Conference celebrates Guru Nanak’s teachings through discussion, music

Guru Nanak’s Ek-Anek Vision, a three-day conference marking the 550th birth of Guru Nanak concluded, Oct. 12 at Hofstra University on Long Island.

It was organized by Dr. Balbinder Singh Bhogal and Dr. Francesca Cassio under the Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies and Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology at Hofstra, and was attended by over 30 scholars and artists from all over the world.

This was the eighth conference at Hofstra under the Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair since its inception in 2001.

The conference focused on inclusivity and celebrated Guru Nanak’s voice through the Sikh, Bhakti and Sufi voices. The three concerts presented during this conference were an integral part of the intellectual project that aims to showcase the pluriversality of Guru Nanak’s message, and how the memory of heterodox traditions has been retained through the songs collected in the Sikh scriptures, and preserved by the Sikh community who sang these poems over the past 500 years.

Conference celebrates Guru Nanak’s teachings through discussion, music

The first concert was entirely dedicated to Guru Nanak. The prime exponent of the Gurbani kirtan parampara, Bhai Baldeep Singh sang compositions that have been transmitted within the pre-colonial Gur-Sikh traditions as original compositions of the founder of the Sikh faith. In this recital, Bhai Baled Singh proposed for the first time to retrace Guru Nanak’s experience of the early (pre-colonial) Gurbani kirtan, accompanied by Daud Khan Sadozai on a rabab that is a replica of the rabab played by the Fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan.

The second evening the audience had the opportunity to listen to a rendition of the Kabir bani presented by Prahlad Tiapanya, in the traditional Malwi style from Madhya Pradesh. The conference ended with the qawwali singer Dhruv Sangari performing lyrical hymns of Sheikh Farid.

Earlier, Bhogal, in his welcome address, talked about establishing the Gur Sikh musicological and philosophical difference – a difference that not only includes but preserves the other’s voice as its own, making its own history a shared history.

At the welcome dinner Tejinder Singh Bindra congratulated everyone on Guruji’s 550th birth anniversary and spoke of the secularism, universal love and equality preached and practiced by Guru Nanak, equality whether it be among nations, castes , gender or wealth. He thanked Hofstra university and both professors for selecting this topic and bringing so many renowned and distinguished scholars and artists to the conference.

Cassio summarized the conference as an important, and even, historic event – with some intellectual substance, in terms of inserting the Sikh voice in the debate about Indian music history, with the possibility of re-writing it, or at least registering our challenge to the way that history elides the Sikh voice and contribution.

Hofstra is also home of Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize, endowed by Sardar Ishar Singh Bindra , where a $ 50,000 prize is awarded every two years to a person or organization that bring religions close.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama was the first recipient of this prize.

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