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All for a song! Rise of counter-narrative to Punjabi lyrics romanticising guns, violence

After a multitude of songs glorifying guns and gangs, Punjabis, known for swearing freely — in anger, joy and sorrow — seem to be finally paying heed to a song urging them not to use expletives.

punjab Updated: Feb 14, 2018 09:54 IST
Manraj Grewal Sharma
Manraj Grewal Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
ounter-narrative,Punjabi lyrics,Punjabi songs
‘Gaal ni kadni’ has over 84 millions views on YouTube. (Youtube grab )

The Punjabi song refrain ‘Baaki jo hunda hai ho jave, veere gaal ni kadni’ (No matter what happens brother, but you will not use an expletive) is a pleasant change from a legion of songs either threatening one with getting calls from jail (jailan toh phone aunge) or spoiling for a fight to choose a place and time to sort out all doubts (jagah teri, time tera, daang meri, veham tera).

After a multitude of songs glorifying guns and gangs, Punjabis, known for swearing freely — in anger, joy and sorrow — seem to be finally paying heed to a song urging them not to use expletives.

Must read | Guns and glory from Punjab’s Gangland

Released last year, the rising popularity of ‘gaal ni kadni’ coincides with the near-rout of gangsters from the state in the last few months. Harmanjit, the 26-year-young Punjabi poet who was awarded the Yuva Puraskar by Sahitya Akademi last year, sees in its popularity a counter-narrative to lyrics romanticising violence. “These two streams have been running parallel since the 1980s, the decade that too had its share of gangs,” says the poet, who believes lyricists write what they see around them.

Romance in the air

Right now, romantic songs appear to be surging ahead —Speed Records claim Diljit Dosanjh’s husband-wife song Laembadgini (Dil tera kala mundeya) garnered over 11 million views against 34 million of Mankirt Aulakh’s ‘Dang’. Harmanjit, whose book Rani Tatt (Royal Element) went into the second edition in 10 days, is much in demand by filmmakers, and has penned the lead song of the upcoming movie ‘Laung Laachi’.

“Songs with a tempo between 85 and 88 beat per minute do very well in Punjab, for it’s easy to groove to such numbers.” — Joban Sandhu, Punjabi singer

Harp Farmer, aka Harpreet Singh, an actor, director and producer, is glad to see meaningful melodies making a comeback. “Lyrics and music work on one’s mind and emotions. If you hear something good, you feel good and think good.”

Aware of the didactic role of music, the Punjab Police are now trying to make singers tone down the violence in their lyrics. Pandit Rao Dharennavar, a sociology lecturer at Government Co-ed College, Sector 46, Chandigarh, who filed a PIL (public interest litigation) in the Punjab and Haryana high court in December 2016, urging the Punjab government to set up a regulatory authority to censor unpalatable lyrics, is happy with this development.

“We must weed out songs that pollute minds. I am glad the Punjab Police have swung into action,” says the academician from Karnataka, who taught himself Punjabi in 2003, and now takes an ardent interest in the language.

Audience to blame?

But Harmanjit warns that it’s a two-way process. “Four people make a song, but what about the four crore who make it popular? You can’t blame the singers alone.”

Singers claim it’s all about demand. As Joban Sandhu of Set Jatt fame, explains, “Songs with a tempo between 85 and 88 beat per minute do very well in Punjab, for it’s easy to groove to such numbers.”

Lyrics, he says, are secondary and people take to the beats first. Harp Farmer agrees, citing the mere 20,000 plus views received by the recently released track ‘Chidiyan’, by Manraj Patar with lyrics by his father Surjit Patar, the renowned poet and chairman of Punjab Arts Council.

Meanwhile, ‘Gaal ni kadni’ singer Parmeesh Verma is raking in the goodwill with a US tour followed by a concert in Delhi on the Valentine’s. His father Satish Verma, a Punjabi University professor and an artiste in his own right, jokes he’s now known as Parmeesh’s father. “I won’t comment on the industry, but positivity pays,” he sums up.

First Published: Feb 14, 2018 09:54 IST