Welcome to SimplyBhangra. How did each of you get into the Punjabi music industry?
Waris: Music for us is not, or never has been, about the industry. Music or love of music is something that grows inside of you naturally. When I was young I got drawn to it. And with parent’s support began learning it. I always wanted to sing. It was never about making albums or being famous. Even now, if we are home we sing or play for our own enjoyment. If we have a show, then the audience just joins in.
Kamal: As Bhaji said, he got into it, and we got into it because of him.
Sangtar: Punjabi Music Market is fantastically small. All artists are in it for the love of music. We are grateful that we are able to make living making music.
From the lyrics that are written by yourselves or other lyricists how do you choose who sings the track?
Sangtar: That is a two part question. The first part is how we pick a song? When we select a song, we disregard the lyricist. It doesn’t matter it is written by me, or by a pro like Mangal Hathur or by someone new, a 15 years old kid. It has to be good on many levels. It has to portray its subject in a poetic form without clichés. It has to address its subject from a new angle. Once a song is picked, we compose it and then its character comes out.
Most songs can be sung by anyone. But there a few that have distinct folk color, which we reserve for Manmohan and others which can be musically experimented with, which we save for Kamal.
Punjabi Virsa is one of the most popular live shows all around the world, what is different from when you first started doing these shows up until now?
Waris: When a person is born, he or she is given a name. Countries, nations, religions have a name. But they all constantly change. When we started Punjabi Virsa, we didn’t think that changing the name every year could fool anybody. The name is not important, the content is. So as you know we have been releasing Punjabi Virsas. Each year it is a new show. Each year the show has a different flow. Only the name remains the same, everything else about it changes continuously.
You come from the small pind of Halluwal, do you prefer the life in the pind or life in the big cities?
Kamal: There are pros and cons of each. More important than where you are now, is where you come from. Because that defines you. That builds your character.
Waris: Now we mostly live in Vancouver, Canada and Jalandhar. But we do go to village because that’s where our ancestral home is and extended family is. Now the village, Halluwal is not the same village where we grew up. Every person looks for the place of his childhood, but it is not easy to find it.
Sangtar: Yes, as they said, it is not just where you grow up, it is also when you grow up? The time is changing rapidly. When we were growing up in the village that was the best time for us. We had no distractions. We had no TV, no video games. The only fun thing to do was playing music. I am not sure if kids now can dedicate that many hours to learn a craft or art form. Now no matter where you are, people are pretty much doing the same thing. You heard the Desi Disc Song. It touches on that subject that nowhere is nowhere. So we are glad that we grew up where and when we did.
Where do the 3 of you spend most of your time when you arent doing live shows or working on music? What do you do to just get away from the music side of things alittle bit?
Waris: My family is in Vancouver Canada. So whenever I am free I like to be with them. My kids go to school there. Other than that we do the normal stuff that other people do in holidays, go on vacation, and go to Disneyland or something like that. But there aren’t many vacations. This profession is 24/7. You have to rehearse, you have to practice, and you have to prepare new material.
Kamal: I spent so much time this year in India it was crazy. I even forgot the alarm code to my house in Canada. Good thing my wife knew it. I like to go out whenever I can and enjoy free time. The music and performance in itself is not like work to us, it is the travelling that tires you. Shows and performances are actually the best vacations we can get as that is where we meet our fans and supporters and spend time with friends.
Sangtar: Most of my work time is spent in the studio. So when I get free time I like to hike. We just did Whitney Mountain trail. Later this year we are planning to go to back country hiking in Tasmania. But that depends if we get some free time. Music demands time. it is not a profession for one who wants to have a lot of free time.
Manmohan just released his new track Share Nahi Karde and Kamal just released a new track called Desi Disc, what more can we expect in the near future? Solo albums, another album of all 3 of you together?
Sangtar: Manmohan also sang a song for Gippy’s movie Faraar, Parne Nu. Which was released a couple of days ago. People really liked that song. That movie comes out on the 28th. Kamal’s new song Tera Hero just released today and then just before the Australian tour, we will release another song of Manmohan Waris. We will release solo albums next year. This year the only long form release will be the next Punjabi Virsa Live Recording.
Waris: Other than these songs, we are touring Australia and New Zealand in September/October. We are planning to record the next Virsa in Auckland, New Zealand. Let’s see if it works out. Next year we will tour North America and Europe.
Is there anything you'd like to say to our Simply Bhangra readers? (Question for all 3)
Kamal: SimplyBhangra is a great portal. You guys work hard to collect the information from many different sources and bring it into one place. It is a great site and your twitter feed and Facebook pages keep Punjabis all around the world informed. Keep it up.
Sangtar: Punjabi Music is in great up swing right now. There are lots of good singers, writers and music directors out there. The new stuff is coming out every day. I would say to your fans that keep supporting the good artists so they can stay inspired. It doesn’t cost anything to like a song or to leave a positive comment, but it may give someone enough encouragement to do great things in the future.
Waris: I would like to thank all Punjabis around the world who have liked our music for more than twenty years now. We will try to carry on with new songs and shares that reflect true culture of our people all around the globe. We will keep showing both good and bad sides of the society so that we as a culture stay on the right track. As Sangtar said great things are happening in Punjabi music now. We should focus on those and keep it alive for the next generations.
Above all, we must not abandon our language, because when a language dies, a window to the universe closes. We cannot say in English what we can say in Punjabi or vice versa. So keep it in your hearts above everything else.