India Today - - MUSIC -


It has ruled my sen­si­bil­i­ties, made me smile, given me so­lace in the dark­est phases of my life. But what I have been witnessing in the past 10 years in the Pun­jabi mu­sic in­dus­try has been noth­ing short of trau­matic.

There was a time when mu­sic from this state was as­so­ci­ated with great verses of masters like Bulle Shah. It would al­ways touch you some­where deep. Folk ruled ev­ery­where. Mu­sic was about sto­ries of ev­ery­day life in the hin­ter­land. About in­no­cence lost and found. Not any­more. Con­tem­po­rary Pun­jabi mu­sic is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of what is wrong with the Pun­jabi so­ci­ety. From vul­gar lyrics to men bran­dish­ing re­volvers and swords in videos, not to men­tion the scant­ily clad women, this is Pun­jabi mu­sic in­dus­try’s dark­est hour. Sadly, no­body is both­ered. No one wants to do any­thing about it. There has been so much talk about drugs in this state. Now we have a main­stream film on this too. But has any­body heard the lyrics of con­tem­po­rary songs played in houses and clubs in Pun­jab where chitta is glo­ri­fied, smack is the short­cut to nir­vana and al­co­hol con­sump­tion is the only sign of be­ing a true man? What have we come to?

All that the new-age pop singers want is in­stant fame. And they know that this is go­ing to bring them un­der the spotlight im­me­di­ately. Yes, thanks to Google, they have an idea about who Waris Shah was. The ques­tion is, have they read Heer? Do they un­der­stand the mul­ti­ple di­men­sions of leg­endary texts of our folk mu­sic? How much time and en­ergy are they will­ing to spend on lyrics that go beyond the friv­o­lous?

I would at­tribute the con­tin­u­ing de­cline in the quality of mu­sic sung by new-age Pun­jabi singers to lack of train­ing, zero ex­po­sure to the lives and works of masters and aim­less ex­is­tence where fame and money takes prece­dence over ev­ery­thing else. Not just singers, mu­sic com­pa­nies are to be blamed equally. There seems to be a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween them to present vul­gar­ity and glo­rify drugs. They pres­surise peo­ple like us to sing the kind of songs that will be ‘pop­u­lar’.

No, I am not com­pet­ing with any­one. I am not even in the race, not be­cause I con­sider my­self su­pe­rior. Just that, in the Pun­jabi mu­sic in­dus­try it has be­come all about touch­ing new depths of be­ing crass. In today’s times, I feel ashamed of be­ing called a Pun­jabi singer.

The young here love Bha­gat Singh and put his posters ev­ery­where. But it is the one in which he car­ries a re­volver. Ask this gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple who lis­ten to con­tem­po­rary Pun­jabi pop about the books the free­dom fighter quoted from and you will draw a blank. One should at­tend the par­ties and wed­dings of the so-called cul­tured in Pun­jab. I can bet no DJ will miss play­ing Honey Singh.

Take my word for it, this is just the be­gin­ning. Things will worsen. In the years to come, we will wit­ness a steep and con­tin­u­ing de­cline. I am just wor­ried about the chil­dren. The kind of books and mu­sic we lis­ten to shape us and re­main with us our en­tire lives. Ever won­dered the kind of young­sters we will have a decade down the line roam­ing in the streets of Pun­jab? As told to Sukant Deepak (Jas­bir Jassi is a well-known Pun­jabi singer who quit en­gi­neer­ing to study mu­sic. His pop­u­lar al­bums in­clude Dil Le Gayee (1998), Kudi Kudi (1999), Nis­hani Pyar Di (2001), Bhangra (2011) and Dhol (2014)

Singer Jas­bir Jassi

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