On his terms

Punjabi singer Harbhajan Mann on his new album and why he is averse to the idea of singing in Bollywood

September 29, 2010 05:28 pm | Updated 08:40 pm IST

Punjabi singer Harbhajan Mann. Photo: Special arrangement

Punjabi singer Harbhajan Mann. Photo: Special arrangement

Harbhajan Mann does not believe in mincing words. “I never wanted to do playback singing. Music directors hog all the limelight in Bollywood and I don't want anyone else to build their brand on my talent,” he asserts. His venture into acting in 2002 gave Punjabi cinema popularity like never before. Having combined his Canadian and Punjabi upbringing into a talent, he has churned out many memorable Punjabi songs and films.

The singer is out with his 17th album “Vaari Vaari”, after a gap of one year. “Over the years, the number of solo singers has reduced. Here the songs and picturisation of the videos are done keeping in mind the international Punjabi loving audience so as to promote solo singing on a wider platform,” says Harbhajan. Presenting nine fresh songs, Mann does not disappoint his traditional fan base in Punjab ensuring that each number caters to their taste.

Raised in British Columbia, Harbhajan started as an amateur singer who used to perform in local shows for the Asian community while in his school in Canada. Harbhajan's aspirations to sing professionally took wings when he was learning from his guru, Karnail Singh. Subsequently, he was spotted by famous Punjabi music director Charanjit Ahuja, who was touring Canada.

His first professional break came in 1992 with “Chithiye Nee Chithiye” while he was still in Canada. The track was a super hit with the Punjabi audience. Realising that the scope for Punjabi vernacular music in Canada was limited to a handful of non resident Indians, he shifted base to Punjab.

It was MTV and T-Series backed album “Oye Hoye” that instantly made him a household name in India. “It was my biggest album till date, as people still recognise me with ‘Gallan Goriyan De Vich Toye.” One singer who gives great inspiration to Mann is Pakistani Punjabi folk singer Shaukat Ali. “I met him in 1985 at his music concert in Toronto. He has also sung a song for my last film Heer Ranjha . While making new songs, I keep Shaukat in mind, studying and using techniques that he has applied,” he adds.

On the perception that Punjabi pop is losing its fizz, he says, “Piracy and Bollywood have hijacked our pop music. Most hit Bollywood songs nowadays like ‘Mauja hi Mauja', ‘Jee Karda', etc. are pegged around Punjabi themes only. And when people have superstars like Kareena Kapoor and Akshay Kumar dancing to them, they wouldn't want to watch newcomers at all.” But he considers this lull as just a passing phase. “The new generation of Punjabi singers is very talented and knows how to package itself. I'm sure it will soon bring Punjabi music back on the Indi pop scene,” says the singer.

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