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PHUMMAN SINGH, BHAI

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PHUMMAN SINGH, BHAI, famous as a ragi or musician reciting Sikh hymns, was born in a Jatt Sikh family of Daudhar in present day Moga district of the Punjab in the sixties of the nineteenth century. He learnt to read Scripture and recite kirtan at the Dera or seminary established at Daudhar in 1859 by Sant Suddh Singh. Having acquired notable proficiency in vocal as well as in instrumental music, he went to Amritsar where, accompanied at the tabla or pair of drums by Bhai Harsa Singh of Sathiala village in Amritsar district, he performed kirtan at Sri Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple) for some time.

After short stints in the courts of the rulers of Patiala and Nabha, Phumman Singh went in 1885 to Hyderabad where he served as a musician at the Nizam`s court but, having been nurtured in the Sikh religious tradition, he did not feel at home in that environment and soon moved to Nanded where he first joined the jatha or choir of Ragi Gulab Singh who performed kirtan at Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib, and then him self became the head musician. Bhai Harsa Singh, who had joined him at Amritsar, continued to be his companion at tabla. Bhai Phumman Singh was well versed in several instruments, especially tails, dilruba, kanun, sitar and harmonium. He was skilled in many ragas or classical measures of Indian music, but his favourites were Darbari, Kanara and Malkauris.

Nizam `Usman `Ali of Hyderabad was his great admirer and, whenever he passed through Nanded, he would halt at the railway station to listen to his kirtan. Bhai Phumman Singh was married sometime after his arrival at Nanded, but he died issueless in 1928. N.S.A.

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