SAMUND SIṄGH, BHĀĪ (1901-1972), a leading Sikh musicologist of the twentieth century, trained in music under leading maestros of the art, Sikhs as well as Muslims, was born on 3 March 1901, at the village of Mullā Hamzā, in Montgomery district, now in Pakistan. He started his training so young that for many years after he had started giving public performance, he was known as Kākā (child) Samund Siṅgh. His father, Bhāī Hazūr Siṅgh was a rāgī (musician) of repute and for accompaniment played on a string instrument called tāūs, so named because of its peacock shape. For five generations, his ancestors had been performing kīrtan at Gurdwārā Janam Asthān at Nankāṇā Sāhib, the birthplace of Gurū Nānak. Among them Bhāī Gurdit Siṅgh had won renown as a deft tablā-player.
Samund Siṅgh's first major performance came at the age of nine when he staged kīrtan before a large gathering at a session of the Sikh Educational Conference. Soon he became the rage for Sikh dīvāns throughout the Punjab. His training continued under his father and under other masters. He was quick at memorizing the holy word of the Gurūs. Thus his range and repertoire from Gurbāṇī were very wide. He learnt to play on string instruments such as the tāūs, dilrubā and tānpūrā besides the harmonium and tablā. He acquired mastery of most of the thirty-one rāgas in which Gurbāṇī is composed. He excelled in Khayāl, ṭhumarī Aṅg, Multānī Aṅg, Dhrupad and Dhūmar. He began to live and enjoy the Word he sang with exceptional ease and effect. His presence inspired veneration and his performance helped to create a devotional atmosphere.
Samund Siṅgh was given employment at Gurdwārā Janam Asthān at Nankāṇā Sāhib where he performed kīrtan with his two companions, Tejā Siṅgh and Harnām Siṅgh. He resigned from the position of head rāgī after a few years, but continued to live in the holy city of Nankāṇā. He travelled to the remotest corners of the country on invitations from Sikh societies and institutions to perform kīrtan. He introduced Gurbāṇī kīrtan to Hindu and Muslim lovers of music and great artists, including Baṛe Ghulām 'Alī Khān. He was among the first Sikh musicians to broadcast kīrtan from the Lahore station of All India Radio.
After the partition of 1947, he migrated to Amritsar and performed kīrtan at the Golden Temple, later shifting to Ludhiāṇā. He continued to command respect as the most accomplished Sikh musician. In 1970, he was given the Bhāī Mardānā Music Award by the Punjab Government, at a state ceremony at Chaṇḍīgaṛh. He gave on the occasion what turned out to be his last major performance. Samund Siṅgh died at Ludhiāṇā on 5 January 1972.
Jodh Siṅgh; Jalandhar