A balladeer's journey

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Artiste’s angst Rabbi Shergill
Artiste’s angst Rabbi Shergill

Rabbi Shergill's quest is to become a complete artiste

Singer-musician-composer Rabbi Shergill uses musicto express things that hurt and affect him.

In his first album, "Rabbi", "jugni" was a social critique. In the track, Mera naam Bilquis Yakoob Rasool .Jinhe naaz hai, hind par vo kahan the from his latest album "Avengi Ja Nahin", Rabbi talks about "martyrs of system" such as whistle-blowers Satyendra Dubey (who lost his life for exposing corruption), Shanmugham Manjunath (murdered for sealing a corrupt petrol station) and Bilquis Bano (victim of a gang rape in the Gujarat violence).

The song ends with thetune of the Indian national anthem.

Having a Sikh preacher for a father and an educationist as a mother, Rabbi grew up listening to scriptures and Sufi poetry, which forms an intrinsic part of his artistic base.

"I inherited knowledge about the classical Indian literature - Vedant, and love for my language - Punjabi from my grandmother and father. From my mother, I got familiar with modern poetic language. In the mornings, my mother would play Kirtanias - Dilbagh Singh and Gulbagh Singh. My eldest sister, Gagan Gill, the foremost Hindi poet also had an influence on me. I was listening to rock music in school and bands from Austria playing strange music at IIC," says Rabbi adding that the famous Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi taught him to fall in love with himself.

Poetry was the mainstay of his debut album "Rabbi" that came out in 2005.

The first track of the album Bulla ki jaana main kaun was originally penned by Sufi poet Baba Bulleh Shah whom he had discovered through Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib.

Also, a Sikh interpretingSufi poetry in a modern contextwith a lot of western arrangementswent downextremely well with the listeners.Rabbi had arrived.He was branded as the "Sufirocker."

Latest album

So what about his latest album "Avengi Ja Nahin" that was available on Nokia's select N Series range before its hard copy was released this year? "After "Bulla", people started expecting stuff from me to which they could give their own spin, something vague that could fit into any situation. But "Avengi Ja Nahin" is a straight-on love song. An artiste's job is to do what he wants to do and not listen to others. Sometimes, I entertain people and sometimes I don't," says Rabbi in a matter-of-fact manner.

In both "Rabbi" and "Avengi Ja Nahin" he's also written and composed all the songs.

"I look up to Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Mark Knopfler as true and complete artistes. I take myself very seriously as a man of letters, as an instrumentalist. How many people write and compose their own songs?" he asks.

Despite the rough patch that independent music is going through, the artiste loves it for the freedom it gives him to experiment.

"Independent music is creative and stimulating. What can you express with film music except romance," says Rabbi. By composing and writing lyrics for "Delhi Heights" and singing a song in "Waisa Bhi Hota Hai," Rabbi opened his account in Bollywood but isn't very keen on the genre.

"I never wanted to become a film musician. I am excited to work in a studio with people with whom I share musical references. But it's unfortunate that independent music in India is almost dead. The Rs. 400- crore industry has shrunk to a 60-crore industry because music companies and channels are chasing short-term profits and that's why consistent outflow of talent isn't going to happen," rues Rabbi. However, with Rabbi going strong, there's still hope.





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