VOICES TO RECKON WITH
Background: From schooling in Bathinda to graduation in Kothakpura, followed by Masters in music at Panjab University to landing up in Malerkotla at a faqir’s kutiya, whom he calls his bebe — Kanwar Grewal is the new age Sufi singer.
“In August-September 2012, I started singing at various mehfils outside the kutiya. Jado gaan da rizaan wadh geya, it was time to let the songs reach its listeners,” says Kanwar. His first album, Akhan, which includes songs such as Na Jayi Mastaan De Vehre, Jina Tu Disda and Ishq Bulleh, was appreciated by listeners from all walks of life. His second album, Jogi Nath, was released recently.
Plans for 2014: “In January, a multi-singer track called Tenu Ranjha Jaan Leya, featuring singers Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Saleem, Lakhwinder Wadali and Kamal Khan is slated for release. Besides this, I think most of the year would be spent doing shows abroad.”
2) Jassi Gill, 25, Jandali, KhannaBackground: As a student of Gobindgarh Public College, Jassi took up two practical subjects — music and physical education — to be able to score more marks. But, when his music teacher heard him singing, they decided to train him for youth festivals, where he bagged the second position four times, consecutively. His first album, Batchmate, was released in 2011 an d was followed by the single, Vigre Sharabi, in 2012.
New year’s eve 2012 gave him a reason to celebrate. December 31, 2012, saw the release of his second album, Batchmate 2, from which the track Lancer became a huge hit. Year 2013 not just gave him an opportunity to sing Classmate for Daddy Cool Munde Fool, but also made him sign three films as an actor.
Plans for 2014: “The three films I shot for in 2013 were Mr & Mrs 420 (featuring Yuvraj Hans, Binnu Dhillon, Jaswinder Bhalla and Babbal Rai), director Manjit Mann’s Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, where I play Gurdas Mann’s younger brother, and Mundeya Toh Bachke Rahi (with Roshan Prince and Simran Kaur Mundi). These movies feature my songs; I’m looking forward to their release in 2014, besides the launch of my album.”3) Kaur B, 23, Navagaon, Patran, Sangrur
Background: From singing at school functions to singing shabads at Gurduwara Sahib, the singer in Kaur B (AKA Baljinder Kaur) grew gradually. Her voice, with hints of typical Punjabi folk, came into the limelight first at Mh1’s Awaz Punjab Di 3 (2010), where she figured among the top 5. This feat was then followed by being one of the top 5 contestants in Voice of Punjab and the first runner-up in Voice of Punjab 2, in August 2011.
The young girl rose to fame in the first few months of 2013. Her track, Classmate, for Daddy Cool Munde Fool in March 2013, made her debut as a playback singer, and was followed by singles such as Just Desi: Pizza Hut (topped the ‘popular uploads’ section on Speed Record’s official channel), Anjami Dhi Di Maa, Zulfa De Naag, Miss U, Velly Jatt, Allah Hun and Preeto (for Viyah 70km). She says, “After Miss Pooja and Sudesh Kumari, Punjab was waiting for a female singer; that’s what listeners found in me.”
Plans for 2014: “A religious track, followed by a romantic one.”
Background: Hardy Sandhu started out as a cricketer, representing India in U-19 category and playing the Ranji Trophy. After an injury, Hardy took to music and released his first album, This is Hardy Sandhu, in 2012, which saw hits such as Aashqyi Te Loan and Tequilla Shot.
You aren’t a love bird if you haven’t heard Punjabi song Soch. The heart-melting lyrics and video of the song gave a well-deserved kick to Hardy’s career. “Virsa Art’s direction, the video that shows me as a mentally-challenged person, has more than one million views, and counting,” says Hardy.
Plans for 2014: “Punjabi movie Yaaran Da Katchup — shot in 2013, to be released in 2014 — will have a few tracks sung by me. My next album will also be out next year.”
5) Ranjit Bawa, 24, GurdaspurBackground: "In Class 6, I sang a song at school which was really appreciated. My music teacher Master Mangal trained me and made sure I participated in music competitions," recalls Bawa. While doing his graduation from Guru Nanak College, Batala, and post-graduation at Khalsa College, Amritsar, Bawa participated in competitions for six consecutive years and came first each time. "For those six years, I sang the Pakistani song, Bol Miti Deya Baweya, which made me popular as ‘Bawa’. In 2011, my first song came out in multi-artiste album Mulajhedariya. Then, I did my Masters in music from GNDU."
His 2013 release, Jatt Di Akal, from multi-artiste album Panj-Aab, was a huge hit. Then, a track called Azadi, followed by Tere Naal Naal Jawan, Kudi Tu Pataka and recently released Jean, gave Bawa the needed impetus.
Plans for 2014: A track called Lahore, based on the Partition, is set to be released on January 15, followed by another single, Taqdeer, in February. March 2014 will see the release of his debut album, Mitti Da Bawa.
6) Amber Vashisht, 21, LudhianaBackground: Currently a student of Bachelors in performing arts at Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar, Amber is a self-taught singer with a fresh, unheard-of voice.
Amber’s first commercial song gained as much popularity as the movie it was featured in. Song Akhiyan — written by lyricist Kumaar and composed by the promising Jassi Katyal — from Jatt & Juliet 2, became the talk of the town in 2013, with over 9 lakh views on YouTube. Amber shares, “Akhiyan was initially a dummy song for the film. Dummy songs are heard by the lead singer, so he/she can ascertain the lyrics and music of the track. But, when Diljit Dosanjh heard the song, he liked it and said my voice should be retained for the song.” Akhiyan also topped the charts on iTunes, among all other songs of Jatt & Juliet and Jatt & Juliet 2.
