Popular Punjabi songs glorifying violence, with suggestive and provocative videos accompanying them are becoming a trend, inviting protests from women’s organisations and cultural groups.
Leading the pack is rap artiste Honey Singh, with many chartbusters to his credit. Honey, whose songs are being enjoyed by both children and grown-ups, has some numbers whose videos have been age-restricted by YouTube. Styled after the Gangsta rap genre, reflecting the violent lifestyles of African-American youth, Honey Singh’s music cleverly fuses rhythm and melody, which accounts for the popularity of his songs. But the explicit lyrics that leave nothing to imagination have come as a shock to many. For example, Honey Singh teamed up with Diljit Dosanjh to sing “Mitran nu shauk golian chalan da (We are fond of firing from our guns)”.
Equating the supposed Punjabi machismo with violence and guns many other popular singers have followed suit. Garry Riar is as direct when he sings, “Koi banda bunda marna tan das (Tell me if you want someone to be killed).” Raju Dinehwala sings, “Jatt di dushmani sir mangdi (an enmity with a Jatt asks for one’s head).” Bhinda Aujla threatens his girl that if she goes back on her word she would face a bullet: “Je mukar gayee taan pehli goli tere maraange.” Another singer tells his girlfriend “Vich Pajero de rakhli desi gunn (Have kept a country made gun in my Pajero).”
The macho glamour associated with guns and swanky cars has even a popular female singer, Miss Pooja, singing, “Vaili ban mitra bade darave jar lae (Be brave, we’ve had enough of threats).” A casual reference to drugs is a common refrain as Geeta Zaildar sings, “Soota la ke son gaya (went to sleep after a smoke).” Geri Route sang in a similar vein, “Daaru vi chari rakhan da chaska e yaaran nu (we are fond of being always drunk).”
There was outrage when Diljit Dosanjh sang “Pandran saal ton ghat“, referring to a girl below the age of 15 years drinking, smoking and flirting with boys: “Tu khichi javen hukka, laven ashiqi ch tukka, koi nede tede, balliye tu chadeya ni sukka, o teri machdi chilam latta lat sohniye.” He thus invited a demonstration outside his house.
In a first of its kind, a group of singers have come together to speak against the trend. Jassi Jasraj, who leads the campaign recorded a song against Honey Singh calling him the “king of vulgarity”. Protests have also been held in different towns and cities in Punjab and in Canada where a sizeable Punjabi community lives. The Istri Jagriti Manch (IJM) has held a series of demonstrations with hundreds of women protesting against what they call objectionable songs. IJM leader Gurbax Kaur Sangha accused the singers of damaging public morality and Punjab’s cultural values. She warned that if Punjabi singers failed to mend their ways the movement against them would intensify further.