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Gurdas Mann mainly sings Bhangra music in Punjabi.
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I come to Mumbai only for business, I am based in Punjab otherwise, informs Gurdas Mann, sitting nineteen flights up, in an upstyle apartment thats roomy and airy. From the way he shifts uncomfortably in his seat, it is apparent that he isnt quite at home in the plush surroundings. He would rather be strolling down the beaten tracks back home in the mustard fields, breathing in fresh air and absently humming to himself the long-forgotten sufiana folk songs that he had picked from the village elders. For a Jat Sikh whose ancestors have tilled the fields all their lives, for a keen sportsman who has a black belt in judo and for someone who has never been trained in music, I am amazed I have come this far, Gurdas Mann remarks with a nonchalant shrug.

His power-packed stage performances are a rage and he is always booked to perform on Baisakhi. He never gets to celebrate the festival at home. Hes a crowd-puller this man, who confesses that never in his wildest dreams had he imagined that one day he would become a singer. I was a keen sportsman, I have done my masters in physical education and for a while I have even worked as a physical instructor in a college, he informs. But this strapping young man wasnt destined to nurture sporting talent. Fate had arranged a one-song appearance on Jallandhar Doordarshan for him that was to change the entire course of his life. I had written Dil da mamla... for an amateur Punjabi play, Sasi Punnu. It was a lively number alright but we hadnt bargained for the havoc it created. Dil da mamla... brought in sackful of fan-mail not only from Punjab but also from across the border, recalls the handsome singer. What with its lusty score, Gurdas seductive singing coupled with exuberant dancing, Dil da mamla... was an instant hit. Gurdas mesmerised Punjabis world over with his electrifying stage presence. Such was Gurdas popularity then that no function was deemed solemnised without his performance in Punjab. I was caught up in a whirligig of stage shows, performing relentlessly day in and day out. I started off charging Rs 500 a night, he reminisces bemusedly. It was almost 18 years ago in 1981 that the young singer revived Punjabi folk music. Gurdas went on to cut Dil da mamla... for HMV two years after his appearance on DD.

Gurdas is no ordinary folk singer, hes a lyricist, composer, singer and choreographer all rolled into one. Speaking about his source of inspiration, he says, I cant exactly define how I create a number. It could be the humming of a bee, the mill siren or a rankling motor part in a vehicle ŭ I get inspired by the rhythm and the song is born. At times I am inspired by situations too, like some time ago Ratan Jain, the Venus boss, declined to dine with us because his wife was waiting for him at home. That ticked off a thought process, and then and there I wrote a song which is now an encore number on my shows.

It surely must entail some rehearsals and planning for Gurdas to captivate the audience over four to five hours with his solo performance? We do not follow a set format, except the opening vandana and the concluding hardas. Whatever happens in between is totally unpredictable. God takes over our show and we act accordingly. The show grows according to the mood of the crowd and the ambience of the place, Gurdas reiterates the divine intervention in his life. He then goes on to thank his athletic background for giving that vitality with which he packs the punch into his shows.

Admittedly, he hasnt been trained in music, then how does he manage to impart a depth and range to his singing? By Gods grace I have never had to look for gurus, I have met them at various stages in my life. I remember, when I was a school kid, there was this sweet vendor whoŭs tap a flat board and sing to its beat I picked the basic sense of rhythm from him. Then at the village chaupal, our elders taught us Waris Shahŭs traditional Heer. During the impressionable years, I followed folk singers Yamla Jat and Surinder Kaur. Later in life, I learnt a great deal by listening to Ashaji, Lataji and Rafiji. But, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, I must admit, was the biggest influence in my life for I too sing in the sufiana style, he reveals.

Gurdas Mann has 27 Punjabi folk albums to his credit and in addition he has done some playback in Hindi films. As a stage performer I tend to sing at a higher pitch, my voice is really not suited for giving playback. Nonetheless I am giving playback for Arshad and Naseeruddin Shah in their forthcoming films, he discloses. His argument really doesnt hold good taking into consideration what a runaway hit his Chak chak lyange..., the chart-topper in Ram Shastra, picturised on Jackie Shroff, was.

Its boom time for Punjabi folk music. Amongst the Malkits, Bally Sagoos, Sukhbirs and Dalers, how does Gurdas hold his own still? For me the lyrics are of prime importance, geet mein vajan hona chahiye. My shows arent just a song and dance routine. My music is for the soul. People sit back and enjoy my singing, very rarely do they get up and dance around. Thats the kind of repect my fans give me, he observes gratefully.

Gurdas is not averse to fusion music, he is bringing out a re-mix of his hits very soon, If re-mix is the order of the day, we have to comply, Im game provided its well-done he says. But he is rather wary of cover version re-mixes, T-Series has re-mixed all my hits in Lakha Singhs voice, I donŭt think thats fair, he states disapprovingly.

