Monday, October 24, 2016
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Khushal Singh, Babu

Holy Man with Mastery of Sikh Music (1862-1945)

Was the son of Bhai Gurmukh Singh of Daudhar, a village 22 km southeast of Moga (30°-48'N, 75°-10'E), in Faridkot district of the Punjab. Blind from birth, Khushal Singh received instruction in gurbani and kirtan or devotional music in Vadda Dera, a school for training Sikh musicians established at Daudhar in 1859 by Sant Suddh Singh (D. 1882). Bhai Vir Singh (d. 1902), an accomplished musician who became mahant or head of the institution after the death of its founder, was his teacher. Khushal Singh made swift progress and acquired uncanny proficiency in the art. Besides solitary recitation of gurbani early in the morning and kirtan in the sangat morning and evening, he gave lessons in devotional music to the inmates of the Dera most of whom were physically handicapped being blind or maimed.

The instruments taught included saranda, sitar, tanpura and various kinds of drums and concussion instruments, but Khushal Singh's particular specialization was in saranda. A good vocalist, he not only sang the traditional classical measures, but also made his own innovations. Once his singing of a hymn in Mirza Gauri, a new tune set by himself, in a learned gathering at Damdama Sahib, Talvandi Sabo, drew unprecedented applause.

Bhai Khushal Singh died in 1945 at the ripe age of 83. The wooden frame of his favourite saranda is preserved in a museum in the town of Faridkot.

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