Punjabi songs are a craze not just in Punjab but in neighbouring states of Haryana, Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan as well.
Of course, most of the listeners in these regions don’t understand Punjabi, but that doesn’t stop them from grooving to the Punjabi beats and performing on the floor in DJ-hired weddings like there is no tomorrow.
Punjabi songs have often been rightly accused of promoting fukrapanti (fukra in Punjabi refers to worthless, yet boastful youngster) and goon culture.
Most of the songs glorify Sikh Jatts, lionise rural gabrus (youth), mock urban youth, objectify women, presenting them in the worst possible form (gold diggers, materialistic, untrustworthy, cheats and what not) and showcase lead singers dancing with the whitest of white models from abroad, living in palatial mansions, and wearing Gucci-Armani outfits, while driving Lamborghini-Audi-Ferrari-Porsche cars (of course, all hired on rent for the shoot of the songs).
Now, when the farmers from Punjab are protesting against the farm reforms of the Central government, most Punjabi singers, including the ones based in Europe and the Americas, have pressed themselves into action by launching many songs on YouTube over the past couple of months.
Given that the opposition against farm reforms has struck a chord among Punjabis in India and the diaspora, the songs are raking in millions of views, incentivising even mediocre singers and has-been stars to contribute something towards the movement by lending their voices.
The problem is that the songs sung in support of these farmers are exhibiting all the bad aforementioned attributes Punjabi songs are infamous for (and some more).
Kisan Anthem, a song executed by 10 Punjabi and one Haryanvi singers in collaboration, has garnered 1.7 crore views since it was released more than a month back.
The song starts with lines ‘Swaraja peeche barigate paaye hoye ne, Jatt ni Punjabo ae aaye hoye ni‘ (Swaraj tractors have pushed the police barricades back, Jatts from Punjab have come’.
From a song allegedly branded as ’kisan anthem’, one would expect more references to farmers than one caste. 'Kisan' is mentioned only five times, while 'Jatt' 16 times.
Another line from the song tells Delhi to be careful, for the Jatts are coming.
One of the singers who contributed her bit is Afsana Khan. She sings thus: “Jinna nu tu aatankwaadi kehndi Delhi ae, Je aatankwaadi hogaye to sambhale ni jaane” (Those who you call terrorists oh Delhi, if they become terrorists, you won’t be able to control them).
It seems that history is not the strong forte of the lyricist Shree Brar. Brar was arrested on 5 January from Mohali for promoting gun culture in one of his earlier songs.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh justified his arrest saying that ‘promoting gangsterism and gun culture was absolutely wrong’.
Most songs lament the use of word ‘aatankwadi’ (terrorists) for protesting farmers. However, what is conveniently forgotten is the fact that such accusations are thrown against elements like Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu (also seen in Kisan Anthem) who have openly defended terrorists like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
Then, there are songs in support of ‘farmers’ which eulogise Khalistanis and Bhindranwale.
Panjab (Motherland), a song with almost 90 lakh views released by Sidhu Moose Wala, one of the most famous singers in Punjab today, starts with a speech delivered by Khalistani firebrand leader Bharpur Singh Balbir in 1982 in the presence of Bhindranwale.
The excerpts of the speech used in the song are: ‘Raj di gal Kyun na kariye. Assi maala phad ke Hindustan de kisi math de pujaari ni banna chauhnde’ (Why not talk of self-rule? We don’t wish to just hold prayer beads and become priests in some math in Hindustan).
The same song goes on to show visuals of Bhindranwale walking with his followers.
Bhindranwale again appears (this time with an arrow in his hand) when the lyrics ‘Oh Santa de Hathan Vich Fadeya Teer De Warga Ni, Dhake Naal Jihnu Dab Loge Kashmir De Warga Ni’ play (This is not like the arrow in the hand of saints. It is not like Kashmir that you can suppress it by force).
It would be appropriate to say that the song borders on sedition. ‘Mud Toh Bade Khilaaf Tu Ditte Order Dilli’ae Ni, Oh Bhulli Na Mainu Vi Lagde Border Dilli’ae Ni’ (You have given orders against me from the beginning, oh Delhi. Don’t forget I am a border-State) is as old a dog-whistle as the Khalistani movement.
