Having brought the euphoria of Punjabi music to the global arena, Sukhbir Singh is the rightful ‘Prince of Bhangra’
Sukhbir Singh is the original game changer in the world of Punjabi music; the vanguard who truly broke all barriers and made this sound shine on the global arena. His latest track ‘Nachdi’ has taken the music industry by storm . It’s no wonder then that his baritone voice and euphoric beats have garnered him fans from across the world.
1. You were amongst the pioneers that truly made Punjabi music break barriers and become global. Could you have foreseen then that this industry would reach such heights of fame?
When I started out, I had absolutely no idea that Punjabi music culture would become such a popular form of music. When we started off it was as independent artists, singers and songwriters to express our own version of Punjabi music. For me there were a lot of influences including African, Reggae, Punjabi music from the UK and traditional Punjabi music from Punjab. At that point in time, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that this form of music would become probably the most popular music globally in the India diaspora.
2. Punjabi Culture and Heritage are synonymous with your music. What significance does this ethos hold for you?
Yes Punjabi culture and heritage is very close to my heart and you will get some glimpses of that in my music. Punjabi music, generally speaking, revolves around celebration around the Vaisakhi harvest of wheat. It’s the time where people come out and celebrate their harvest. The tone was very positive and it was a tone of celebration which our Punjabi music and culture in my opinion should reflect and in my case it surely does.
3. What is the one quality of Punjabis that you admire the most which is also reflected in your music?
I find a very strong positive nature In Punjab which is reflected in our music. A very good example is my song ‘Oh ho ho ho’ which if you listen to the lyrics, they are very sad but despite that you see people dancing to a sad song even at weddings. This is what Punjabis are all about – positivity and celebration.
4. What were your musical inspirations during your childhood?
While growing up I was exposed to a lot of international music and also Punjabi pop music from the UK. When we talk about international influences I think Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Abba, and The Bee Gees come to mind. From the Punjabi bhangra scene we had Malkit Singh, Alaap, DCS and Sahotas – all these bands are the ones I grew up listening to and have influenced my music.
5. Can you recall an incident from when you were a child that made you realize that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
I grew up in a Gurudwara for the first eight years of my life in Nairobi, Kenya. My dad is classically trained but I have had no formal training either vocally or in any musical instrument. There was one time that I sat on the harmonium and attempted to play a melody which was my favorite back then – the ‘Naagin’ tune, the famous one from Bollywood. It was knows as the snake tune. I attempted to play that myself without any lessons and managed successfully and I think that was the first ‘aha’ moment that hey, maybe this might be what I will be doing in the future.
6. If you had to pick one musical instrument as your favorite, which one would it be and why?
I think it would be the violin, because I feel it is a very expressive instrument and can touch the soul if played correctly.
7. What are some of the most important responsibilities that you feel towards your fans?
My responsibility is to keep everyone in a positive state of mind and not to incite any violence. In most of my interviews I mention I do not drink and I’ve never tried drugs. I am always encouraging young people especially to avoid these negative influences and my music is a reflection of that. Also, there is no need to use any negative form of language to express yourself. There is enough negativity in the world, so let’s try and stay positive.
8. Drugs, abusive language and the objectification of women have become common themes in the music of this generation. What do you feel about this?
I don’t support negative lyrics or anything that promotes the use of drugs or propagates gender inequality. I think it is not necessary. We have so many positive things to talk about like creation, beauty and dance, to name a few.
9. Would you like to mention some names in the music industry today that you feel are very original in their compositions and are doing good work?
Diljit Dosanjh and Guru Randhawa some very original, different and new compositions. Of course, myself too! I think it’s very easy to make an original song and it should be done more often. I am also in support of remakes of older songs which breathe new life into an older track for the newer generation.
10. Some words of wisdom that you would like to share with the new and upcoming bunch of singers and music professionals?
Follow you passion like I did and be true to your music. Have faith. Nowadays, we are in a very good position to release independent music. You can do this from the comfort of your home and ‘nachdi’ is a great example that I’ve released without the support of a record label. This is a great time for upcoming independent artists to release their music on their own.
11. Quick Questions
Which would you pick?
A. Performing live or recording in the studio
Live performances because it’s a direct connection with your fans. Having fans singing along loudly to your lyrics; it doesn’t get better than that! That one on one interaction and live feedback is a very euphoric feeling for the artist.
B. Performing in India or performing abroad
Performing in India has to be the ultimate, especially in Punjab from where our Punjabi music has originated. While performing for this audience, there is that little bit extra that you feel.
C. Fashion or food
D. Street music or classical music
E. The dhol or the tumbi
The dhol. It’s one instrument that doesn’t need the support of any other instrument and it can make anyone dance. I guarantee it !
F. Original songs or the remixes