JAVĀLĀ SIṄGH, BHĀĪ SĀHIB (1872-1952), a renowned exponent of the Sikh devotional music, was born in 1872 at the village of Saidpur in Kapūrthalā district of the Punjab. His father, Bhāī Devā Siṅgh and grandfather, Pañjāb Siṅgh were in their day celebrated rāgīs or musicians who recited Sikh kīrtan to the accompaniment of sarandā, a stringed instrument. Javālā Siṅgh excelled at tāūs, another stringed instrument, and at harmonium. He had at his command such an abundance of traditional and classical tunes, composition of some of which was traced back to the times of the Gurūs themselves, that he did not have to repeat a tune even when singing for weeks on end. He possessed a vast treasure of dhunīs or tunes, paṛtāls, rītīs or musical styles and traditional compositions.

         Bhāī Javālā Siṅgh learnt to read Punjabi from Bābā Pālā Siṅgh, a granthī, or scripture-reader, in his own village. Then he was sent to the Nirmalā ḍerā or monastery at the village of Sekhvāṅ, in Fīrozpur district, and put under the charge of Bābā Sardhā Siṅgh, who taught him music. At the, ḍerā, he also studied the religious texts. For further training in music, Bābā Sardhā Siṅgh sent him to Amritsar to be under the tutelage of another maestro, Bābā Vasāvā Siṅgh, popularly known as Bābā Raṅgī Rām Siṅgh. After completing his course at Amritsar, Javālā Siṅgh returned to his village, Saidpur. Gradually he made his mark as a leading Sikh musician who was much in demand for performing kīrtan at congregations at far-flung places. He subscribed to the Siṅgh Sabhā ideology which he zealously preached and, when the Akālī movement for the reformation of Gurdwārā management got underway, he jumped into it with equal enthusiasm. He courted arrest in the agitation for recovering the keys of the Golden Temple treasury taken away by the British deputy commissioner of Amritsar and in the Jaito morchā as a member of the first jathā or band of protesting volunteers as well as of the last. He was present at the cremation of the Nankāṇā Sāhib martyrs (1921) and, with the holy precincts reeking of blood, he most movingly recited; sitting by the side of the heap of corpses, Gurū Nānak's hymn: "khūn ke sohile gāvīahi Nānak ratu ka kuṅgū pāi ve lālo -- Paens to blood are being sung, says Nānak (such are the times), and the saffron of blood is now the adornment, O Lālo! "

         Javālā Siṅgh presided over the first all India Rāgīs Conference held at Amritsar in 1942. He died on 29 May 1952 at his village Saidpur.

Ardaman Siṅgh