of gurbani.

Dunndaut bandhana …”

Toon thaakar tum pai ardaas …”

Then, the invocation from the daily Ardaas. Dya Singh brings you the realization that something you recite as a matter of routine every day, its every word is loaded with meaning. Next time you recite the ardaas, you’ll find you instinctively want to pause after each phrase.

Then follows the introductory verse of Anand Sahib.

And, the conclusion with a 16-minute simran.

I suggest you hear all of it a few times in solitude -- mercifully, that is what I have when I drive to and fro -- and then you’ll discover that it offers you a lifeline into the great unknown.

As I said at the beginning, I know not how Dya Singh does it, but each time he gives us the gift of a new CD, he opens up an entire brave new world, and introduces us to things we know are out there but yet have not been able to experience  …

Don’t just take my word.

Taste it for yourself!

[If you google the name of the CD, you’ll find multiple places where you can purchase the CD online.]

November 28, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), November 28, 2014, 7:47 PM.

"Deen dard dukh bhanjnaa ghat ghat naath anaath" [GGS:262.19] -- 'O Destroyer of the pains and the suffering of the poor, O Master of each and every heart, O Masterless One ...' From time to time we do get an inkling of what Dya Singh is up to or portends of what is brewing in his mind. For a while, it was his trip to Kenya which he has concluded most successfully and with a standing invitation to come again. Didn't know that "Sacred Chants" were at the same time working on him. Sher ji's wonderful review ties the ribbon most beautifully. For us simple souls it now remains to get a copy as soon as possible. Normally it is delivered by Dya ji himself once he has recovered from his recent signal trip to Kenya or his tooth starts acting up, whichever comes earlier. His Orthodontist Bhen ji is Dr. Trilochan Kaur who does not allow him to speak once his mouth is open and until the repair is done to ensure a perfect job. She invites us for lunch to test her work. Looks like her last job was perfectly done and have had not had a complaint from Dya yet.

2: Simran Grewal (Auckland, New Zealand), November 28, 2014, 7:59 PM.

I must have been a tot since I was introduced to Dya Singh's kirtan. It has been an important part of my growing up. 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!

3: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), November 29, 2014, 12:57 AM.

#2 Gursimran, now Dr. Gursimran Kaur, is our granddaughter and since Dya Singh ji was a household name, his CDs were the lullabies to soothe babies still in the cradle, especially when cutting teeth. Wonder if Bhen ji Dr. Trilochan would try that on Dya next time when he is in the chair. Maybe Dya ji might produce a CD with an all-purpose extra potency.

4: Simmerpal Singh (Connecticut, USA), November 29, 2014, 6:40 AM.

Looking forward to getting this latest CD. I'm a lifelong Dya Singh addict. I own all of his CD releases because his kirtan is my daily staple. What a gift he is to us all!

5: Gurmukh Singh (London, United Kingdom), November 30, 2014, 2:50 AM.

A poetic review of Dya's "Sacred Chants" by Sher Singh ji. Many hours of meditation preceded the recording at the countryside studio-home of Craig Preuss at Stroud in Gloucestershire, close to the Welsh border. Dya's next challenge will be the grand Basant Panchmi function at Dekoha, near Jalandhar, Punjab, on 24 January, 2015 (12.00 - 2.00 pm). Apparently, Baba Buddha ji's descendant, Baba Bhagwant Bhajan Singh listens to Nitnem by Dya, daily. His son Dr Puneetpal Singh contacted Dya when he was on his Kenya tour and the Basant Panchmi programme was confirmed when Dya and I were at Jalandhar recently. This will be the first major open-stage programme by Dya's Australian group in the heart of Punjab. With two didgeridoos introducing recitation of "Satnaam" followed by "ab kaloo aayo re ik naam bovo bovo." ('The Dark Age has arrived, sow the seed of Naam ...') - bandash in Auckland Youth Camp 2010 CD - to the powerful beat of ek taal would set the scene. But then Dya decides only when the musicians are tuning their instruments! Basant Panchmi by Dya should be an experience for the Punjab audience. Local school children will be taking part on stage towards the conclusion. I understand many from the diaspora will be attending. And so, Dya's quest, "mil meray pritma jio..", sung by our father in the same two bandash as Dya, continues.

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