Gurvinder Singh

Arts Research and Documentation
2001-2002

Grant Period: Two years

Gurvinder Singh studied filmmaking at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, graduating in 2001. Since 2002, he has been documenting the Sufi music traditions of Punjab.

Gurvinder Singh earlier received an IFA grant for preparatory research and video documentation towards a film on the Sufi and bhakti music of the Punjab. But for Gurvinder, the documentation of the music did not end with the making of the film. His deep interest in the tradition and the community that has kept it alive has compelled him to think of ways of strengthening the tradition and disseminating the music by making it available to larger audiences. What began as an individual filmmaker’s desire to economically benefit the performer (by giving him copies of recordings for sale in the rural market), has now acquired the form of a full-fledged two-pronged marketing idea that, he hopes, will take the music beyond its niche rural market.

Gurvinder will make field audio recordings of the kissas and the tradition of rendering them with the toomba, the algoza and the dhad-sarangis (musical instruments usually associated with the tradition of performing the kissas in rural Punjab). Since sifts –poetry written in praise of God and the pirs - form an inseparable part of the tradition, Gurvinder will record them as well.

In his field trips, Gurvinder had identified and sporadically recorded seven performers/groups. Assisted by scholar and musician, Madan Gopal Singh, the aim is to encourage the performers to reclaim some of the repertoire they have lost.

While the revenue generated from sales will economically support these artists and get them recognition, the younger generation from these communities would be enthused to take up music as a profession. The performers will be provided with the recordings of their music, which they can duplicate and sell to their rural audiences. In the long term, local music companies will be contacted and encouraged to release the recordings in rural pockets where there are buyers. A website with a database of the music and the profiles of the artists will be created. Besides the music, the website will also comprise online texts of the poetry and essays by eminent scholars on the musical and literary traditions. Scholars will be invited to contribute to the website and make it an interactive forum. The online sales, Gurvinder hopes, will make the website self-sustaining in the long term.