They don’t speak or understand Punjabi, but these first-year African students in Jalandhar are the new flavour of Punjabi music. Making waves on YouTube with their cover of Diljit Dosanjh’s ‘Patiala Peg’, their video — complete with a spurned-lover storyline and some bhangra — has grossed nearly 1 lakh hits. And this is just in three days.
The African tadka started in January when 22-year-old Daniel Ngoma from Zambia, a student of BSc (IT) and the lead vocalist of a five-member group, sang a traditional Lohri song, ‘Sundar mundariye’, at a function at their college, CT Group of Institutions, Jalandhar.
“When my friends told me that Lohri celebrations would be a gala function, I searched online for ‘top Lohri songs’ and found ‘sundar mundariye’. I took down two stanzas in English (Roman script) after taking help of fellow Punjabi students. Everyone was entertained,” Daniel told HT, who said his interest in Indian music was fired by ‘Teri Galiyan’ from the Hindi movie ‘Ek Villain’.
Soon enough, four other students from Africa who played music in their leisure time joined hands with Daniel and created a band. ‘Patiala Peg’ was picked for its popularity. Word travelled, help came in from the college too, and executives from a leading music company came on board to record it. The video has them all set up with their western attire and instruments, singing in their Afro-Punjabi accent while standing in a field.
Steven Mukalula, who is also from Zambia, plays the bass guitar besides being a vocalist, while Temwa Nyasulu a BSc-biotech student hailing from Malawi, is the rapper. The other two too are Zambians — George Matuchi from the pharmacy department plays drums, while Lottie Mukuka who is studying computer applications works the piano/keyboard. None of them has formal training.
And, as none of them could understand or speak Punjabi at all, they took help of Saurabh Bhatia, the college official who looks after the African students’ affairs, in the diction.
“Spelling some Punjabi words in English was tough as the sounds were not familiar; but we did manage, and even added some rap verses in English. The compositions are not tough in Punjabi music though, as the raps are based on a common, Western idea,” said Daniel.
‘I thought they had gone crazy’
The Afro-Punjabi music video did not happen just like that. The managing director of the institute, Manbir Singh, was approached for procuring instruments, but he rejected it without ado. “I just thought these students had gone crazy,” he said. “But when they performed before me with whatever they had, it was enough to conclude that this African twist to a Punjabi song was set to do wonders. I immediately sanctioned what they desired,” he said.
Speed Records, a music production house that also produces the songs of Diljit who sang the original, and happens to be Jalandhar-headquartered, decided to produce a commercial video of the song when company director Raman Kohli got to know of the talent.
‘Start of something bigger’
“The idea was that if Africans sang Punjabi songs, it would be a great hit and can take Punjabi music industry to African countries, the only countries where Punjabi music has not reached yet,” said Kohli, “We are producing some other songs of these students as well.”
When Diljit heard the Afro version!
On March 23, when Diljit Dosanjh performed at PAP Grounds in Jalandhar, to promote his film Daniel sang ‘Patiala Peg’ from the stage and won accolades from the original singer. The ‘Afro version’ had been shot on April 9 at in Una district of Himachal.
Besides praises, the students are also getting some rather negative comments on the YouTube video. “We have produced it only for fun, so if someone laughs at us it’s welcome,” said George Matuchi.
The college management says these students are equally talented in studies and hardly ever skip lectures.