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Diljit Dosanjh: ‘Let’s break down language barriers with bhangra’

Updated on: 21 June,2024 06:02 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mohar Basu |

EXCLUSIVE » We’ve seen his gig and the videos. Now, we hear from Dosanjh, the first Indian to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, what it means to take Punjabi music to America’s living rooms

Diljit Dosanjh: ‘Let’s break down language barriers with bhangra’

The singer belted out his hits, Born to shine and GOAT. Pics/Instagram

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Diljit Dosanjh: ‘Let’s break down language barriers with bhangra’

At the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2023, when Diljit Dosanjh announced on stage, ‘Punjabi aa gaye oye’, he meant business. In the year since, the Punjabi singer-actor has made his mark in the international scene. His latest feat—becoming the first Indian artiste to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. American late-night television has largely restricted its guest list to Hollywood stars and mainstream celebrities. But Dosanjh broke that barrier for India as he, sporting traditional Punjabi attire and a white turban, belted out his hits, Born to shine, and GOAT.

So, what is going on in Dosanjh’s mind after the heady week? In a chat with mid-day, days after the appearance, he says that he viewed it as an opportunity to showcase the rich traditions and rhythms of Punjabi music to the international audience. “This Fallon gig isn’t just about me, it’s about showing the world what Punjabi music can do. We have the energy, the stories, the beats to make your heart happy, no matter where you are from. Let’s break down these language barriers with some bhangra! Like I say, Punjabi aa gaye oye,” he exclaims.

Dosanjh taught Fallon  the Punjabi greeting, Sat sri akal
Dosanjh taught Fallon  the Punjabi greeting, Sat sri akal

The Punjabi star’s video with Jimmy Fallon—where he taught the host to say ‘Sat sri akal’—has gone viral. An unforgettable experience is how he describes their meeting. “Jimmy’s energy and enthusiasm are infectious. Being on such an iconic show is an honour. I was drawn to music because it can bridge cultures and bring people together. I’m excited to keep sharing my music, culture and story with new audiences.”

At a time when local music emanating from different parts of the world is taking over the international scene, Dosanjh says music is a way of making people feel seen. “Seeing Punjabi music reach mainstream America is nothing short of revolutionary for me, both as an artist and as an Indian. I have always believed how local can truly become global and this is one such moment. My music and my appearance (on the show) is a celebration of our community and our impact on the global stage. I'm honoured to be part of this journey, proving that our roots have such power. I think a lot of Punjabi people and Indian people felt seen with me being out there performing. This is a powerful feeling for a community that has struggled to feel represented. This is us embracing our identity and I am glad I get to have a small role to play in it. I'm deeply proud to be part of this wave and excited to see where it leads us next."

Diljit’s performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is more than just a personal milestone, says Sonal Singh - his manager, who is rightly credited as the force behind his success. She told us,"It is a defining moment for Punjabi music on the global stage, something he has worked relentlessly for. Witnessing his journey from mesmerizing Coachella to captivating audiences worldwide on the ‘Dil-Luminati’ tour has been extraordinary. This shows the incredible reach and influence of Punjabi music and his music, breaking traditional barriers of American television. Diljit’s performances are set to introduce the vibrant spirit of Punjab to a whole new audience, showcasing the richness of our culture. We are immensely proud of Diljit and excited for what this means for the future of Punjabi music.” 

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