Guru's Kirtan, Guru's Way a the Eastern Region Hemkunt Kirtan Darbar
Doing Kirtan the way our Gurus taught us, is the deepest form of meditation in this age.
In a small and humble setting in Northern Virginia, about 150 or so children have been learning to do Kirtan the Guru's Way so they can live true to the words of our Gurus and spread that experience wherever they go. This school in Sterling, VA is named the Guru Angad Institute of Sikh Studies (GAISS). Here Kirtan is taught for inner-tainment, versus entertainment, and no one has the right to misrepresent the Guru's Shabad by singing it in a way other than what is prescribed by Guru Arjan Dev ji, the compiler of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Real Kirtan is about being able to comprehend the Guru's Shabad so we may act and live by it. But how can we truly comprehend it if to begin with, we don't even read, recite or sing Gurbani in the way it was written by our Gurus. The unfortunate fate of our community is that we accept anything from a popular Bollywood tune, Rap music, to an Indian classical music performance to be Kirtan and have no knowledge about the clear and precise instructions by our Gurus and the instruments that they blessed us with. Alas, we have lost our heritage to the pressures of time and indolence.
However, efforts such as the Hemkunt Kirtan Darbar that are trying to revive this tradition must be given kudos, but lets face it that they have long ways to go before their efforts become truly worthwhile. At the 2011 Eastern Region Hemkunt Kirtan Darbar there were many Jathas that participated in all three levels with varying abilities and more importantly a sense of purpose. What most groups lacked was the ability to sing soulfully, mellifluously and not making Kirtan into a performance for the judges. Often Judges at these types of events also lack that ability, but that can't be said for the Judges present there. Kirtan is that which quenches your internal thirst first; calms you and leaves you with a complete understanding and feeling of the Guru's Shabad.
With the Guru's blessings, a Jatha in each age group participated from GAISS at this year's Hemkunt Kirtan Darbar. The junior group walked away with a 1st position, while the other two groups exemplified how Kirtan in its purest form is supposed to be done. It is a supplication by the Kirtania in front of the Guru to sing from Gurbani what he/she is trying to comprehend and feel, and at the same time share that Divine experience with the Sadh Sangat.
Until such time that we truly embrace the purpose of musicology implanted alongside Gurbani over the mere terminology, and restore the position of the divine instruments bestowed by our Gurus over their countless sacrifices, our attempts will only bear little fruit in this regard.
I end this short write-up with a hope that we may continue to grow as a community truly proud of what we have in the music divine and become the students that our Gurus wanted us to be. May we give up our egos, differences and weaknesses, and embrace each other and learn and to do Guru's Kirtan, the Guru's Way!
Bhul Chuk Muaaf - Guru Rakha,