Plans for 2014: “I’m looking forward to two mellow tracks for two Punjabi films and one romantic track for a Hindi film. I’m also working on my single, as playback singing doesn’t always let you do what you desire,” says Amber.
Background: Prabh’s YouTube release, Tere Bina, fetched him popularity in 2009. Before his official album released, he already had 13 singles out, four of which he had penned himself.
December 2012 saw him release his debut album, Endless, songs Tamanna, Gabhru Mul Wikde, Notorious Jatt and Jaan from which gained popularity in 2013. “Recently released track, Billi Akh, is also gaining popularity! Since all my songs are romantic, I have a better youth-connect,” says Prabh.
Plans for 2014: “A devotional track, Shukar Dateya, will be released in the first week of January 2014, followed by romantic songs for three Punjabi films.”
8) Jasmine Sandlas, 28, California
By the end of 2012, her first commercial album, Gulabi, was out. Video for the song Tere Vangu was released in June 2013. Having done her debut album with Bohemia, Jasmine says, “Bohemia produced some great beats for Gulabi. The song, Adhi Rati, received recognition worldwide. We are both from California, so we understand each other’s music style,” she says and adds, “I think being an underdog in California has taught me what works for me as an artiste. I write most of my songs, co-produce all beats and make my own compositions. All my songs are about girl power!”
Plans for 2014: “I am currently shooting three music videos for my second album Gulabi Sqaured in California. The first single is called End Karade and its audio was released worldwide in December 2013, except India.”
9) Harf Cheema, 24, Cheema, SangrurBackground: As a student of mechanical engineering at Chandigarh Group of Colleges, Landran, Harf acquir ed a hobby of writing songs and shayari. "I have been reading a lot of literature and am inspired by people such as Pash, Surjit Singh Pathar and Shiv Kumar Batalvi," says Harf.
On January 1, 2013, Harf released his track CK, Gucci followed by Punjabiye Zubane, Hostel and 7 Phase, which gained him immense popularity. “Punjab’s audience is lyrics-oriented. Listeners from Delhi and Mumbai can still be won over by just music; not Punjabis,” comments he.
Plans for 2014: “My debut album, Harf, is ready and will be released next year. This year, I will focus on live concerts more, as I find them challenging. It’s easy to sing in a studio; singing on stage in front of a live audience is an altogether different ballgame.”
Background: Born in Sialkot, Bilal was quick at learning. “As a kid, when I saw some singers perform live, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I started writing my own songs in Class 8. In July 2011, I launched my first song, 12 Saal, which fortunately became a worldwide hit.”
His debut album, Twelve, released on 20-12-2012, and the songs gained popularity in 2013. On his collaboration with Dr Zeus, he says, “I loved Kangna by Dr Zeus and always dreamt of working with him. Getting the opportunity to finally work with him was a dream come true. Since I am a music producer myself, in Twelve I didn’t stick to one genre; the album was more urban-desi.”
11) Kulbir Jhinjer, 25, Kharora, Fatehgarh Sahib
Background: Here’s another classic case of success via YouTube. Kulbir, who uploaded the track College Di Fer Yaad on YouTube in 2010, gained immense popularity in Punjab right after. “It was only the love I got after this song that gave me the confidence to sing more songs,” says he.
Kulbir might have never managed to release an album had his group of five friends not pooled in for finances (around `22 lakh). Finally, in February 2013, he came up with Vehli Janta, followed by a single, Classroom.
Plans for 2014: “I’m waiting for my second album to release in 2014.”
12) Hardik Trehan, 22, ChandigarhBackground: Son of Gaurav Trehan, director of Catrack Entertainment, a renowned filmmaker and lyricis t, singer Hardik Trehan is currently doing his degree in music from Allahabad University.
Hardik might be one-song old, but his song, Mohabtaan, from Punjabi movie Sikander, declared him a promising singer. “When my track released, it came as a surprise for my friends that I can sing! They used to think I could only play the guitar,” he says and adds, “Though I’m working on creating my own USP, composer Jatinder Shah tells me I have a different vocal texture.
This might be the reason behind Mohabtaan’s popularity.”
Plans for 2014: “I’m working on my debut album, the music for which would be given by veteran music composer Jatinder Shah.”
13) Mitika Kanwar, 24, Chandigarh and Adamya Sharma, 25, Panchkula
Background: Duo Mitika and Adamya’s tracks are a welcome break from the loud, run-of-the-mill Punjabi songs. While Sa Re Ga Ma Pa runner-up and one-Bollywood-track-old — Habibi from film Aazaan — Mitika is a trained classical singer, Aadmya is a third-generation musician who is also a composer, guitarist and vocalist. Adamya also runs the Gandharva Mahavidyalya, started by his late grandfather Pandit RC Dutt, in Panchkula. Into music for a decade now, his influences shifted from rock to classical to EDM.
Adamya says, “We recorded a few tracks, such as Mahiya, during a regular jam session in the studio in 2012. The reason we don’t have many ‘views’ on YouTube (about 3,000) is because most singers spend huge sums of money on promotion; we don’t.” Similarly, their recent Punjabi track, Duur Rehke, which was written by Manjot Kaur, has the same number of views.
Plans for 2014: While both of them would continue to bring us similar soulful tracks, Adamya also plans to come up with a track called Cash Te Hash, with rapper Sahil Shandilya.