Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Jalandhar instrument maker

Jalandhar, Punjab: Generations of musicians in the region and beyond have been tutored on instruments created in his humble workshop in the winding lanes near the city railway station.

Gurdial Singh has been selected for the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to traditional musical instrument making. He is one of the most insightful and noted instrument makers of Punjab. Having migrated from Pakistan, he started making instruments in the 1950s. Picking up music as a child from his father Pal Narayan Singh, who was a raagi, he took to instrument making as a profession under the tutelage of his uncle Mohan Singh.

He opened his workshop in the 1970s. Over the years, he kept incorporating the musical wisdom of some of the biggest classical music icons of the country in his art.

Having prepared instruments for Ustad Vilayat Khan, who was a friend, he also had close encounters with artistes like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Amir Khan, Pandit Nikhil Banerji and Satguru Jagjit Singh, among a host of other artistes for whom he made/repaired instruments and exchanged valuable insights in the technique and understanding of stringed instruments.

Among the instruments he prepares are sitar, surbahaar — he is an expert of sitar jowari (bridge) — and stringed gurmat sangeet instruments like rabab, sarandha, dilruba among others.

His devotion to the art and music (he also plays sitar himself) made him a sought-after instrument expert for artists who came visiting during the Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan. He is well-versed with the instrument preferences and subtleties of most artists.

He says: “Pandit Ravi Shankar always preferred a heavy stringed sitar called Sharaj Pancham and Ustad Vilayat Khan liked Gandhaar Pancham. All artistes like instruments suited to their own choices and playing styles. An instrument-maker has to be extremely sensitive to these preferences and the tone of the instrument to satisfy artistes. It is a study unto itself and I am still studying”.

“I haven’t earned much. I never treated it as a profession. It is an art which requires a keen ear. The music is what matters and it gives me immense satisfaction. What your instrument looks like is secondary and doesn’t change its sound,” he says

A proud father, he is one of the blessed instrument-makers whose next generation is keenly following in his footsteps (his shop is called Gurdial Singh and Sons). “His son Sukhwinder Singh Goldy and grandson Prabhneet Singh Kaka are keen instrument-makers and offer reassurance to the region that the noble legacy of Gurdial Singh will continue.”

Source: The Tribune

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