Frontiers of folk
S. D. Sharma

Having been the global ambassador of Punjabi music, Surinder Kaurís legacy needs to be kept alive and recognised much more, say artistes ahead of her death anniversary on June 14

GOD, nature and man must have forged an alliance for creating the charisma called Surinder Kaur, the gifted artiste who continues to rule the hearts of Punjabi music lovers the world over even after her demise on June 14, 2006, in the US.

Hailed as the Nightingale of Punjabi Melody, Surinder Kaur, along with her sisters Parksah Kaur and Narinder Kaur, had pioneered a trend in Punjabi gayaki by bringing those folk, ritualistic and rustic romantic songs into the mainstream which were hitherto confined to household gatherings. Surinder Kaur successfully transported Punjabi traditional and contemporary folk music to a spectacular level of world recognition, leaving an indelible print on the rich musical heritage of the state. Credited with over 2000 Punjabi songs and playback for 35 Hindi films, she performed worldwide to popularise folk music after Noorjehan.

Surinder Kaur
Surinder Kaur

Born in a traditional Sikh family of Lahore, Surinder Kaur had a rigorous training in classical music from Ustad Inayat Hussain of the Patiala Ghrana and Ustad Niaz Hussain of the Sham Churasi lineage in Pakistan. Later, after Partition, she continued to master its finer nuances under guru Mani Parshad and Ustad Abdul Rehman in Delhi. After her marriage to academician and Punjabi scholar Joginder Singh in 1948, she migrated to Mumbai `A0and became a sought-after playback singer following her performance in films like Dilip Kumarís Shaheed, Pyar ki Jeet, Sabak, Mutiar, Kaneez and others.

Sharing the memories of her mentor mother, Dolly Guleria acknowledges that she is indeed blessed to have had the illustrious Surinder Kaur as her parent, "Har ikk toofan hai kashti, bhanwar mein bhi kinaara hai/ mujhe har dam meri maa ki duaanon ka sahara hai ..." As a salute to her musical legacy, Dolly, an A-grade artiste of AIR, has preserved and propagated the saaf-suthri gayaki tradition maintained by her mother. Dolly has captured the inspiring persona of her mother in her latest book Chhanwan te Parchhawan.

Eulogising Surinder Kaur as the epitome of pristine Punjabi music, acclaimed literary luminary Dr Jaspal Singh, vice-chancellor, Punjabi University, Patiala, and an old family friend, laments that present-day music, with mundane lyrics and loud orchestration, has lost its vigour, vitality and definitive concept. "We need to revive the grandeur of traditional Punjabi music, which has its own grace and charm, representing the cultural ethos of the people. On this issue, I have been initiating a dialogue at various seminars, only to find people indulging in acrimonious debates, some blaming lyricists, some the singers, and others the audience or music companies. People must come forward for a collective effort to bring back the lost glory and the era of golden melodies, which will be a befitting tribute to the legend of Surinder Kaur."

Expressing gratitude for the motherly love Surinder Kaur bestowed on him and other Punjabi singers, Hans Raj Hans observes that to be a popular star is one thing but to be a melodious and mahaan kalakar is rare and different. Recalling a memorable incident while Surinder Kaur was staying with her daughters Nandini and Parmodini at New Jersey, Hans says, "She invited me for a Punjabi meal where I sang her hit song Mehram dilan de raahi and she advised me to retain humility and uprightness, which would embellish my art. The new-generation artistes must emulate her gayaki style and the government must give patronage to promote folk, sufi or other music sans the vulgarity, opines Hans.

Lamenting the attitude of ingratitude towards creative artistes by those at the helm of affairs, Prof Rajpal Singh, president, Punjab Sahit Akademi, observes that we are failing to recognise the incredible contribution of our great artistes, especially Surinder Kaur. "While she elicited the love of Punjabis the world over, we, in Punjab, have failed to give the singer her due. In fact, it was the Haryana Government that got her decorated with the Padmashri at the fag end of her life. We must imbibe the ideals and humanistic values upheld in her singing as a tribute to her on her death anniversary," Rajpal adds.