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Features |  17 Jan 2018 19:21 |  By Tanmaya Vyas

Beyond the vibrant Bhangara lies the soothing Punjabi Spiritual Music

MUMBAI: In the age of fast-paced music and pop stars emerging everyday and vanishing the very next day, it’s heartening to see almost every home-grown music label having a segment for devotional music. What is even more heart-warming is to see this segment is flourishing even today. Sony, Shemaroo, T-Series, Times Music, Saregama and every other label produces and supports devotional music. While Bollywood rules the charts in terms of popularity and there is a surge in streaming apps, devotional music still keeps the defunct market of CDs and cassettes buzzing.

India is known for being spiritually inclined and each region has a rich history, music and unique culture attached. Punjab as a region is known for its vibrant and expressive culture and thus they have music for all their festivals and special occasions, as is the case for most Indian tribes. Be it the harvest festival Lohri to their glamorous weddings, Punjabis celebrate every occasion with music and find peace too, with music.

Sikhism, as a religion, has a deep connection with music as their holy book, Guru Granth Sahib ji, which is revered by Sikhs as well as Non-Sikhs, has a compilation of over five thousand hymns in over 22 languages by 33 composers of various ethnicities, which are recited at every Gurudwara. These recitations are known as Shabad Kirtaans and they are set to metered taal and time defining raags, for instance, raag Asa for morning, raag bilawal for noon, and raag dhanasri for the evening. However, this can’t be termed as music, as it is not meant for entertainment but is practised to establish a spiritual connect.

However, there is a huge demand for this and for devotees; it is a blessing to have the content documented for them. Many music labels have come forth and done the job of documenting the form. T-Series, which has been a pioneer in devotional music, started with recording this form way back in the 1980s with artistes.

T-Series president-digital & legal Neeraj Kalyan shared, “Punjabi devotional music commonly known as ‘Shabads’ is soul-stirring and T-Series pioneered to cater the need of this segment long back in the 1980s and since then T-Series has continued to serve the demand for Shabad and Gurbani to discerning audiences worldwide. ”

There are many mainstream artists who sing, perform on Punjabi devotional tracks occasionally like Gurdas Maan, Amrinder Gill, Miss Pooja, Akshay Kumar, Ranjit Bawa, Harjit Harman among others. At the time of any specific festival-like celebration of Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s birth anniversary or Guru Purab the demand and consumption of devotional music increases.

The audience for this genre of music is vast and has reached foreign boundaries too, considering the Sikh and Punjabi populace spread across the globe. As this the digital age, there are multiple sites from where the Punjabi music can be accessed and downloaded like Sikh Sangeet,, also has a section with live recordings of Shabd Kirtaans at Golden temple. YouTube, like always is extremely resourceful and has many channels for spiritual music like BhaktiSangeet and Traditional music channel with massive base of 305,000 that encapsulates devotional music of each faith, it has a dedicated tab for Punjabi spiritual music, while there are some special Sikhism based channels like Discover Sikhism with a subscriber base of around 50,000.

The non-Sikh community is an ardent worshipper of Vaishnav Devi and therefore bhajans offered for the goddess are massively hit in the Punjab region and Punjabi who don’t reside in Punjab. This segment, apart from having original bhajans and compositions is replete with rip-offs of Hindi chartbusters with new lyrics praising the goddess. They are played around the temple premises, in cars, trucks, and the mandatory Mata ki Chowki that take place after any joyous occasion in most of the Punjabi households.

Harshdeep Kaur, popularly known as “Queen of Sufi” said, “I sang my first Shabd Kirtan when I was in school and still continue to sing. In this stressful world, we need some meditative source and kirtans are the best way to experience it. On my own Youtube channel, I have published only Jaap or Simran (Chants) for Wahe Guruji. The response for devotional music is always overwhelming as people follow it religiously.”

Most of the admired Punjabi artistes like Daler Mehndi, Hans Raj Raj, Gurudas Mann or the current Bollywood discovery Diljit Dosanjh have shown inclination for spiritual music and also sung them.

The most sought after star Daler Mehndi shared, “I have sung devotional songs for every faith from Hanuman Chailsa to Sufi to rare renditions for Jainism.  For me Gurbani is the higher purpose of life and growing up in an atmosphere which was full of rich kirtaans and trained for the same, I feel extremely blessed. My day starts with prayer and I am in perpetual prayer mode. I also start all my live shows with reciting prayers.”

The artiste also has own record label called Drecord which has featured him and many other artistes and has Gurubani in his voice under the same label and is available on YouTube.

The audience has seen plug-in of this side of Punjabi music in various mainstream Bollywood films too like Rang De Basanti, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and many more.