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Posted at: Apr 3, 2018, 12:56 AM; last updated: Apr 3, 2018, 12:56 AM (IST)

‘I’ve logged out of Punjabi music’

Rabbi Shergill, who is on the verge of compiling his new album that may feature a song by Lal Singh Dil, says Punjabi music today lacks expression and is quite shallow
‘I’ve logged out of Punjabi music’

Amarjot Kaur

Here’s the making of a Punjabi song: The boisterous bruah! or Balle Balle! has to be garnished with occasional sounds of gunshots going ‘bang bang’, shot by a tall, macho man, preferably a jatt boy. There’s a gori chitti Punjabi girl, who apparently needs a car, preferably a ‘Jaguar’; she may even demand a jutti from the guy. And, of course, a woman has no say. Her part of the lyrics will be sung by the man who takes pride in gulping down Patiala Pegs or char bottles of vodka.  People demand such music and videos, that’s why they are made; it’s a clear justification from the big labels and most Punjabi singers. 

Then you catch hold of someone like Rabbi Shergill, the man who sang Bulla ki jaana main kaun at the time when Punjabi music lovers were dancing to Jazzy B’s Soorma. Of course, you couldn’t dance to Bulla ki jaana at a wedding because it may not provoke a drunk to indulge in celebratory gunfire! The song, however, got Rabbi the much-needed appreciation and it gave a little respite to those Punjabis who were looking to sift Punjab’s ‘culture’ from ‘agriculture’. Five minutes before going on stage at Kasauli Rhythm and Blues Festival, Rabbi connects with Tribune Life+Style over the phone. 

Independent lane

Anything new you plan to come up with? “I am working on my own album and there’s some film music as well; it will be releasing in a few months,” he says. Rabbi has come a long way since his watershed eponymous debut album’s release in 2005. Firmly ensconced in the role of the rebellious/uncompromising, though a wee bit elusive artiste, he has avoided treading the path of maximum returns and instead chose to keep the flag of independent music flying during its bleakest phase. 

He recently released his song Tun Milen – The Ghost of LSD, an invocation of the late Punjabi poet Lal Singh Dil on his own O3 Records. “I can’t give you the name of the album just yet,” he says, but shares, “This one is a collection of nine songs and I will be singing some other people’s verses this time around; most of these songs are from the poems written by poets like Lal Singh Dil and Harbhajan Singh. I am toying with the idea of walking with the giants of our literary heritage,” he says. It’s strange how Punjab’s poetry and literature reflect nothing of what is reflected in the lyrics of Punjabi songs. While we continue to wonder, Rabbi hurries through the conversation. “Just give me five minutes,” he says to the man who keeps calling him on stage.

Rock ‘n’ roll

When asked about Punjabi music and his space in it, he dissects mainstream Punjabi music in two genres: There’s Punjabi melody and there’s hip hop, he says. “My melody is not Punjabi, my language is Punjabi; and my music is ‘rock ‘n’ roll’. While most Punjabi music is structured within 20-30 compositions and Punjabi melody has an undeniable connection with people, and hip hop being a flexible medium connects with people too. Rock ‘n’ roll, however, is structured and inflexible,” he says.

Though Rabbi logged out of Punjabi music, mainly to “preserve his sanity”, his opinion on it is not very ‘up-to-date’. “I’ve logged out of Punjabi music. I don’t keep abreast with new Punjabi music either. I feel it lacks expression and I quit listening to it because it became hopelessly shallow. I have no doubt that it is popular and mainstream, but an artist must define his own space and I just want to explore. What is Punjabi music after all? A lot of Punjabi music in UK is Punjabi music. It’s sad though that the crisis of text and lyrics has not been resolved yet,” he signs off, while rushing to the stage.


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