His latest music video, Hamara Punjab brought him back in the limelight and now heŭs all fired up about his soon-to-be released album, Dil hona chaida jawan for Venus. It has different shades of traditional folk as well as western pop. The music video, choreographed by Rangeela fame Ahmed Khan, is slated to hit the air soon, he elaborates. Hes going strong with his stage shows too,I spend most of my time travelling, he rues,I have performed the world over. I am going to Rome next.

However, despite all the jet-setting and recording, Gurdas finds time to act in films, Punjabi ones. Heŭs all set to play the lead opposite Divya Dutta in Shahid-E-Mohobbat, inspired by a true love story, being produced by his wife Manjit Mann. ŭSheŭs my lady-luck, she has brought me all this prosperity,ŭ he acknowledges gazing lovingly at Manjit.

ŭGod has been really kind to us, Mann is doing so well for himself and our only son, Gurik has secured admission at the prestigious school, Eton on his own merit. Heŭs studying in an institution that has produced 70 prime ministers and where the British royalty is studying,ŭ Manjit says with pride. But his success hasnŭt made Gurdas complacent or arrogant. The singer insists that heŭs never satisfied. ŭI have so much to learn still,ŭ he points out. He hasnŭt changed. He is still proud to be the son of the soil and most humble about his achievements. ŭGod has been partial to me,ŭ he reasons.

He is a singer, dancer, lyric writer, music composer and overall a very humble human being. He doesn't care what religion a person is because the biggest religion to Gurdas Ji is "Humanity." I personally believe in him and his music.He was born to, S.Gurdev Singh and Tej Kaur, in a village by the name of Giddarbaha, in distt. Faridkot in Punjab. His date of birth is 4th January, 1957, but as he says, "Dil Hona Chahida Jawan, Umaranch Ki Rakhiya....". He went through the normal drill of being educated in Malout. The one thing with him even in those days was his singing! After the basics were over, his parents thought it best to shift him to Patiala city for further studies. The National Sports Institute was there and Gurdas Maan joined up to finish his masters in physical education.

At the point he was all set to be a sports coach!!! He took part in many athletic events and won himself a couple of medals. He also happens to be a black belt holder in Judo. He got to show off his talents in plenty of youth festivals, that were organized by various universities. And talent indeed, because it was here that he started winning awards for his work in singing and acting. On completion of his masters degree, he started looking around for a job. But in the meanwhile, keeping the creativity channel in him open, he continued to write as well as do stage plays. Having arrived on the music scene more than two decades ago and still holding on to his seat, the credit of taking Punjabi music from a regional level to national and then on to the international level absolutely goes to Gurdas Maan!!

If you thought Malkit Singh was the Big Daddy, listen up coz Gurdas Mann is the original baap of bhangra. A DD star of the 80's, the lungi clad Mann takes pride in his traditional tunes and is perhaps the only bhangra star to write and compose his own songs.

Gurdas Mann hit the music scene in the early eighties. Born of a middle class family in Punjab young Gurdas was fond of literature and poetry. Singing came naturally to him and he started performing at small college and marriage do's. He would often compose and sing his own lyrics at college functions and picnics.

Unlike today where any one whose name ends with a Singh or a Mann claims to be a Bhangra maestro, the 80's were a hard time to break through. There was only one programme on Door Darshan that displayed new talent. It was here that he hit the jackpot when he was invited to sing for the New Years Eve program on December 31st 1981.

He performed his most popular song 'Dil da maamla hai'. The song was a huge hit and got him instant recognition. It became so popular that Mann made a video and became one of the earliest singers to recognise the importance of the visual media.

Bhangra Strategy
Since that fateful night in the December of 81, Gurdas Mann has churned out bhangra albums by the dozen and yet remains extremely popular. He garnered enough publicity for himself to perform on stage both in India and abroad quite regularly. He remains a favourite with expatriates even today.

Mann still writes his own lyrics and composes his own tunes. He tries to keep to folk music and language and except for his last album, hasn't really deviated much from traditional sounds. However, his last album Jaadugariyan has seen a marked transition both in his music and his appearance. His trademark lungi and kurta have been replaced by designer wear and his music has some western beats to it.

This Mann has his fingers in two pies - that of music and movies. Besides acting in several Punjabi movies he has forayed into the world of Hindi films with the critically acclaimed Shaheed-E-Mohabbat and is now gearing up for the release of his home production Zindagi Khubsoorat Hai.

This grand old man of bhangra has contributed significantly to the popularity of this folk genre and has done well for himself in turn. His shift to a modern kind of sound seems to be a strategy to capture the youth market. Most people like him for his use of plain folk tunes and it would be wise for him to build his forte around the same. He is one of those few musicians whose music has been undiluted so far and he will still make his money if he uses that as his USP.

27 Punajbi folk albums including Dil Da Maamla Hai (1983) Dil Hona Chahida Jawaan


The Best Song, Album & Best International Artist of the Asian Pop and Media Awards held in Birmingham for Apna Punjab (1998)

Dil Da Maamla Hai, Apna Punjab, Chaklo Chaklo
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