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A classical singer keeping alive Punjab's heritage

MOGA, MARCH 3. Punjab's heritage of classical and folk music, though repressed by the glamour of pop music, has been kept alive, more strongly in the rural areas. It is these strains that unite musical artistes of India and Pakistan. Aging classical exponent Barkat Sidhu's efforts in this direction are laudable.

In an age when the new generation seems fascinated and enamoured with rock and pop music, there are groups in the villages of Punjab that keep alive the freshness of folk and classical notes. Indeed, there are numerous unsung singers all over Punjab who have refused to let a brilliant tradition of music die out.

Barkat Sidhu lives in a village in district Moga in west Punjab. Though little known, Barkat Sidhu is a skilled classical music vocalist, adept at every nuance of the art. He espouses the importance of the classical music form, calling it the basis of all rhythms and tunes. It forms the base, he says, of anyone who can call himself a singer.

``Classical music is the foundation of any kind of music. If the foundation of the building is strong the building becomes automatically strong. If an artiste has no classical base his entire singing becomes wrong. He gets the notes wrong. Whenever I see any musical artiste singing I easily make out he is singing in a proper way or not because I have a classical background,'' says the singer.

That command over the art is obvious in the rhythms and intonations of his tunes. In a career spanning more than three decades, Sidhu has been responsible for nurturing and training an entire generation of singers.

Besides having received numerous awards, Barkat Sidhu has had the honour of singing alongside artistes like the legendary Ghulam Ali of Pakistan.

From the start, he has advocated the importance of a strong foundation, a true classical base to music. ``We need riaz to sing a ``Raag'' or musical note and when a singer becomes perfect, he can understand the nuances and intonations of classical singing and that way he can enjoy music in best way,'' says Sidhu

The present day economic situation of singers like Barkat Sidhu, responsible for keeping an entire art form alive, is however an unfortunate tragedy. His earnings are low, forcing him to lead a simple lifestyle. His living is in direct contrast to the world of pop music, steeped in glamour and ostentatious wealth.

``These days it is very disappointing to see that singing has become a fast exercise rather than a melody. In fact to create a real singing atmosphere we need peace and lot of time. It is applicable to every kind of music but now the tradition has been changed very much and nobody is paying attention towards nuances. Pop music has also affected the culture adversely,'' he says.

It is however heartening to know that despite all the difficulties and the poor income generated, Barkat Sidhu's son has also chosen classical music as a career. And, several of his songs have already been released as parts of regional audio albums. Can he get the attention his father could not, and which his art form so deserves? -- ANI

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