From Gurdaspur to the Globe: A journey of a million dreams of a rockstar who only dreamed big!

…. I’m just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones
And them British bad boys, The Rolling Stones
I go right to the edge, I go right to the end
I go right where all things lost are made good again
I sing the songs of experience like William Blake

I have no apologies to make
Everything’s flowing all at the same time
I live on the boulevard of crime
I drive fast cars, and I eat fast foods
I contain multitudes

Pink petal-pushers, red blue jeans
All the pretty maids, and all the old queens
All the old queens from all my past lives
I carry four pistols and two large knives
I’m a man of contradictions, I’m a man of many moods

I contain multitudes….

From “Rough and Rowdy Ways”, Bob Dylan, 2020

From Gurdaspur to the Globe: A journey of a million dreams of a rockstar who
only dreamed big!

“Honestly, the Punjabi music scene has been vibrant ever since with artist Gurdas Maan, Babbu Maan, and many more. I was exposed to music with TV and radio, so definitely it was a household scene. In today’s time, it has expanded beyond and I am glad so many good talents are coming out from Punjab. Yes, bringing the song to Bollywood adds more charm to it and every person from the different part of the nation can hear it. It gives you a bigger platform. So, I believe it is the kind of music one creates that makes it or breaks it; it can be from any part of the world.”

To put Guru’s very correct and passionate observation into context, let’s take a walk down the annals of Punjabi music and understand how a lad from Gurdaspur has become ‘The Guru Randhawa’ and for him, sky was never the limit! It has rightly been said that age is merely a number in one’s mind. A number that seldom has bearing on what one can accomplish. Singer Guru Randhawa is one such individual who lends immense credence to that reality. All of 30 years of age, this precociously gifted Musician has taken the Bollywood industry by storm! One of the popular independent singers, who have significant number of peppy songs to his credit, is Guru Randhawa. And yes, he do contain ‘multitudes’ !

Ballads of love and war, fairs and festivals, dancing, music, and Punjabi literature are among the characteristic expressions of the state’s cultural life. The heady rise of Punjabi music is a result of several factors. The state has a long-standing tradition of music and live performance. The massive Punjabi diaspora overseas, now brought closer by digital distribution, is a big market for online sales and live shows. Producers of Punjabi origin who grew up in cities such as London or Toronto brought back a distinct quality and production sensibility to the state. Independent artists like Babbu Maan; Sidhu Moose Wala, Jass Manak, Jassi Gill, Mankirt Aulakh, Diljit Dosanjh, Guri, Harrdy Sandhu, Sharry Mann, Gurnam Bhullar, Akhil, Ninja, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Mika Singh, Ammy Virk, Millind Gaba, Gippy Grewal, Sukhe, Badshah, Babbal Rai, Bally Sagoo, Bohemia, Baba Sehgal, B Praak, Daler Mehndi, Diljit Dosanjh, Gurdass Maan, Garry Sandhu, Hans Raj hans, Yuvraj Hans – to name some of them, had been names to reckon with!

The History of Punjabi music can very well be traced in its mixing with Hindi filmi ‘gaana-bazana’ as well as a place of its own in its indigenous non filmi music industry. . It is through Punjabi folk music that poets have narrated love ballads of Heer-Ranjha and Sohni-Mahiwal, Mirza-Sahiba and Sassi-Punhoon. Several musical instruments like Tumbi, Algoze, Dhadd and Chimta are unique to Punjab. Punjab holds numerous religious and seasonal festivals. There also are numerous anniversary celebrations in honour of the Gurus (the 10 historical leaders of Sikhism) and various saints. Dancing is a typical feature of such festivities, with bhangra, jhumar, Giddha and sammi among the most popular genres. In
addition to Sikh religious music, semi classical Mughal forms, such as the khyal dance and the ṭhumrī, ghazal, and qawwālī vocal performance genres, continue to be popular. Different occasions have different kinds of songs – one sings suhag to express the bittersweet feelings associated with a wedding, tappe to celebrate Lohri and Baisakhi, and boliyan to sing while doing gidda. Then there’s
the Sufi Punjabi music, the bhangra, and the most commercial of them all — Punjabi pop. There is a song for every occasion here.

