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Bhangra - A Celebration Past Cultural Barriers

“Punjab is a land of plenty, of large hearted people and of life. Green fields, hard working men and women and good food are things that come to mind when thinking of Punjab but something that is even more characteristic are the beats of the Bhangra.”

Bhangra, because of its liveliness, has gained popularity all over the country. Its catchy beats and up tempo music can be heard everywhere today. It’s popularity can be attributed to many who helped bring it out of Punjab and spread it all over the country. But there is one man in particular whose name has now become synonymous with Bhangra. He is a husband, a father and a world-renowned entertainer. He popularized Bhangra like no one else before and spread it not only all over the country but all over the world. He has won many national and international awards for his excellent work. The man is Daler Mehndi.

Daler Mehndi’s love for music was cultivated by his parents who lived in the beauty of Illahi Bani (divine music). He trained under Ustad Rahat Ali Khan of Gorakhpur and imbibed the Patiala Gharana style of Hidustani Classical music. In 1991 he formed his own group and by 1995 had a hit album, Bolo Ta Ra Ra which broke all records. The subsequent albums were greater superhits. His popularity doubled when he sang for Amitabh Bacchan’s comeback movie Mrityudata. His peppy Sadde Naal number was danced to by people of all ages. Daler’s patriotic song Wajah Muskurane ki commemorate 50 years of Indian Independence. He is currently working on songs for the forthcoming movie Khauf.

There were other before him and many after him who tried to popularize Bhangra. But none has matched the appeal and excellence of Daler’s work. He has toured all over the world – Asia, Africa, America, Australia and Europe. Everywhere he was met with the same enthusiasm as in India. His songs, though Punjabi in language and rhythm, manage to surpass cultural barriers and provide quality entertainment to people different languages.

This is evident from the fact that Daler’s album Bolo Ta Ra Ra sold 100,000 copies in southern India where Punjabi is almost a foreign language ! This performance has not been repeated by any other Punjabi artist again. Also at the Tam Tam festival in France, Daler received rave reviews. Thus making him the indisputable king of Bhangra Pop !

The reasons behind Daler Mehndi’s popularity and sustained success are many. His energetic performance and stage charisma pull large crowds at shows. His attire, specially his bejeweled turban, makes him stand out in a crowd of Punjabi performers. He writes and composes most of his music. His dance style, particularly his hand movements are greatly enjoyed and mimicked by his fans. Daler is a very versatile performer. Though he mainly sings Punjabi songs, he is equally comfortable singing in Hindi. All these factors enhance his originality which sets him a class apart. And of course Bhangra itself manages to attract a lot of sustained interest.

Daler Mehndi’s popularity can be gauged by the fact that he won Channel V’s Best Male Pop Singer Award for two consecutive years (1996 and 1997). He also won the Pride of Performance Award by the British Royal Arts Academy in 1998, making him the only Asian to receive this prestigious award in this century. In 1997, two of his songs won him two different awards. One for Channel V and the other for the Screen Videocon Award. This goes to show that the king can churn out more than one hit at the same time.

Originally Bhangra was danced on Baisakhi, which is the harvest celebration festival, but today no reason is needed to enjoy this exciting dance. A night at the disco is incomplete without a dance of Daler’s music. In fact, it is rare to come back home without it.

This king of Bhangra pop is not just an entertainer but also a philanthropist. Ninety per cent of his shows are for Charitable causes such as the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund – Jammu, for raising funs for schools for Police Welfare Funds, etc. On the outskirts of Delhi there is a facility where people from all sections of society can go and enjoy a full meal for free any time of the day or night. This is the Daler Mehndi Food for Life Society. It is financed by Daler himself. The Daler Singh Mehndi Green Drive is another example of his magnanimity.

It is an effort at promoting clean, healthy living through a cleaner, healthier and safer environment. Some of the activities of the Green Drive will be providing garbage bins at strategic locations in Delhi and ensuring their servicing, it will convert dry leaves to compost and provide eco-friendly trees to participating schools and give of these schools. Daler also did charity shows in U.K. in aid of Cancer that generated Five Lac Pounds !

DM Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., the company formed by Daler Mehndi, was started primarily for managing Daler’s expanding career and then to provide employment, spread broad-based awareness in terms of music, environment and social issues. Through DM Entertainment Daler wants to provides a platform to new artists and successfully reintroduce forgotten talent.

He wants to provide quality shows and set trends in bringing forth all styles of music. Daler is the pioneer in this direction and with his help there will be others who will walk in his path and continue his work. Daler’s honest efforts, hard work and sincere concern are paving his way to continued success.