He is tall, lanky, wraps the dumala around his head, has a flowing beard and ten very interesting tattoos. The one that catches your fancy is the outline of Punjab’s map, on the left of his neck.
He could easily pass off for an elementary school teacher in Canada, but an English rapper?! You let the fact that he is Humble the Poet, a Toronto-based rapper, sink in when he suddenly starts with:
“Toronto’s my heart, Punjab’s in my blood.
This tune in your ear, hip-hop I love
Sweet chocolate skin, I’m not Indian
Four knuckles to your eye, if you call me that again
Feel the five-river flow, all in your veins, we baagi go!”
The lyrics to his latest viral video on YouTube, Baagi.
Wearing his pride on his sleeve, Kanwer Singh, 31, AKA Humble the Poet, visits Chandigarh on Wednesday to perform for his Punjabi fans for the first time. “Being Punjabi, I have an obvious connection with this place. There’s some kind of energy here that is getting me all excited, maybe because this is my first performance in Punjab. Punjabis are rough and tough; so is my music,” says Kanwer and adds.
“Nobody is more surprised than me about the response I’ve received for my music. I rap about a variety of topics, from the plight of immigrants in Canada (Life of an Immigrant, Singh With Me) and the prison system to domestic violence (Voice for the Voiceless). I also sing in support of the desi gay community in Canada (Baagi music). I Have released three mix-tapes so far — o5, o4, o3. Now, I am all set to release my next album, Feathers. I give out all my albums for free at my website, thepoetproject.tumblr.com.”
“When I started rhyming, people asked me why I was trying to be one of the ‘black guys’. I always said, ‘Rhyming comes to me naturally as it is a part of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Gurbani was never an option for me, it is embedded in my heart,” says he.
Talking about his outlook, given the long beard, being a hindrance, as presumed in the glam industry, he says, “It becomes an obstacle only if you let it. It depends on me, how I take people’s stares. I believe people are attracted to someone’s confidence, irrespective of their religion. It is unfortunate that Punjab’s youngsters think they have to lose their identity to rise in life. One always looks beautiful being him/herself.”
Disclosing his plans ahead, he says, “My world of music is predominantly about writing. I have written a short comedy film, Balbeer the Barber, in which I play Balbeer. I am also penning down a book Unlearn, it is about 101 things you need to let go of to gain in life.”