Violence, Drugs, Misogyny: What’s Punjabi Music Up To?

From the traditional Sufi music to the contemporary crap, Punjabi Music Industry has only degraded. As The Tribune famously said: violence today, is not the object but the subject of Punjabi music. 

“Mangde ni khonde aa, assi putt dakuyan de”

(We don’t ask, we snatch as we are sons of looters)

The above lines are from the song “Dollar” of the Punjabi Singer – Sidhu Moosewala, who has now become a childhood and teenage favourite of everyone. Be it Punjabis themselves or any other person from a different state or culture, he is a hit among all. It’s surprising to see that a person who doesn’t really make meaningful lyrics and rather promotes gun culture, drugs, violence, etc. is earning crores of rupees, which he himself has admitted many times.

The  Punjabi Music Industry today, which was once renowned for giving Sufi and traditional music to the world, is in a real state of paralysis. All thanks to the likes of singers like Mankirat Aulakh, Karan Aujla, Sidhu Moosewala, who are actively promoting extremism. 

A few days ago, a viral video of the singer Dilpreet Dhillon’s wife was shared on Instagram. She was seen saying that Dilpreet had no time for her, drank a lot of liquor and even beat her. This clearly depicts the kind of mentality singers like him carry and perpetuate it in their songs too. That’s the reason he writes: 

  “Bhaave rakhli gulaab, bhaave mod Di, ek Baar Hawai fire honge” 

  (Either you keep the rose or reject it, but once we will shoot in the air) 

One wonders listening to all this crap, what’s Punjabi Music up to these days? Even more than that, one asks the quintessential question of how all this nonsense is going to impact the youth? Being an artist producing and writing music is one thing. But the other important thing is writing and singing responsibly. There are a lot of problems underlying the very concept of the music being produced today. But still  the success of this music is unprecedented. 

Statistics say that in the Jiosaavn App there was a 353% surge in Punjabi Music audience between January and Sep 2019. And guess what? The most listened to singer was none other than Sidhu Moosewala. This isn’t really very shocking too because his songs have reached the UK billboards too. He has also been named by The Guardian in the top 50 debutant artists. It is this soaring popularity on the foundation of ” cheap” and disgusting lyrics that worries people like me. 

No matter how much one tries to defend it in the name of art, yet music like this isn’t more than a blot.

One cannot ignore the fact that songs like these do radicalise the youngsters. Must they not be wondering, that if Sidhu Moosewala makes billions of dollars through singing about guns why can’t we? Sidhu’s latest song “Bambiha Bole” became an instant success in which he has glorified murder in the music video.

This will later lead to the vicious cycle of such songs being continually made by other rising singers too. Time and again the Punjab Government has tried to clamp down on such music. Earlier this year, the Chief Minister of the state- Capt. Amrinder Singh banned a movie made on the notorious gangster- Sukha Kahlwan. Can you imagine a movie glorifying a gangster? Well, this has not happened for the first time. Movies like “Rupinder Gandhi” which has been released already claims a gangster-like him to be “Robin hood”. In 2018, a cultural commission was proposed to be made to look after the state of music, yet nothing has happened till now. 

 This whole issue is now just not about Punjab. When “Udta Punjab” was released, there was a whole circle of the furore around it- the movie being claimed as anti-Punjab. Yet being a Punjabi myself, I can say that the movie only depicted reality. One can find the spreading tentacles of extremist Punjabi Music in the Delhi University circuit too. Aren’t all these singers a hit in the College Fests? Though many women colleges have clearly vowed to not call singers like Badshah, Yo Yo Honey Singh , Mika Singh who sing sexist songs like ” Dope Shope” and “Brown Rang“. Yet what about co-ed colleges? 

I clearly remember this year’s fest of Delhi Technological University- Engifest. Sidhu Moosewala was the chief artist. Later, a lot of videos circulated on social media showing an uncontrolled crowd crossing the barricades, climbing walls to attend his concert. And while he was singing on stage, a young man escaped the security guards and grabbed Sidhu. This all is evident of youngsters going gaga over a singer like him and reciprocating the violence in his songs in real life.

The reason behind  Social scientists saying that such voyeuristic behaviour is wrong is because of its repercussions. In a famous study by IIM’s Ahmedabad professor Dr Dheeraj Sharma, it is mentioned that out of the 2000 Punjabi songs he researched, all had elements of drugs and violence. And people who listened to such songs carried a more misogynistic and negative attitude. Besides that, it’s astonishing that most of these singers are either illiterate or have studied only till 10th or 12th. So rather than singing tunes with proper notes and raags, they just vomit out words in plain language. What kind of street culture is this that audiences claim they have brought in Punjab? There are rap songs like ” Tragedy mein Comedy” by Naezy in which there are subtle lines like :

          “Iss desh ke halaat Hain kharab…” 

Or the likes of “Kohinoor“, “Kaam 25“, which have social lyrics in cool tunes, yet they enamour us. That’s the kind of street culture Punjabi Singers should focus to bring in. Yet these bunch of people are already very rich and come from the top landlord families in Punjab. They don’t have the kinds of struggles that these “Gully Boys” had to face. Thus all they have to show off is an AK 47 or “dunali” (gun). And needless to say, there is also a tinge of caste superiority in their songs.

It’s painful to see Bollywood stars like Ranveer Singh actively liking Sidhu Moosewala , whom he has constantly praised in live Instagram videos. It’s important to realize that all these singers are male and by dominating the Punjabi Music platform through violent songs, they are side-lining their counterpart female artists who are producing good music. 

In an interview with Anupama Chopra, Guru Randhawa said that every individual has his own definition of right and wrong. Well, that’s true, but if the line between wrong and right gets blurred, it’s upon the audiences to draw it again. People support such music and thus they keep on expanding. 

It is equally shocking to see students studying in schools craving to pose with singers like Moosewala. All this is a growing manifestation of we as the youth taking interest in violence and terrorism and enjoying the songs. In fact, some of the songs Sidhu has produced has shown men posing the way in which ISIS terrorists do. Every other day, they fight on Instagram via live videos and beneath it, you will see people laughing and enjoying in comments. They are spreading hate, firing open pistols in the air even during this lockdown period and have cases slapped against them. Yet they are released. 

This whole issue isn’t just about Punjab, because today Punjabi music is in Bollywood too. We, of course, have good songs like “Ik Kudi”, “Laung Elaachi” etc. Yet we also have “Saturday Saturday” and “Brown Rang”. 

So certainly, there needs to be a strong censure on the lyrical aspect of music. 

The place I come from has great talent, yet as beautifully said by The Tribune- Today violence isn’t the object but subject of Punjabi songs. The moment you hear “Punjabi songs”, you will equate it with these singers. And that’s what needs to be tackled because there are Sufi artists like Satinder Sartaj too. The negative image of Punjabi music Industry, rising gangsters, crimes, pistol firing in weddings etc. is somehow related to the music one listens to. All that is required is enlightening the audience and administration both.

Till then, don’t stop adoring “Samjhawan”, because that’s Punjabi too! 

Featured Image Credits: Times of India

Navneet Kaur



Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history.Freedom to Express.