Harjeet Singh and Sarb Akal Music Society of Calgary (SAMS)
Harjeet Singh lived in a small village called Barot in District Kaithal Haryana in Punjab, with his parents, brother and sister. His father worked to provide for the family and his mother stayed at home to care of their children. At an early age Harjeet was forced to quit schooling, due to his mother’s illness. Being the eldest child he took care of his two younger siblings and his mother. Being at home every day he got the opportunity to learn Tabla (hand drums) from Pt. Radha Shyam a blind teacher, where he developed his love for Indian Classical Music. He would walk 3km to his teacher’s house and back every day carrying the heavy drums. Such dedication and hard work has taught Harjeet to be patient in life to achieve his dreams.
At the age of 16, Harjeet had an opportunity to attend one of the biggest Indian Classical Music events in the world called Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan. This event first started in 1875 and was established by Swami Harivallabh who was a Hindustani Vocalist and saint. The event typically lasts up to a week and on each day it attracts ten thousand plus audience to become mesmerized by their beloved artists. It is considered a great honour and privilege to be a part of and perform at this festival. Harjeet had heard a lot about this event but when he got to experience the event live, something inside him changed. He not only loved this music but he embraced it in his life.
In 1993, Harjeet lost his mother. By this time Harjeet was working for DSGPC (Sikh temple) as a Tabla player. Through his company, he got an opportunity to come to Canada in March 1997, also to play Tabla at Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver. From there he was invited to play Tabla for two weeks for kirtan (religious hymns) in Calgary by the Sikh Society of Calgary. They immediately offered him a regular job of a Tabla player in the Sikh temple. In 2006, Harjeet became a Permanent Resident in Canada and in 2008 he called his wife and his two sons to accompany him in Calgary, which he calls his home away from home.
In his life journey Harjeet has made many music lovers his friends especially in Calgary. As he began to make a name for himself and his talent, people started asking him “why don’t you teach Tabla to our children.” Parents in Calgary wanted their children to learn the rich culture and tradition of Indian Classical Music. Harjeet couldn’t be happier. Not only would he teach the young generation but he would also be able to promote music.
Harjeet never asked for any fees in return for his teaching because he wanted to make this art available for students and parents. In the daytime, he would work at the bottle depot and in the evenings students came to learn Tabla from him. Eventually, with the support and encouragement of a few music-loving families Harjeet started a private music school named, Sarb Akal Music Society (SAMS).
It is a non-profit organization with the mission being to keep the tradition and the art of Indian Classical Music alive for generations to come and engage our youth to strive for a constructive pursuit and to promote and revive this art. Harjeet Singh, President of SAMS has been actively working towards forming the organization of Indian Classical Music since 2009. After much hard work the society was officially registered as Sarb Akal Music Society of Calgary in 2014. A Tabla player with very little education, never ever thought he would one day live in Canada and pursue his dream of promoting Indian Classical Music and become the President of SAMS.
Now SAMS holds various events such as Classical Idol, Tabla & Sarangi (a rare musical instrument) concert, vocal workshops and in September 2016, SAMS inaugurated an annual event called the Indian Classical Music Festival (ICMF).
In the future SAMS believes in giving opportunity to different communities to present their cultural music and dance at ICMF to help bridge the gap and to give people the opportunity to explore and appreciate other cultures and their contributions to the Arts.