Gurdas Maan discusses Punjabi folk music's place in contemporary times and why his latest track has struck a chord with the audience
At a time when Badshah's Baby Ko Bass, Yo Yo Honey Singh's Bomb Lagdi Mainu and Diljit Dosanjh's Patiala Peg have become chartbusters, 60-year-old Punjabi singer Gurdas Maan is still coming to terms with the overwhelming response to his three-week-old track, Punjab.
The song, which puts the spotlight on social issues, received over nine million views within a week of its release. Maan's younger contemporaries, including Dosanjh, have often complained that their folk selections seldom earn the kind of attention that their commercial numbers do.
The trend, they say, compels them to shift focus to the latter. However, in a conversation with mid-day, Maan highlights why this notion isn't accurate, and discusses the effect that his track has had on the audience.
Your younger contemporaries have responded to questions about offensive lyrics in commercial songs by stating that they fare better than Punjabi folk songs. Do you agree?
No, that's not the case. Whenever an artiste delivers great content, the audience showers love on it. My track is testimony to this fact. If you give it a thought, why would anyone wish to hear a song on Punjab? But they have applauded it because it addresses crucial issues. Good content will always be celebrated.
You've used your music to address issues that have plagued Punjab, especially drug abuse. Why is this one close to your heart?
I have earned a lot of respect because of the Punjabi language. It's my duty to address concerns of the state. Water contamination, use of technology and consumption of drugs have affected people. So, we realised we needed to stop the future generations from falling prey to these habits.
Why did you depend on a nine-year-old impersonation of Bhagat Singh to deliver this message?
Kids in Punjab don't go out and play. They are perpetually with their gadgets, and get irritated when you take their phones away. If kids are so annoyed at this age, what will happen to them in future? [In the video] we showcased the young boy flying because we wanted the kids to connect
And, how has the result been?
Kids are watching the song on loop. We received a message from a boy, who wanted to quit his addictions and work towards the betterment of Punjab. Even if a few benefit from the song, we'll be happy.
What inspires you to create the kind of music you do?
The audience. I am inspired by the emotions I witness while performing live. One of my most popular tracks, Roti Haq Di, was created out of a line I crooned in the midst of a performance, when I saw a little boy sit right under the stage and polish people's boots to make money.