About Darbar

Bhai Gurmit Singh Virdee   (1937-2005)

The Darbar Festival came about, initially as a tribute concert to the late Bhai Gurmit Singh Virdee. He was a tabla player and teacher, and had a revolutionary way of teaching. He influenced the lives of countless students that he taught over a period of fifty years and gained the respected of many fellow musicians.

Born in India and raised in Kenya, Gurmit Ji’s interest in Indian classical music started whilst carrying our voluntary service at his local Gurdwara (temple) in Kenya. Although he had began learning to play the violin, his interest quickly drifted towards tabla and rhythm. He learnt his art from respected masters.

In the early 1970s, Gurmit Ji moved to the UK with his family along with many Asian migrants from East Africa. 

In 1977, Gurmit Ji’s life took on a turn onto a more spiritual path after which he stopped playing tabla professionally and concentrated solely on Gurbani Kirtan (Sikh hymns) accompaniment and teaching.

In 1983, ‘Ustad Ji’, ‘Guru Ji’, or ‘Sir’, as he was affectionately known to his students, helped set up a beacon music project to teach Indian classical music to school children at the Leicestershire School of Music, one of the most successful schools of its kind in the UK. Gurmit Ji, was a natural teacher with a warm, open style, and developed a unique style of teaching tabla systematically to English-speaking students.

Outside of teaching, Gurmit Ji was instrumental in setting up TAAL - Rhythms of India in 1987. TAAL raised the profile of the tabla, elevated the status of tabla solos, gave exposure to UK based players and brought world-class tabla maestros, like Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Shankar Ghosh, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, Pandit Sharda Sahai and Pandit Anindo Chatterjee to the UK.

Gurmit JI supported the educational work of his son-in-law, Harkirat Rayatt, through Chakardar. Gurmit Ji taught tabla at the Chakardar Tabla Summer Schools in 2003 and 2004 alongside the legendary Pandit Shankar Ghosh and his son, Bickram Ghosh.

In 2004, Gurmit Singh Ji helped launch a unique virtual organisation, www.tablaonline.com, aimed at promoting Indian classical music at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall with Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Pandit Anindo Chatterjee.

Gurmit Ji had a quiet way of just ‘getting things done.’ He believed that God had blessed him with the luck and good fortune to pass on his knowledge and love of tabla to his students. He recalled that during his lifetime he had been able to contemplate, compose, perform, explore and experience the richeness of this wonderful instrument. Tabla, was to him, more than just an instrument however – he believed that in the hands of a master, the instrument has the ability instil the rhythm of the divine in the heart and soul of the listener.

Gurmit Ji sadly passed on in 2005 and was survived by his wife, Mohinder, and his children Shaminder, Sandeep, Harmeet and Ameeta. Soon after a number of his students and fellow musicians suggested to his family that they organise a tribute concert for him. Gurmit Ji’s son, Sandeep, curated the concert, which was a huge success. A year later, the Darbar Arts Culture Heritage was born and Sandeep continues to curate the annual Darbar Festival and ensure the legacy of his father’s vision lives on through Darbar. 






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About Darbar:

Founded in 2006, Darbar Arts Culture Heritage Trust (Darbar) believes in the power of Indian classical arts to stir, thrill and inspire. Through digital connectivity, shared experiences and enrichment we ensure that one of the finest art forms reaches the widest possible audience.

Darbar delivers premium quality live events, music education, broadcasts and digital engagement through artistic innovation and creative technology. We are also committed to providing a platform for new talent from the UK and India.

Darbar is proud to be supported by