Defining vulgarity is the first step towards laying down a criteria for the government of what is to be banned. Sensitivities and sensibilities vary from person to person,from men to women,from cities to rural areas,from one country to another. A recent survey has revealed that Yo Yo Honey Singh has amassed wealth of more than four million dollars by singing popular Punjabi songs. It is no small feat indeed in terms of money-making and also in terms of inflated ego to be an aspirant for the Grammy award. It surely alludes to the fact that people like his songs. He has 26 million fans on social media and 450 million plus downloads on YouTube videos to his credit. There are his critics and others who condemn him out rightly for his vulgarity but he slaps back saying: ‘I do not force people to listen to my songs. They like it and I sing.’ This raises still more serious question about relation between ‘vulgarity’ and Punjabi society.
Yo Yo’s notoriety dates back to early stages of his singing career when he was charged with floating Main hun balatkari. Some feminist groups protested. He denies. Some filed suits against him that could not stand legal testimony. Nevertheless, controversy prevails. His new hit Desi kalakar is intriguing too. I am not a tracker of his songs but wherever one may go to attend a social ceremony of ‘ladies sangeet’ before marriage followed by ‘reception’ in honour of the newly weds, a child’s birthday bash, a students’ ‘freshers’ and ‘farewell’ party, Honey Singh’s songs are inevitably played. The intolerably high volume of the digital jockeys (DJ) sound amplifying system does not let remain anyone aloof from the songs played there. Thus one inevitably gets a heavy dose of Punjabi popular sopngs that have transcended the boundaries of the state of Punjab well into the remote areas in the Himalayas and deep into the Hindi heartland.
Trying to make sense of his new song Desi kalakar in league with other hits like Char botal Vodka etc. one inevitably tends to affirm his affiliation with Main hun balatkari. For him that could be the litmus test for Punjabi youth’s inclination to ‘vulgarity’ or popular music. He got their palate, hence delivers in the KFC mode.
Desi kalakar may be seen in relation to Punjabi society’s culture and history. It seems 21stcentury incarnation of Mirza. One may find parallels between the two. A conspicuous link is – Main putt Jutt da, mannda ni haar (literally I, the son of a peasant know not defeat). It was Mirza only who could say that given his inflated ego. He had the courage to take away Sahiban, his beloved from her home when the marriage party had already arrived. Cutting the long story short, Mirza defying the social norms and the strength of his beloved’s family succeeds in running away with her. Despite the fact that they were being chased, he decides resting for a while under the shade of a tree. Sahiban tries to dissuade him and pleads to continue with the journey to his village. He brushes aside her appeals and scolds her for being timid and undermining his prowess. He asserts that she should confide in him and remain assured that he will slay all her brothers chasing them one by one. Finally, the chasing party caught him napping while his arrows were put atop the tree by Sahiban as she knew he would kill them all. The lady caught between her lover and her brothers could neither save herself nor her lover. Mirza dies cursing Sahiban for her deceit.