SHE TOOK music to the stage at a time when women were barred from singing in public. She has a characteristic folk style. Her long stretch of ‘alaap’ (the ‘ret’ in Punjab) is her trademark.
Gurmeet Bawa may have tasted international fame but she still exhales warmth and is firmly grounded. “I have had to struggle a lot. I come from a zamindar family which had no musical leaning. But I liked to sing, sometimes at small gatherings, marriages and other rituals. I was not allowed to sing beyond the boundaries of my house.”
“My true musical journey began after my marriage. My husband Karpal Bawa, who is also a singer, motivated me to give up my teaching job,” she says adding, “probably he could see my latent talent. He even convinced his parents about my musical prowess. After God, I would say, it is my husband who has made me what I am today.”
Gurmeet was in Bhopal to perform at the Lokrang festival organised by the Adivasi Lok Kala Academy. Gurmeet exhaled romanticism plus melody in her songs at the Lokrang cultural festival on Sunday. She drew out melody from the love stories of Heer Ranjha, Sohini Mahiwal and Sassi–Punnu.
The theme was traditional love songs of Punjab and she rendered them with clarity while holding long alaps. In the one-hour programme, she also sang Jugani.
Gurmeet’s daughter Laachi rendered two songs on the same theme On her first public acclaim, she said, “I used to sing for the Army. On one such occasion, some people of the radio heard me and selected me even without an audition.”
She had her first brush with glamour when she was invited to sing for a Baisakhi programme in Mumbai that was organised by film celebrities like Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Dara Singh and others. “That performance got a thunderous applause. Since then, I have moved on,” she says.
She prefers to sing only folk songs because both she and her husband want to preserve the traditional culture of Punjab. “The cultural composition of Punjab is multi-hued. Unfortunately most of the traditional features have disintegrated,” she laments.
Gurmeet has three daughters, two of whom have stepped into her musical shoes. About regular riyaz, she quips, “Yes, it is a must. Bartan ko jitna safh karenge utna aur chamkega (The more you wash the utensils, the more they shine).”