Quite evidently, Bollywood, the dominant player in the Indian music scene, has always had a Punjabi influence in its song-and dance routine; largely courtesy Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions, both run by Punjabi families, the Chopras and the Johars. It made the mainstream audience associate dancing with the region’s music. Thus, Punjabi songs started playing at weddings, parties and discotheques around the country. Digital distribution channels, especially YouTube and the various music streaming platforms, have helped Punjabi singers become immensely popular among a very large audience both at home and abroad in the recent years. Punjabi music has also grown a massive influence on Bollywood, which seems to be using more and more Punjabi tunes in its film tracks now.

Punjab also has a strong independent music production scenario. The Economic Times said that in 2018, Punjab had become the biggest non-film music industry in India. Four years back, t andhe industry worth 700 crore rupees was almost five times the size of the Telegu music industry. Punjabi music consumption has grown by 5 times in the last one year, says Prashan Agarwal, CEO of music streaming app Gaana. “Today, Punjabi music comprises a fifth of the app’s overall music consumption.” Some 40% of the app’s traffic for Punjabi songs comes from Delhi-NCR, UP, and Maharashtra. Guru happens to be an outcome of this milieu – of this cultural churning which inspired him to dream – and to dream really big!

“ It all began from TV. I always wanted to be on TV. Whosoever is coming on TV has done something that nobody else had done. In those days, only two TV channels were there. One from India, another from Pakistan, as my family belonged to the border area. From there I had a vision that I wanted to be a singer. From one single song from a region in Punjab to a bigger world – from a region to the entire country – a much bigger world. I was in Class 3, when I started singing. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted and I will be a singer. And now here I am! Travelling, shooting, meeting everybody – all around the world – this has been my life – a life that has been lived to the fullest, but nothing much has changed; my life is still the same! I still enjoy eating dal-chawal the most. Besides work, my
life is quite the same.”

This is the essence of this man! Someone who will never fail to surprise you with his humility, his broadness, his positivity and that contagious smile! Taking a liking for music from the age of 7 to climbing the ladder of success at the age of 21, he acquired the confidence to secure a foothold in the Punjabi Music Industry. Born in Gurdaspur (Punjab), Guru did his graduation from The Indian Institute of Planning and Management (DELHI) and has a Masters in Business Administration. He also started pursuing Singing as a Profession right after his high school. For him, his education has always been his priority, as he very beautifully explains: “ I got to know about my talent – that I can sing also – only at School. So if I would not have gone to school, I would not have also known that I could sing also and my life would have been so different then!”

Guru made his debut- as a Songwriter with ‘Same Girl’, as a Singer with ‘Chhad Gayi’ and his debut album was ‘Page One’ which has a multi-lingual format and lately he is famous for the track “Suit Suit” from the movie ‘Hindi Medium’ which marked his debut in Bollywood. He gained instant recognition and became an overnight star with his tracks ‘Patola’ (with US based Bohemia) and ‘Suit’ (in collaboration with Arjun).Guru has sung in the IPL opening ceremony and at various other platforms of National and International repute and this shows that the artist strives hard to become a global renowned artist in his genre while aiming to reach the pinnacle of success by delivering great music.

With 7 million followers on Facebook, 32 million on Instagram, more than a million on Twitter and 4.8 million subscribers to his Official Youtube channel, every response to Guru’s song and music has indeed been euphoric to say the least! ‘High Rated Gabru’ has more than a billion views – 1000 million! – ‘Slowly Slowly’ has more than 300 million views (which got 33 million views in just 24 hours of its launch!) , ‘Patola’ around 200 million, ‘Ishq Tera’ more than 400 million had viewed; ‘Baby Girl’ had more than 400 million hits, ‘Lahore’ has also more than a billion views; ‘Ishare Tere’ more than 570 million hits; and released just few months back, ‘Dance Meri Rani’ newest version with Nora Fatehi has
already got around 200 millions views! In fact Guru is Youtube’s most viewed artist in India right now, with more than 6 billion combine hits of all his songs and music videos! And amazing feat to say the least!

