Guru Gobind Singh's Jin Prem Kiyo

In 2011, I finished this composition of Jin Prem Kiyo (an edgy Raag Asa) with some collaborators from around the world (see below). But I didn't like this arrangement when I was done.  It has been growing on me and I am now releasing this as part of Guru Nanak's 550 year celebration.  Here is the shabad:

Here are some rambling thoughts on this shabad and its arrangement ...

The composition of the shabad is in Raag Asa. Raag Asa is often used to express Love. Whether it is "Haun Vaari" by Bhagat Kabir, or "Man Prem Ratanna" by Guru Ramdas or "Oha Prem Piri" by Guru Arjan Dev, they are all prescribed in Raag Asa. That was my logic of composing this shabad in Raag Asa even thought there is no written prescription.

While I have had this arrangement sitting in my hard drive for a few years, I chose not to publish it widely.  The reason I haven't shared this earlier is because I always thought the music was too overpowering. What is the point of have music overshadow the message? Especially when you are composing music for Gurbani.  But, I think I was wrong.

Let me take you through the process for a bit.  I sang the shabad and sent it to some friends to listen and improvise upon.  I did not tell them what the meaning of the shabad was. I wanted them to just feel it from the way it was sung.  And within a few days, I started getting different ideas from musicians around the world.  One from Indonesia, another one from Italy, one from Canada and another from Europe.  I put these ideas together and accepted all of them as they came. 

The result was a lot more percussive and upbeat than I had ever imagined. At that time, I thought there were too many percussive elements in this, including loud drums and guitars.  But when I would take them out, the feeling and completeness went away. I was not sure I would be proud of this. I kept it away like I do with many compositions. 

I was wrong.  Guru Nanak says that God lives in sound and in color (Rang Ratta, Japji 27). And all colors are His. All kinds of music is His.  Doubts are ours.  Limiting Gurbani to just one style is a disservice to the past and future of Gurbani, to the aspirations and love of the musicians, and to the needs and desires of ALL listeners.

This was one of my earlier collaborations and it taught me to better give control away. The result is unexpected. Much learning and excitement can come from such a process. The best learning is around love, incidentally the subject of this shabad.  The most important element of any composition is love. And this is even more important when composing music for Gurbani.  Whether the music is sparse, dense, soft or loud, is a matter of preference.  The message is most important.

For the purpose of love, often what I do in collaborations, I do not give much specific directions for musicians who are playing with me. I do assume that they are good musicians and can follow melody and chordal structures by ear. But I don't give specific direction to prevent all the music sounding the same -- the way I want it to sound.  Instead, in any collaboration, I want the true love of any collaborator to speak through the music. It takes less mental and compositional effort, and most musicians improvise using their heart vibes. It is also a great way of letting go of your control. Because in the end, Gurbani and its music is a gift of the world, to the world and from the world.

I will personally always have an inclination of minimalistic music, so I am not sure this will ever be one of my favorite arrangements.  But I can tell you that it has been growing on me.  Hopefully love is growing on me too.

2011 - Guru Gobind Singh's Jin Prem Kiyo Tin Hi Prabh Paayo

This poem comes from "Tav-Prasad Savaiye," a hymn of 10 stanzas found on pages 13-15 of the Dasam Granth. It is a part of my dear Guru Gobind Singh ji's (1666 – 1708 AD) classic composition 'Akal Ustat' which means 'The praise of God'. 

In the last line of the 9th stanza, my dear Guru says that 'Only those who love, realize God'. I think that is one of the most profound and elegant statements I have ever read. Because it simplifies the wisdom of almost all religions in one phrase: 'Only those who love, realize God'.

Following is a translation of the the 9th stanza. The translation of the entire "Tav-Prasad Savaiye" can be found on Wikipedia.

Kaha bhayo jo dou lochan mund kai baith rahio bak dhian lagaeo. What happened if one shut both eyes, sat and meditated? Nothing!

Nhat phirio leeai sat samundran lok gayo parlok gavaio. (What happened if one) bathed in seven of the holiest oceans? Time is lost on the earth and chances are lost beyond earth. (Read more: My views on Pilgrimages)

Bas kio bikhian so baith kai aise hi aise su bais bitaio. (What happened if one) wasted time in endless arguments over what is right and wrong? Nothing!

Sach kahon sun leho sabai jin prem kio tin hee prabh paio. I speak the truth, everyone Listen! Only those who love, realize God. (9)

However, like all shabads that I sing, I find that it is impossible to translate. Following is the poem I wrote based on this shabad. The rest of my poems can be found here:

Art by Simer from Sim creation

Doesn't matter how long
my shut eye meditates
and howsoever long
my open mind contemplates

How far I rummage
from place to place;
every holy pilgrimage
just goes to waste!

Or have down deep
many scriptures dug,
but still fail to be
ONE like the lovebug*. 

The plain truth remains
the eternal life of spring
that I wish to attain
only true love can bring

God, Guru Gobind Singh's "Jin Prem Kiyo", Simer Kaur 

* The lovebug is a member of the family of march flies (thats why the reference of Spring). The specialty of the lovebug, because of which it gets its name, is that during and after mating, adult pairs remain coupled, even in flight, for up to several days! In that spring, there are not two, but just ONE! Two bodies one soul.

"Prem" means Love