Channi Singh, known as the “godfather” of “bhangra” music in the United Kingdom and the west, regaled thousands of people who turned out Sunday for a politically significant Baisakhi event organised by the Indian high commission here.
The event was supported by at least 14 gurdwaras in the UK and Punjabi community organisations, marking a significant step in the fractious relationship between India and the Sikh community here since the 1984 Operation Bluestar.
“Such an event could not have been imagined a few years ago. Even though several gurdwaras did not participate, this is a good beginning,” a community leader told Hindustan Times. The event was telecast live on some Asian television and radio channels.
Indian high commissioner YK Sinha donned a saffron turban and announced that the event would henceforth be held every year. A display near the main stage announced that the event was “organised with financial assistance from the ministry of culture, Government of India”.
Channi Singh, who was honoured with Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2012 for his contribution to music, particularly to popularising “bhangra” and Punjabi music in the UK, won the largest applause for his number “Bhabiye ni Bhabiye”.
The day-long event included “langar”, “kabaddi” matches and free “mehndi”. Some Sikh soldiers in the British army were also present. Punjab National Bank and the State Bank of India were among stalls at the SKLP Sports and Community Centre in Northolt, Middlesex.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met a delegation of UK-based Sikhs during his visit here in November 2015. The meeting, which was described as a “major breakthrough after 31 years of standoff” with overseas Sikhs, had discussed issues such as the so-called ‘blacklist’ of individuals associated with the ‘Khalistan’ agitation.