The Sangeet Shala

Punjabi Folk Instruments

At Punjab Arts Council

Located in one humble corner of the Punjab Kala Bhavan compound in Chandigarh's Sector 16, the music gallery stands as a symbol of Punjabi exuberance having some of the most celebrated folk instruments like taus, saranda and rabab, which were once an integral part of Punjab's folk music, also housing the famous dhol of Bhanne Ram Dholi, the inimitable tumbi of Lal Chand Yamla Jat and the spirited dhadd of Dhadi Amar Singh Shaunki, Punjab Sangeen Natak Akademi's Sangeet Shala documents the musical history of Punjab with great sensitivity. It has over 20 portraits of legends like Balraj Sahni, Samund Singh Ragi, Kavishar Karnail Singh and others. Also housed here are portraits of all performers whose instruments form a part of the gallery's collection.

Certain audio cassettes of melodies of the region which are no longer heard are also part of the gallery. One of the cassettes has songs that are sung while performing various ceremonies and rituals, while the other has a string of popular folk tunes on traditional instruments. Sitar-shaped panel, is designed for collection of Audio and video collection begins with a portrait of Baba Mardana playing the rabab. And below it you can see the specific instrument. Likewise as far as possible, the portraits of performers and the instruments they played have been arranged together so as to offer visual coherence. The most significant detail is that most of the rare instruments housed here are the ones which folk performers used during performances.

Interestingly, tumbi was popularised by Lal Chand Yamla Jat, who started playing it during his performances. Earlier this instrument was played only by beggars.

Other rare instruments in the stringed category are saranda and israj, which have been especially made to order. Already extinct, these two instruments have been created by a carpenter in Sherpur village near Barnala. In the category of wind instruments are been, algoze, bansuri, and wanjhli. Finally come the rhythmic instruments, which always dominated the Punjabi musical scene. In this section fall the dhol, dholak, nagara, bugdu, daru, dhadd, damru, daria, khadtaal and manjira.

Another visual delight offered by the gallery is the collection of portraits of great artistese begins with  a portrait of Baba Mardana playing the rabab. Then come the portraits of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Sahib, the greatest exponent of Kasur Patiala Gharana, Dhadhi Amar Singh Shaunki, Surinder Kaur, Lal Chand Yamla Jat and Bhanne Ram Dholi. Also exhibited are portraits of Samund Singh Ragi, who gave a purely classical dimension to Gurbani singing, and Karnail Singh Paras, the famous kavishar of Punjab. Other portraits are those of Balraj Sahni, Sohan Singh Seetal and Sardar Gursharan Singh. Recorded audio cassettes mentioned earlier are available on sale. Rendered by Kulwant Kaur, Karamjit Kaur and Manjit Kaur, the ritualistic songs remind the listeners of the long singing sessions during marriages in Punjab villages. The festivity begins 21 days before the wedding. The other cassette lists popular folk tunes on traditional Punjabi instruments.

The Sangeet Shala is a fine example of how living traditions can be captured for the knowledge of future generations.