A Soulful Hitmaker
Bollywood get ready, Jaz Dhami is all about meaningful Punjabi music
Punjabi music has the fun side as well as
WHEN WE heard British musician Jaz (aka Jaswinder Singh) Dhami’s melodious Zulfa, we were pleasantly surprised. Here was a British rapper/musician/ bhangra artist singing in Punjabi, without belting out a club track about girls and their “dope shope” habits (like Yo Yo Honey Singh). But the lyrics had depth too: “Tu paa zulfa de jaal jaal, neele naina de naal naal” (roughly, “You weave a web with your tresses and your blue eyes”). And then we listened to High Heels, on which Honey Singh also raps, and which blames a girl’s high heels for the all the trouble in the world. Yes, he could do both well.
MIXING IT UP Dhami’s ability to switch from poet to pop-machine will come in handy for an Indie and Bollywood career. But how does another Brit bhangra artist stand out in a sea of the multitude of similar artists who have been trying to make it in India for the last decade (right from Apache Indian to Bally Sagoo)? Jaz is really not perturbed by that question. “Firstly, I don’t see any artist as competition. We’re all contemporaries and there is room for everyone,” he says. “Secondly, I think my style is fairly unique to me – I don’t fit the mould of the typical bhangra singer, which is why you haven’t heard me sing many of the run-of-themill bhangra tracks (I would like to do a couple, though). I like to challenge myself vocally and have made sure my collection of songs showcases my versatility, which includes even folk and pop.”
PUNJABI’S GOT SOUL Dhami started learning music when his father placed a harmonium in front of him at age nine, and has studied Indian classical music in Punjab, along with earning a Popular Music diploma in the United Kingdom.
This combination of technique and worldly knowledge could be the reason for his 2012 single with Honey Singh. High Heels, went viral (it has well over three crore views on YouTube). One would think that there is a formula for a hit song – especially the addition of sexy girls. “No! I don’t think there’s a formula for making a song a hit,” he responds. “I feel like you lose focus on the creative part of making a song if you start thinking whether it will be a hit or not. The plan is always to make a good song and have a great visual to go with it.”
He does think that the genre of Punjabi music is one that has helped him grow. “That kind of music has an advantage. It’s got a fun side that makes you want to dance, then it’s got the soulful elements, too. Punjab was a big region before partition – ghazals, qawwalis, bhangra, Sufi and Punjabi folk all hail from the same region, so it’s all part of what influences my music.”
Next on the agenda is a song for an Abhishek Bachchan starrer, another song with Dr Zeus (he’s the one with that big ’90s hit,
and a collaboration with American rapper French Montana. He’s got the tunes, now it’s all about taking over the world, one Punjabi song at a time.