Kabir Partap: Remembering The Legacy Of My Father Mohinder Partap Singh

My father, Mohinder Partap Singh, one-third of the formidable Partap Brothers had unexpectedly passed away due to COVID-19. He was only 64 years old.

Kabir Partap 
August 18, 2021 | 4 min. read | Opinion

On the morning of Feb. 8th, 2021, I logged into the Partap Brothers social media with hands trembling, ready to submit a life-changing statement drafted hours earlier. I was letting the world know that my worst nightmare had come true.

My father, Mohinder Partap Singh, one-third of the formidable Partap Brothers had unexpectedly passed away due to COVID-19. He was only 64 years old.

Within moments every corner of the world was receiving news we had lost a giant of the Sikh Panth, a legendary tabla player, and so much more.

A few moments later I saw 14 missed calls on my phone. Every mobile device in the Partap household was ringing with longtime followers checking in to see if the devastating news was true. The next few weeks were some of the hardest in memory and  I clung to the one thing my father emphasized most: family.

I’ve always been tremendously close with my father. There was just something pure about the way he carried himself. He was tall, handsome, brilliant, funny beyond words, and a pure artist in every sense. If you were even remotely in his presence, he made sure to put a smile on your face and acknowledge just how special you were too. He had a zest for life.

We were inundated with condolences in every way imaginable. With every opened message, a light revealed itself as I learned of my father’s heroics and history I never knew.  

“Your father is the reason I picked up the tabla last year. I love his unique style more than anyone else in the world,” a seven-year-old boy from Delhi wrote. 

“Kabir puttar, you father touched and influenced an entire generation of Sikhs,” said a voicemail by a man in his nineties. 

“Mohinder Partap was a father to everyone, Kabir, I believe history will remember him fondly for his contributions on this earth. Keep his legacy alive,” yet another message read. 

The Partap Brothers—Davinder, Mohinder, and Ravinder—are titans of the Indian classical music world and torchbearers for Puratan Gurmat Sangeet. For these siblings, the pursuit of perfection in sur (melody) and taal (rhythm) has been a sacred endeavor since the 1970s, when they first came together to carry forth the creative legacy forged by their father, the legendary Sant Partap Singh Ji.

I have always felt that there is Partap Brother in each of us—radical, irreverent, revolutionary. For nearly five decades, the brothers deftly continued their father’s iconic contribution to the Sikh faith and artform, simultaneously transcending conventional expectations and honouring tradition. 

Most of us inevitably feel this contradiction at some point in our lives as we walk the tightrope between generation, faith, creativity, and authenticity. The brothers’ loyalty to Puratan Gurmat Sangeet and to each other was unmatched. 

In 1980s England, they were admired by the entire South Asian community, not just for their talent, but also for their magnetic personalities, fashion sense, and willingness to push boundaries on and off the stage. These are moments that had to be experienced, with live recordings from this era echoing a creative connection beyond words.

On the 15 hour flight back from Lahore in 2019 after celebrating the 550th Gurpurab of Guru Nanak Dev Ji,  I sat with my father and shared conversations I will cherish for the rest of my life. One particular topic that struck a chord was legacy and heritage. 

“What are we doing to preserve our history for the next generation? When the next generation of Kaurs and Singhs look back on this early digital revolution, will we be able to say we did enough to shepherd forward our Khajana?“ my father asked. 

I did not know the answer to those questions at the time, but I knew some action had to be taken. Like many others, I took advantage of the downtime caused by the global pandemic. With the help of Punjab Arts led by creative director Harkirat Kassi, the family was approached to have a music documentary come to life. We knew this would be an opportunity to answer the same questions posed by my father a few years earlier. To get the additional funding needed, we launched a kickstarter.

In a world where commercial goalposts and media perception are often prioritized at the expense of art, the Partap Brothers have kept the holy fire of live Indian classical music alight without commercial interference. The value of this ancient art cannot be quantified in traditional metrics and their personal impact on untold listeners is the only true measure.

This singularity, made all the more poignant by the recent passing of my father, elevates the importance of telling their story on a wider stage. As we navigate the universal crossroads of old and new, societal expectation and individuality, East and West, the Partap story resonates. 

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Kabir Partap musical prowess and unshakeable self-assurance stem from his upbringing in a close-knit and musical family. His paternal lineage includes the world-renowned group of Indian artists, the Partap Brothers, and growing up surrounded by their sounds inspired him to pursue his own musical path. Over the course of his adolescence, he discovered the power of his singing voice and developed an eclectic taste in music, ranging from the classical Indian styles of his family heritage to American classics and contemporary music—all of which inform the jazz and R&B sounds that define his style today.


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