I have been very fortunate for being raised in a family of music lovers. From a very young age, my siblings and I were encouraged to learn a musical instrument. In fact my brother, father and sister all play the tabla and I am the only string instrument player in the family. Music holds a very sacred place in the Sikh culture and my journey started with reciting holy hymns in the Gurdwara.
One of my biggest supporters are my mother and my paternal grandmother. They are like my Rabab managers and are a constant source of support and guidance, and at times they are also my critics, which pushes me to challenge myself and grow.
When I was in primary school, I was in an ensemble, where I played handbells for four years. It was also a time when I learnt to read musical notes and began to have an understanding of Western music, all of which helped shape and influence my music today. As a teenager, I played the harmonium and along with that, I also pursued Hindustani classical vocal training and classical Indian dance (Khatak). My second instrument is the Dilruba, which I played for 5 to 6 years before picking up the Rabab.
Love at first strum with the “Rabab”
“Rabab” has a sacred place in Sikh tradition, as it was the first instrument used by Bhai Mardana, a companion of Guru Nanak. Whenever a shabad was revealed to Guru Nanak, he would sing and Bhai Mardana would play on his Rabab, and hence was known as a rababi. Interestingly, when I would occasionally hear the Rabab playing around me, it did not have any impact on me until I heard it being played on Coke Studio Pakistan. That truly changed my perception of how it sounded and I found myself drawn to the sound. I started listening to more songs that used this magical instrument and slowly but surely I found myself wanting to learn how to play it myself. Initially I didn’t own a Rabab of my own, so to learn and play, I would go to the music academy at the Gurdwara, where I took weekly classes. I remember feeling excited every day after school, to run over to the Gurdwara and get my hands on the Rabab. It almost felt like my “Pehla Pehla pyaar”. I had never experienced this kind of excitement before and I worked hard to learn more and get better at playing it.
It was 5th September 2019 when I picked up the Rabab and instantly within a few weeks of lessons with my Ustad, I fell in love with it. It was a very special moment for me. It fit, it really fit. The whole Rabab, the sound and the texture of the music was soft and sweet. My favorite raags to play are Raag Jog & Raag Miyan Ki Malhar.
I have been very fortunate to have been invited to perform live. One of my performances was in front of the former Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore for the museum exhibition’s grand opening and my second performance was at the hall of the Gurdwara. It was special for me as it was the first time that I performed at a large scale event in Singapore.
The more I learnt to play, the more inspired I was by the incredible musicians around me. I found videos of a very gifted Afghani Rabab player, Ustad Homayoun Sakhi on instagram (@homayounsakhi) and what I loved about his videos is that when he played, he would constantly smile, as if being transcended through his music. Currently I am grateful for being guided by two Ustads- Ustad Jatinder Singh based in Singapore (@angadsingh1) and Ustad Bilal Khan based in Pakistan (@bilalkhanbilal_official). I take online classes with Ustad Bilal Khan and his adoration and respect for Hindustani classics is truly heartening to see. As an artist myself, I have always dreamt of peace between the two nations (India and Pakistan) and have come to believe that music transcends borders. I feel that music bridges the gap between nations.
I feel at peace when I play the Rabab. When I am sad, it is my place of happiness. When I am homesick, it takes me home. It is my healer in times of stress. My dream is to achieve world peace through music. I envision myself performing worldwide and uniting the world through music.
To follow Tejpreet’s music on instagram: @she_rababi
This was an interview was conducted by Zareen Khan from @w2wevents
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