Bhai Ghulam Muhammed Chand

The Muslim Rababis used to perform kirtan in Harmandar Sahib till the formation of the SGPC in 1925. Ghulam Mohammad Chaand (from the family of Bhai Mardana) during his recent visit to Amritsar was disheartened to know that he could not perform kirtan in the sanctum sanctorum of Harmandar Sahib like his forefathers did. His paternal uncle, Bhai Chaand, was the “Hazoori Raagi” of the Golden Temple before Partition.

Bhai Ghulam Muhammed Chand will be making a historic tour to North America and the U.K. This is a unique opportunity for Punjabis in the diaspora to witness a rich historical tradition of the recitation of kirtan passed down from generations of Muslim rababis since the eras of the Sikh gurus. This letter is thus an announcement for gurdwaras and other organisations to extend an invitation to host an event or to sponsor Bhai Chand and his party to perform for their local communities and sangats sometime during the period between June to August 2009. Once interest has been ascertained, the route of the trip will be charted in coordination with the participating communities and gurdwaras.

Bhai Chand has been living in Lahore, Pakistan since the partition of 1947. Bhai Chand’s lineage can be traced back to Bhai Mardana who accompanied Guru Nanak and to the rababis who accompanied Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh. Before partition, his forefathers traveled to different gurdwaras across Punjab and Peshawar performing and reciting shabad kirtan with an innate knowledge of gurbani and a distinctively authentic musical style sung within the designated raags with melodic instrumentation. What is perhaps even more striking to any listener or observer of Bhai Chand’s recitation of kirtan is how his depth of understanding of gurbani and shabad kirtan has not waned, despite the period of the last 61 years since the border between India and Pakistan separated him from the wider Sikh community. Bhai Chand has traveled to India several times over the past few years, where he has been warmly received, being given a number of awards including the Bhai Mardana Award, and specially hosted by the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh.