“I AM NOT IN THE RACE"
PUNJABI SINGER JASBIR JASSI FEELS THIS IS THE PUNJABI MUSIC INDUSTRY’S DARKEST HOUR
MUSIC HAS BEEN MY COMPANION EVER SINCE I WAS 16 YEARS OLD.
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