Welcome to the Gaana Music Festival blog! As we count down to the largest Indian music festival in North America, you can expect exclusive content here – from interviews to behind the scenes, from observations to insider tips.
Gaana Music Festival focuses not just on bringing you iconic names, but also the superstars of tomorrow: People whose music today are creating waves. We’ve already introduced you to Divine, the face of gully rap in India, and today we’re proud to bring you an interview with Jassie Gill & Babbal Rai. The two Punjabi pop stars have taken YouTube by storm and bring their act to New Jersey and California in June.
GMF: Hi Jassie & Babbal! The Punjabi music industry is huge. So many current artists, so many new artists trying their luck every year. What is it about Punjabis and music? Because it seems like all of you can sing, and are absolutely unafraid to do so publicly!
JG/BR: Music and singing are very deeply etched in Punjabi lifestyle. There are songs for every occasion – births, weddings, Baisakhi – and people happily sing! Even if they’re non-singers. Like a farmer will work in his field humming and singing songs. And those who are singers and do it professionally keep improving their skill at it. So many new singers doing that is just great for the industry also.
GMF: You’re also multi-tasking superstars… Because it seems that apart from singing, all the male Punjabi singers in particular are also actors. With flourishing film careers, both of you are great examples. Bollywood doesn’t have it, neither really do any of the other film industries in India. So why is Punjab and your community of artists different in this regard?
JG/BR: All the big movie industries from Bollywood to Hollywood have had actor-singers at the beginning. Like Kishore Kumar. They were stars and had a huge fan base, so producers felt comfortable putting their money and films behind them. The Punjabi film industry is also still growing, so a similar phenomenon is happening here. Producers feel confident about approaching singers for their films thanks to the large fan followings these artists have. There are lots of actors also doing well, but the audience seems to like seeing singer-actors more.
GMF: This one is for Jassi. Last year you released Nikle Currant with Neha Kakkar which became a monster hit – over 400 million views last we checked. And you starred in Happy Bhag Jayegi Part 2 opposite Sonakshi SInha. Is that the next step for Jassi Gill? Collaborations with big artists and Bollywood? Diljit Dosanjh is already doing it. Will you be next?
JG: I’m currently shooting for Aswini Iyer’s Panga with Kangana Ranaut and also working on a couple of big music projects. I’ve been doing this for a while, and now the plan is just to get my work to reach out to more and more new audiences. I just think that the more new people listen to Punjabi music and watch Punjabi films, I can entertain them, get them to see and appreciate my work…and make my name that way.
GMF: And now for Babbal. We know wanted to be a cricketer and then you had Australian Challa go viral on YouTube and that’s how you became a singer. As someone who got their start thanks to social media, what kind of a role do you think it has to play for artists like you today? Can an artist today be popular without being a social media celebrity simultaneously?
BR: Social media was a very big turning point in my life, and that’s why I believe it plays in a big role. Not just me, so many Punjabi stars today have become even more popular thanks to social media. I feel if you have talent, then social media is a very good thing. It gives so much exposure to that talent. Social media has its negatives, but on the whole it has way more positives to offer artists like us. And everyone uses it differently. Some artists use it to connect with their fans, and some like me choose to put out more of our music and our work to the people through it.
GMF: Punjabi is the flavour of the season. Actually has been for many years now, specially in the movies. Bollywood has gone that way, we’re seeing Punjabi influences in tracks from films down south. There are some Punjabi classics played at almost every wedding. Why do you think there is this craze? What is it about Punjabi music that makes it so popular?
JG/BR: There are a couple of reasons for this. First, Punjabi songs have a different energy and vibe! Even if you don’t know the language you just want to get up and dance. That feel and that vibe is very nice, and it’s what appeals to people. Secondly, a lot of our films cater to NRI audiences or audiences from the north, and they have this distinct relatable Punjabi flavour to them. These films get big, and so does their music then. And this is not a recent thing. Punjabi songs have actually always been popular…look at Daler Mehndi and other such artists. And today parties are incomplete without them, and even films to a certain extent.
GMF: We have to ask you about the music videos from the Punjabi pop industry. Almost all of them have a gorgeous woman, a jazzy car and an international location. It’s like a formula that no one ever seems to want to break. Why is that? What is it about that combination?
JG/BR: There’s actually a lot of songs out there that don’t have this. With so many artists now working in Bollywood and other spaces, there are a lot of interesting videos being made. Sure they have cars and locations, but each video is concept and story based. It’s a 3 minute story told in a song…like a small movie. Lots of talented directors are coming up with great music video concepts and would highly recommend checking these out on YouTube.
Catch Jassie Gill & Babbal Rai perform with a magnificent music & comedy line-up at Gaana Music Festival: June 8th (New Jersey) and June 9th (California).