Bhindranwale is called as ‘teer wale baba’ in Punjabi popular culture and has many songs dedicated to him with that title on YouTube with comments section filled with Khalistani sympathisers praising the ‘great Sant’.
Kanwal Grewal, another singer who is releasing songs left right and centre these days, released ’Akhan Khol’ (open your eyes) in support of the farmers a couple of months back.
It ends with Bhindranwale’s speech where he exhorts his supporters to fight for their rights. ‘You can do it today or you can do it later, but you will have to do it one day’ is the excerpt of the speech featured in the song.
The video has more than 22 lakh views.
Another song ‘Baagian De Kisse’ (We have grown up listening to stories of rebels) with around 20 lakh views has the line ‘Oh kamre che photo teera waale babe di‘ (we keep photo of ‘teer wale baba’ aka Bhindranwale in rooms).
Popular singer Gippy Grewal’s song ‘Zaalim Sarkaaran’ (Tyrant governments) with over 23 lakh views on YouTube warns that ‘Jhanda Fer Bagawat Da Oye Uthan Wala Ae’ (the flag of revolt is about to unfurl again).
He boasts (as a farmer) that ‘Oh Hal Chhadd Ke Paa Leya Je Assin Hath Hathiyaran Nu, Phir Wakhat Paa Deyange Zaalam Sarkaara Nu’ (If we drop the plough and wield guns in our hands, then tyrant government’s time will be over).
With such material out there, it’s hardly surprising that people will accuse some elements participating in the protests of being terrorist sympathisers. And the number of views such videos are getting, does not gave the impression of this section being a fringe group.
Of course, Jatt supremacism and pro-Khalistani and Bhindranwale imagery aren’t the only prominent features of the songs released to back the farmer protests.
Class superiority and anti-Hindu bigotry are another important facets that come out shining in some of the songs.
Ranjit Bawa, one of the most popular singers in Punjab today, released a song ‘Punjab Bolda’ on 7 December.
It has got more than 1.9 crore views on YouTube. Sample the lyrics. ‘Rab na kare je gora pher aa gaya, Le leyo aazaadi ohdon yoga karke’, says Bawa (God forbid if the British come back. Then reclaim freedom by doing yoga).
Obviously, as any historian worth his salt would testify, history is not Bawa’s strong point.
In another place in the song, Bawa is feeling nostalgic about his blood brothers in Pakistan’s Punjab. ‘Oh sohan singh bhakda khadak singh dadde aan, Reh gaye jo lahore wich ohvi khoon saade aan’, he sings (The ones who are left in Lahore are also our blood).
‘Khore kehre Rajaen de ratte marwate, aJJ de jawakan nu 84 bhul gayi’, Bawa says (children are forced to rote learn the names of many kings, but they have forgotten 1984).
Laughingly, in the song, Bawa laments that no one speaks up for water of Punjab’s rivers as if it’s not theirs. When the fact is that Punjab has hoarded all the water and constantly refuses to share it with Haryana and Rajasthan despite many treaties and court judgements.
While most songs take a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is totally fine, some show contempt for his humble beginnings and mock his tea-selling days. ’Baaghi Kisan’ by Smart-E says ‘Chah wale nu kaho cha bana le’ — ask the chai wala to make tea.
The singer goes on to threaten the national capital. ‘Shamshan tainu Delhiye bana denge, duniya dekhugi tera dhuan ud da’ (Will convert Delhi into cremation ground, world will see flames), reads the lyrics of the song.
‘Assi bande v jameen vich gadd dene aa’ (Not just the seeds, we can also bury the people in the ground), the singer warns further.
The class contempt against Modi is not an opinion of just one singer. In a short clip going viral on Instagram, a group of Sikh Jatt youth are seen warning 'chaiwala' Modi to behave (‘Mann ja cha wala mann ja’).
Sample the lyrics: ‘Charda Punjab nayi o kalla soch lo, lehnde walon aaoo ga jawab gadwan (Keep in mind that East Punjab is not all alone, a hard hitting reply will be given by West Punjab too)’.
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