Mountain of a Man

Other than his musical contributions to the community, he also shined as a Lawyer and professional in his career. A perfect role model for the Sikh Youth of Malaysia. One who shined in his passion, as well as his profession, writes Tripert Singh

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Gurmukh Singh – Photo: SNSM Facebook (January 2023)

By Tripert Singh | In Memory |

Gurmukh Singh is father to three amazing musicians in our band. Gurishver Singh (right, in photo below), Kavelnain Kaur (left) and Gursimer Kaur (second from left). All three of them are World Champion Musicians and were part of the team that won the Worlds in 2019, as well as the team that made it to the final in Grade 4A this year.

As we were awaiting the results at Worlds yesterday, Gurmukh Singh, more fondly known as Gurmukh Veerji (Veer: brave/warrior, Ji: as a sign of respect when addressing an elder), was breathing his final breaths in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

His two children, Gursimer and Gurishver however were with us on the Greens in Glasgow.

Gurmukh Veerji was an esteemed musician and a highly skilled vocalist. He dedicated his life to sharing his knowledge of raag (unique and central feature of the classical Indian music tradition) with Malaysian Sikh Youths. He did so, so they too could sing Kirtan (spiritual hymns) as beautifully as he did and so that the tradition could be passed down to the next generation. My siblings, Tepasya, Tirath (Pipe Major of the band) and I too had the honour of learning Kirtan and Tabla from him in our younger years. I hold dear the memories of our lessons together in the little room in our house where we would laugh loudly together and spend hours perfecting our singing as well as our handwork on the waja and tabla.

He never took the easy route of teaching simple tunes so we could go out there and get on with it. He always took the traditional and more challenging route, ensuring we understand the history of the raag in which the shabad was to be sung, the time of the day the raag is meant to be sung, and the rhythmic tempo in which it was to be expressed. It was with him that we first experienced playing music to a metronome and keeping time. Something that we have carried into the band and made an integral part of our training.

To keep us excited about learning more, his beloved wife Inderjit Kaur and him would organize a Youth Programme on Tuesday evenings at Titiwangsa Gurdwara (Sikh Temple in Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur). They would spend their own money arranging pizzas and soft drinks so us kids would be excited about coming to these programs and singing or playing the tabla there. When we were kids, we were too young to understand the sacrifice that they were making, but now that we’ve grown older, we do everything we can to emulate their example by doing the same with the band. We learnt by example.

He wouldn’t stand on stages and rostrums to deliver speeches about how youth should be given more time on stages or given more time to sing at programs, he got the job done by making special programs happen and by creating the opportunities himself. This allowed many Sikh Youth to flourish in their musical ability. Even those that didn’t have the privilege of learning directly from him, benefitted from these programs as he didn’t limit them to just his students. He inspired so many by his actions.

Other than his musical contributions to the community, he also shined as a Lawyer and professional in his career. A perfect role model for the Sikh Youth of Malaysia. One who shined in his passion, as well as his profession. He inspired many young lawyers to pursue their dreams and I saw that first hand with his niece Sharanpreet Kaur, who happened to be my classmate at high school. She was lucky enough to have him call her to the Bar just a couple of months ago.

READ ALSO: Dedicated Malaysian kirtani Gurmukh Singh passes away

At organizational meetings, he was a voice of calm, a voice of reason. Everyone knew, if Gurmukh Veerji is speaking, we best listen. He never spoke more than he needed to, but when he did, his words struck like lightning. When the room was down and broken, he would smile and laugh and piece us all together again. When the room got too confident and began to act rashly, he would calm us all down and bring us back to our senses. When the room was cowardly and too careful, he would be brave and show us how to be too. He was the perfect catalyst.

At every youth camp, we would all run to the classroom when we heard he was the one delivering a lesson. We would all run to the congregation when we heard that he was the one singing for the evening. He was a shining star in our world. One that shined so bright that he lit up other dark rocks into stars as well. His arrival anywhere, was like the arrival of a candle into a dark room.

Alongside his wife, he raised three beautiful children. All of whom I have had the honour of leading and working alongside in the band. All of whom carry the amazing qualities of their parents. All of whom shine bright in both their talent and their character. He raised three rockstars and we are lucky to play alongside them in this wonderful family of a band.

We as Sri Dasmesh Pipe Band have benefitted greatly from his teachings and the presence of his three children in the band. All three serve as tutors in their separate sections and have made insurmountable contributions respectively, pushing the team further forward than we had ever dreamed. We are grateful for the love and support that Gurmukh Veerji and his wife have made by supporting their children’s love for the band. They would often have to give up Kirtan slots at major events because their children were performing with the band and as such were unable to accompany their father on stage. These sacrifices do not go lightly and we will remember them for years to come.

Souls like Gurmukh Veerji come once in a generation. A 100 people couldn’t fill his shoes and our community is heartbroken that we have lost our shining star. His teachings weren’t those of rules and dogma, but of love, acceptance and grace.

We ask God for the strength to carry on his legacy. To live on in his name. To continue to serve this beautiful community and country alongside his children and family.

We ask God to repair this hurt and loss by sending us more mountains like Gurmukh Veerji, who will light our path and show us the way.

Finally, we thank God for the honour of living alongside him.

We lived in the time of Gurmukh Singh.

At this time, a scene from The Last Samurai comes to mind, in which the Emperor commands a soldier “Tell me how he died”. The soldier then looks up and says – “I will tell you how he lived.”

(Tripert Singh is a key member of the Malaysian-based Sri Dasmesh Pipe Band, a popular Sikh pipe band that has performed the world over. This article first appeared at the band’s Facebook page)

RELATED STORY:

Dedicated Malaysian kirtani Gurmukh Singh passes away (Asia Samachar, 20 Aug 2023)

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