Having already made waves in Punjabi industry as a singer & songwriter, Guru Randhawa marked his debut as a full-fledged playback artist in Bollywood. The hugely talented singer has been showcasing his phenomenally vast repertoire since a young age. Within a year’s time, two tracks of Guru Randhawa in Bollywood have broken all records. After his song, ‘Suit Suit’ from the Irrfan Khan starrer
‘Hindi Medium’ made it to music aficionado’s playlists, Randhawa’s 2016 number, ‘Tu Meri Rani’ was recreated for Vidya Balan-starrer movie ‘Tumhari Sulu’. Since then, Guru has also sung chart busters for many Bollywood movies including the likes of ‘Badhaai Ho’, ‘Blackmail’, ‘Saaho’, ‘Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety’, ‘Chhalaang’, ‘Street Dancer 3D’, ‘Dil Juunglee’, ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’.

‘Patola’ was an historical song for Guru in another way. Back in 2015, with this song, Guru’s journey with T-Series (with 212 official Youtube subscribers, the diversified group with US$ 120 million in core business of music and films) started and since then it’s been no looking back and as they popularly say, the rest is…a history of one of India’s most successful ‘jodi’ of a music level and a musician- singer-songwriter ever! As Guru fondly reminiscences: “The day I joined T Series, they had 9 million subscribers on Youtube. I m their most-viewed artist in their history! I have got 6/7 billion hits on Youtube. It was a great collaboration from Day one, it has been just like a family!’’

So, let’s sum it up – one of contemporary India’s leader singer-songwriter- composer – who had made it big both in independent music and bollywood music – who had collaborated with some of the biggest of names in the country as well as the world over starting from Arjun and Bohemia to Neeti Mohan, Neha Kakkar, Tanishk Bagchi, Dhvani Bhanushali, Sukhe, Pitbull, Jay Sean, Tito El Bambino, Nikhita Gandhi – when this book goes to print, he is busy completing his US tour and we already know the kind of response he is generating all through the US concerts across every states that he is visiting through his recent Facebook and Instagram posts – Guru has his hands more than full and it’s just the beginning – singer, composer, lyricist, style icon, performer, soon to debut in films as an actor – starting his own ‘Guru Randhawa Edition’ of eyewear, men accessories, casual wear – he has many epithets to his credit. In some way, he is one of the fresh faces of the singing fraternity who has taken the wind off the insiders with his dynamic sense of camera presence and singing. . . .it can go on and on!

So if someone read the above lines in front of Guru himself and asks him about

what he has to tell – how is he feeling? Is he feeling t the top of the world? – All he will do, he does – is smile heartily and then recount and relive those initial years – those struggling days:

“When my first song ‘Same Girl’ came out, in 2012, all the thanks in this world Arjun deserved for making it happen. The right of the song was with Arjun, as he gave me the break after I met him in a party. At that point of time I had no work. So I needed work. I used to do just free shows and even at a 500 or 1000 rupees I used t go and sing and perform anywhere. So somehow arranging money for my
tickets, I went to London to meet him. He called me and made me listen to a beat – and I immediately wrote the lyrics there only. I knew it was a big opportunity and I didn’t want to let it go. I came back to India and few days later he sent me a ticket! I went back to London and shot the video. It was my first sponsored ticket! The Video came on UK TV and then it was on Youtube. Youtube was not that big a platform then – but I was happy that I have a visibility. All my fan moments are very close to my heart. Everything that they do is very heartwarming. Especially, when they take time out from their schedule and make a painting of me or anything like that. I’m always thankful and grateful to them.” – Guru keeps on smiling – that signature child-like smile, which radiates warmth and sincerity and unadulterated commitment to everything that he says or does – and we cannot help but feel totally amazed by the endearing personality of this great young man! So end of the day, do we really get to the man behind all the masks that he wear through his kind of music and touch upon all that his personal: “My music is all about what I see – what I feel – what I hear: nothing personal. My life change everyday – the people I meet, they change everyday – so it’s a continuous changing process. And for me nothing is permanent is this world. And for me my viewers and my listeners – all those who shower their love on me, without knowing me, only just listening to my songs are my biggest assets, my priceless
possession. Fame is transient, money is transient – nothing remains, but this love only stays and it keeps you going against all odds and also keeps you grounded for good reasons of course”

…And see the light surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
May you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift

May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
And may you stay forever young
May you stay forever young

From “Planet Waves”, Bob Dylan, 1974

Excerpted from Dr. Arindam Chaudhuri’s upcoming book ‘TIGER ROARS’ by Times Books