Punjabi Culture on the Altar of Popular Music........Pushpinder Singh Gill
June 14, 2022: Music world over is considered as the essence of our soul and more so in the case of Punjab, the land which has been blessed with a rich tradition of poetry. The land which has been home to such greats as Baba Farid, Bulle Shah, Bhai Veer Singh, Waris Shah, Shiv Batalvi, Pash to Amrita Pritam, Dhani ram chatrik and surjit pattar is celebrating a mixture of hip-hop and rap as the epitome of Punjabi music and culture.
The flood of music videos glorifying gangs and violence in the name of promoting Punjabi language is actually doing a great disservice to our state and its traditions. Punjab has always been proud of its culture and traditions but lately we seem to have lost our way.
The younger generation is hooked to the modern version of Punjabi music which is a blend of different styles and languages.The trend of glorifying crime and violence started in our film fraternity in the eighties and nineties when the JATT of Punjab was glorified as the lords of universe and crime and violence was used as a tool to market the films.
The titles of such movies were always starting with Jatt te jammen or Badla Jatti da or pretty much anything which rhymed with the world Jatt. Only with the advent of Harbhajan Mann on the scene helped change the narrative but still our Punjabi cinema is churning out movies on the gangster theme and thus keep the pot boiling. Why am I talking about cinema in the midst of music and lyrics is because the music has changed over a period of time. From purely being an audio medium, the Punjabi music has diverged into an audiovisual medium.
Every music single is accompanied by a music video shot on exclusive locations with foreign models, high end SUVs with the lead singer totting flashiest weapons, killing and bullying everyone who comes in the way. These videos mainly highlight the singers partying with beautiful girls, doing rounds in Ferrari’s and Lamborghinis, living life on a high.
The gullible youth of our state are hooked to these singers by watching the videos rather than listening to or understanding the meaning of the lyrics. For these youth the ultimate success of a person is perceived to be leading such life irrespective of the ways and means to achieve it. Thus, the romanticizing of guns and easy money lures them into gangs and they do not find anything wrong with living up to their idols who portray the same things in their videos.
The lyrics of one of the songs of late singer Siddhu Moosewala went like “ Jithe Banda Mar Ke Kassor puchde ,Jatt os pind nu belong Karda”. It is very unfortunate that the singer who always glorified guns and violence in his songs and videos met his end in the same tragic circumstances at such a young age. It is time for us to take a step back and analyze why such incidents are turning to be so common in our daily life.
Why news of shootouts and people barging into someone’s house and damaging property are becoming so commonplace in our society. The most common answer to such questions is that it is not the fault of the singer or the producers of the video as the market is such that it demands this kind of music.
This logic is wrong on so many premises mainly because mainly such kind of songs, lyrics and videos were first put out into the public domain and then the demand was created and not the other way around. Secondly there are a number of successful artists in the market who have been singing meaningful and beautiful songs for so many years and they are hugely successful in this same market.
Gurdas Mann has been around for more than forty years and never sung even a single song glorifying guns, Satinder Sartaj, Harbhajan Mann, Manmohan Warris, Amarinder Gill, Kamal Heer, Kanwar Grewal and many others are serving our language with such grace and dignity and for so many years that the market demand logic given by the other producers falls flat on its face.
All these artists have millions of followers and earn billions of rupees from their music and yet sing meaningful songs and are loved by the young and old alike.
This trend of portraying the young man in the songs and videos as a “VAILLEY” is also very disturbing trend. It is not that this world has emerged now and is not a part of our traditional folklore. But back in the old days in our villages if a “Vailley” was part of a village, he was considered to be a bad influence and treated as such.
The Disgrace associated with this tag was such that no family wanted to enter into any relationship with even the children of such a character. Now these “Vailley” is being projected in such a manner that it seems that such a character is a highly desirable person and the young ones aspire to and imitate that person in real life. How we have transferred an undesirable character in our society to be the role model for millions of youth is a question we all need to answer and ponder over.
Another common excuse the music professionals give us is that we need to keep up with the times and modern times require modern music which caters to the needs of our future generation. I am completely with people who want to modernize our music and make it more global and acceptable to a wider audience. But I want to ask these professionals one question: Is promoting violence and vulgarity the only way to modernize our music? If you want to incorporate modern instruments, go ahead.
If you want to indulge in better technology, sure go ahead but the lyrics and their meaning is in our hands. The message these lyrics radiate should be such that it enhances your culture and language and not promote hatred and mindless violence. No society in this world goes backward in the name of modernization or development. Our history and culture, teachings of our Gurus have always been to respect women, treat all humans as equal, be humble and work to earn your livelihood. But in the name of modernization we call our women as “patola” or “Purja” or portray them as such who will go after fame and materialist riches. We show that “Jatt” is the only brave and worthy person in our state and the rest are lesser human beings. How can we justify the regression in our thought process as being modern?
I read somewhere that a child needs at least two years to learn his/her mother tongue, but it takes a lifetime to master the language. Music is a very important part of any language and it helps preserve the journey of any civilization. The state of Punjab has very rich traditions and our culture is so diverse and empowering that it would be a shame to let it go waste in the pursuit of money or short-term fame.
To term someone a great son of the soil or contributor to the culture just based on the number of his/her Instagram followers or you tube views is totally irreprehensible and downright derogatory to the scores of people who have committed their lives to the cause and service of our language and culture. We need to recognize who is the real promoter of our traditions and who is just using the market gimmicks to further his/her own career and minting money. If we get bogged down by public sentiments and not call a spade a spade, it will not be long before the entire definition of what our culture and heritage will be changed forever.
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