It's official – Raju Johal is on his way to becoming Canada’s Next Bhangra Superstar. After releasing his first track, ‘Nachna Pasand’, which debuted #1 on World iTunes – the affable newbie is riding the music wave.
Easy on the eyes, he has an all-embracing old world charm that is cutting through the clutter of Bhangra trends, economic shifts and perhaps a little industry turmoil. Hailing all the way from Vancouver, Canada - Raju Johal talks exclusively with Simply Bhangra about music, inspiration, the Vancouver music scene, and of course longevity in Bhangra Music World.
Thank you very much.
Tell us about yourself; how or why did you get into music?
I have to thank my parents, especially my Dad, Kamaljit Singh Johal, for being passionate about music and dancing. He was successful in his own way within the music and bhangra circles, so that really helped a lot.
It was with his encouragement that I started and really continued with music. At the age of three, he started by teaching me the Dhol. Then at the age of six, I got into singing. It was with persistence that I had the opportunity to learn classical, ghazal, Punjabi folk and Hindi music from my teacher, Ustad Devinder Singh Hundal Ji. We have been working together since 1996. From a personal standpoint, I honestly love music and am grateful for the opportunity to make music.
How long you been in the industry?
My informal music career started out very young; I was three years old when I discovered my love for music and singing. During my teenage years, music was always in the background, but I focused more on school, which led to performing at various Bhangra competitions for the last eight years.
What is your favourite moment of your music career?
Hmmm. So far, I have had two favourite moments. First would have to be releasing my first EP – Nachna Pasand. Hearing it on the radio for the first time was pretty exciting. Second favourite would have to be performing with Gurdas Mann – he truly is a legend.
Whom do you look up to or try to follow in the music industry?
I have great respect for every artist who either is trying to get into the industry or has been a permanent fixture on the scene. However, if I had to pick one artist it would have to be Gurdas Mann – I have great respect for him. Plus, he is the only artist that I know who can put on a show for four hours straight without a wardrobe change and be able to keep the audience entertained for that long. That is pure talent.
What is your favourite song out of everything that you have worked on?
While I am working on new songs, I have to say ‘Nachna Pasand’ is my favourite. It is my first track, but I love the feel of the song, musically and lyrically. Plus, I love that I had the opportunity to use Almast Despuri’s lyrics and work with Nick Chowlia, who produced it.
What is your favourite song of all time and why?
Wow, that is a hard question. There are too many to choose from and while my taste is eclectic – I love ‘old school’ type music the best. I can say without a doubt that I love everything by Gurdas Mann, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Master Saleem, Hans Raj Hans, and Sabar Koti.
Where do you see your career in the next five years?
I will definitely be in the industry and I see myself performing and sharing the stage with great artists around the world. Also, collaborating with some artists to give everybody great music to listen and dance to.
What current projects are you working on?
I am working on a lot of material, but my next release is another single with a good friend of mine from Toronto. I am also continuing collaboration with Producer, Nick Chowlia on some other tracks.
Otherwise, I am performing at various festivals, like Vancouver International Bhangra’s Downtown event, Desifest, Bhangra.Me Performance at the Museum of Vancouver – the summer should be a busy, exciting time.
What advice would you give to someone looking up to you?
Firstly, I recommend listening to your parents because they are your biggest support group and fans. Without them, YOU wouldn’t be here. Respect is the number one thing. The next tidbit of advice is finding what you love to do and then practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect.
What do you think of the music industry in Vancouver?
It’s growing and getting on the map. I am very proud of all the Vancouver artists that are now breaking out of their shell and getting into the studio and letting everybody around the world know that Vancouver is the place for great music/artists/producers/promoters, etc.
Also, think that Vancouver is fortunate to have the South Asian artist and development agency, Inject Media – not only are they a record label, but really help to develop raw talent into on-stage performers.
Where do you see the Punjabi music industry in five years?
The Punjabi music industry is never going to stop growing. New artists are coming out every day. But in order for us to keep the industry alive, we need to support each other by purchasing the REAL thing. TAKE OUT PIRACY!
What do you think of remixes? Good or bad and why?
I think remixes are great. It’s more exposure for the artist and for the DJ and producer that works on them. However, like anything - there are good remixes and bad remixes. You need to have some sort of musical sense in order to make a GOOD remix.
What do you think can been done to improve the music industry locally and worldwide?
Purchase the original copy. Cut out piracy. Period.
Thank you for your time, finally what message would you like to tell your fans?
I want to personally thank each and every fan for their support throughout my bhangra career – whether it was with Dhol, dancing, or now music. Their loyalty and support is great and really confirms I am in the right industry – I wouldn’t be here without my fans. So thank you.
Please continue with the support and I promise to deliver great music and performances. And thank you to SimplyBhangra.com for being that important link to the people of the world and keeping them informed of what is happening.