Birkbeck lecturer’s first book recognised by prestigious music society in Canada

Gurbux Singh was heralded by the Sarb Akal Music Society of Calgary for his first book on North Indian classical music.

Gurbux (right) congratulated at the Sarb Akal Music Society of Calgary, Canada.

A mathematics lecturer who has worked for Birkbeck for 25 years has been recognised by a prestigious Indian music society for a book on his other great love, North Indian classical music.

Gurbux Singh, 79, published Raganjli this year, featuring 150 compositions of Sikh scriptures in 112 Ragas (modes) of North Indian classical music – the text of the compositions in Punjabi and the musical compositions in Indian notation.  

The composer took five years to complete the project, an effort that was honoured by the Sarb Akal Music Society of Calgary in Canada, a society dedicated to promoting classical music of India as well as encouraging interaction between Eastern and Western musicians and dancers.

Gurbux said: “My intention at the beginning was to write a book containing 50 or so compositions, but as it progressed, I wanted to include some of the less well-known Ragas.”

“While the level of difficulty varies, in general the compositions are targeted at those who are fairly well versed in classical music.”

Hailing from a musical family of six brothers and sisters in Punjab, India, Gurbux’s father introduced them to musicians and professional singers at an early age, but he was encouraged to study mathematics as a profession.

Receiving encouragement from his family, Gurbux later studied under a maestro who had won a national presidential award and, after his arrival in England in 1965, his tutelage continued for 17 years with another teacher.

He said: “My motivation for this project was, and continues to be, purely personal pleasure.  I hope that this work brings some pleasure to anyone who wishes to perform the compositions.”

Dr Frances Shepherd, a former colleague of Gurbux and director of the musical education organisation Pandit Ram Sahai Sangit Vidyalaya in Middlesex, said: “For music lovers, teachers and serious students of classical vocal music, this book will be a valuable source of knowledge about both common and rare ragas as well as a source of unique and beautifully crafted pieces in the traditional classical style.”

The book Raganjli has been uploaded to the Punjabi University and Punjab Digital Library websites. A musical journal of Punjab Amrit Kirtan is serialising the book and an enlarged Hindi edition has gone to press. 

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