Singer in glory, unsung hero | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Singer in glory, unsung hero

He lives and breathes music. In fact, musical notes are embedded in his DNA, claims Des Raj Lachkani, who earned recognition with the chart-busting song, Jugni, in the 2008 film Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye.

chandigarh Updated: Jun 27, 2012 17:36 IST
Mehakdeep Grewal

He lives and breathes music. In fact, musical notes are embedded in his DNA, claims Des Raj Lachkani, who earned recognition with the chart-busting song, Jugni, in the 2008 film Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye.

Though he seems to dwell on the realm of the track, the 66-year old folklore singer, who belongs to Lachkani village near Patiala, lives a simple life that is untouched by Bollywood’s trimmings.

The singer can, even at this age, reach out to a thousand-strong crowd without the aid of a microphone.

Talking about his talent, he recalls his gift of voice being spotted, “I have studied till Class five. In 1959, when I was still in school, I used to sing the song, Changi Punjab Di Dharti, while sitting alone in the dharamsala. One day, my guru Dhayadgarh, who used to sing while playing the tumbi, heard me. He acknowledged my voice and asked me to sing along with him at fetes organised in villages.”

Initiated into public singing, this dhol player’s son earned eight annas for his first performance. However, in a surprise turn of events, Des Raj says he gave up singing in 1961, and did not pick it for another nine years.

The reason, he offers, was that the people, who had earlier applauded him for his singing, suddenly started complaining about it. Then, in 1970, Des Raj started playing ‘bean’, an instrument that resembles a small flute, at marriages.

Through a twist of fate, Sant Gulab Puri heard him in 1973 and asked Des Raj to sing along with him. Ever since, Des Raj has been performing at all major fetes taking place in the state. And by 1980, his sons had also joined him in the profession.

Shares the singer on his proficiency, “I sing folk songs that talk of historic incidents and stories. My songs have depth and reality in them. When a fete begins, I start with a story and on the first day, I sing for four hours. Then on the second day, I sing for five hours and on the final day, for six hours at a stretch. A whole story is built and narrated during the event.”

On his experience of debuting in Bollywood, Des Raj has mixed feelings. “I was given a call by Sneha (Khanwalkar), the music director of the film, who asked me how much I would charge. I said it would be Rs 20,000, but she asked me to reduce the price. I refused, and she asked me to come to Mumbai. But I said that wouldn’t be possible for me. Finally, she came to Chandigarh and within four days, the song was recorded at DilKush Studios.”

However, what this simpleton can’t comprehend is why he was never called back by anyone from the film’s crew. Unfortunately, he believes it’s because he wasn’t good enough. On the present scenario in music, Des Raj opines, “Songs these days lack good lyrics, and most of them defame girls. There are also none that include a mention of our culture or history, or even patriotism. Music today seems very grey and blank.”

Other than singing at state-level cultural events, Des Raj is happy singing for All India Radio, on which he has sung almost 60 songs since the past 20 years.

He’s paid only Rs 3,000 per show, but like a true artiste, he couldn’t be less bothered about financial constraints. The maestro, sans any regret on his face, is eager for his grandsons to follow league and sing for passion, rather than money.