As he stepped into the world of Punjabi music in the early ’80s, his voice and style captivated one and all, especially the song Tutak Tutak Toothiyan, one of the most successful bhangra songs of all time.
Many albums, performances and tracks later, Malkit, based in the UK since 1984, hasn’t been heard of much since his 2009 album Billo Rani came out. But, this year marks the versatile singer’s comeback, albeit one that takes a break from his usual bhangra routine. In Amritsar on Friday to talk about his music album, Sikh Hon Da Maan, the singer talked about why he took to revisiting his roots and what he makes of the current scene in Punjabi music.
“You don’t necessarily have to be a scholarly person to listen to this religious album, as the lyrics are simple and can be easily understood by the young minds,” Malkit says about his latest music album, adding that the idea was to keep the lyrics simple in order to enable its appeal to people of all age groups. Sikh Hon Da Maan includes 10 religious tracks, including a shabad, all of which extol the values, principles and lessons taught by the Sikh religion to help people lead a meaningful life. In the modern times, observes Malkit, the basic moral values of the society seem to be fading away.
Born in village Hussianpur, near Jalandhar, Malkit discovered his talent in singing during school days and went on to hone his passion as an undergraduate at the Lyallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar. In his career as a Punjabi singer, Malkit has won many honours, including the prestige to have been the first Punjabi artist to be appointed as a Member of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008 at Buckingham Palace, London, for his many hits in Punjabi music. Earlier, in 2000, he was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest selling bhangra artist of all time. In 2012, he was honoured with a star on the Birmingham Walk of Stars.
Ask him what he feels about the current scenario of the Punjabi music industry and the singer of popular numbers including Vekh Layi Valiat, Chal Hun and Gur Naalo Ishq Mitha is uncertain. “There is obscenity palpable in so many songs. Also, the young artists seem to be over confident, despite having little knowledge of music. Where is the rich culture of Punjab and where have those songs gone which underlined various relationships and their feelings? Why so much rapping in all the songs?” he asks, adding, “If we really want our work to remain memorable, we have to remain faithful to the authenticity of our culture and language.”
(Sikh Hon Da Maan has music by Gurmit Singh and released on January 20)