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Sonny Singh’s new album comes full circle

(RNS) — For greater than a decade Sonny Singh has been maybe probably the most recognizable determine when the Punjabi-influenced band Purple Baraat takes the stage, not only for his alternately declarative and sinuous trumpet enjoying however for his crimson turban bobbing alongside Purple Baraat founder Sunny Jain. Now Singh, an activist as a lot as he’s a musician, has launched his first solo album, mixing his politics and music with one other core a part of his id — his Sikh religion.

Singh’s album, “Chardi Kala” (a Sikh time period for “ever-rising spirit”), melds Western and South Asian sounds with the normal Sikh style generally known as kirtan. However it’s not simply world music: Singh’s lyrics are impressed by and drawn from Sikh teachings. 

I spoke with Singh (no relation) about his inspiration, course of and imaginative and prescient for this new album. This interview has been edited for size and readability. 

You marry Sikh writings with your individual distinctive model. What particularly impressed this album?

This album is coming full circle for me in a way. The primary music I ever performed after I was a young child was Sikh kirtan. But, in my 15-plus years as an expert, I had by no means significantly revisited Sikh devotional music till early 2019, when the seeds for this album had been planted. Actually, I first started returning to a few of the shabads (Sikh Scripture) I had discovered as a baby as a result of I wanted some religious grounding at the hours of darkness days of the Trump administration and the rising tide of authoritarianism and nationalism globally. One factor led to a different rapidly, and I began composing my very own music to accompany these verses, which had been written tons of of years in the past.

How does your political worldview present up on this album?

For Sikhs, it’s a religious responsibility to be a freedom fighter. There isn’t any separation of the religious and the political. So I needed this album to be a musical embodiment of that idea of miri-piri (temporal and religious energy).


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Gurbani (Sikh devotional poetry) will not be merely meant to be recited quietly in our properties and gurdwaras — it’s a name to motion. If we mirror, for instance, on Guru Arjan’s phrases “Koi bole ram ram, koi khudai,” (“Some name God Ram, some name God Khuda”), we should ask ourselves what do these phrases imply at the moment? How can I incorporate this message into my life?

Musician Sonny Singh. Photograph by Shruti Parekh

In a context of rising Hindu nationalism and state-sanctioned violence inflicted on Muslims, spiritual minorities and dalits and bahujans in India, Guru Arjan’s phrases urge us to get entangled and communicate out in opposition to the atrocities of the Modi administration.

I additionally needed to convey to the album the marginally newer revolutionary historical past of the Ghadar Occasion, based within the early 1900s in Stockton, California, with the objective of overthrowing the British Raj in India. Two songs on the album invoke the fearless phrases of Kartar Singh Sarabha, who was executed by the British at 19 years previous for his actions.

Innovation, particularly with conventional spiritual music and instructing, might be provocative. How has the group responded?

I respect and admire those that research and work to copy and protect “conventional” types of music via their artwork, together with kirtan performed within the authentic raags and stringed devices. However I put conventional in quotes as a result of I query the idea in and of itself. Music, and all artwork, is all the time evolving and altering when completely different communities work together, migrate, share devices, language and cultural practices. My intention with this album was to not do “rock kirtan” or “reggae shabads,” however to be true to my coronary heart and my instinct as an artist and a Sikh. The way in which I hear and really feel music can’t be confined to anybody style or model. It’s simply not who I’m.

By and huge to this point, I’ve gotten an awesome response of affection and help from Sikhs, and never surprisingly a little bit of vocal opposition as effectively. Sadly the Sikh group isn’t any exception to the dogmatic and narrow-minded pitfalls that come up in organized faith. A few of the naysayers even resort to cursing me out and threatening me for my supposedly blasphemous renditions of Sikh shabads. The irony is an excessive amount of. That being stated, the music actually appears to be resonating with the overwhelming majority, together with elders in our group. My dad and mom are enormous followers. 

You’ve named the album “ever-rising spirit.” The place do you hope it should take you?

Sonny Singh's "Chardi Kala." Courtesy image

Sonny Singh’s “Chardi Kala.” Courtesy picture

The album is known as “Chardi Kala” as a result of that’s its aspiration — to encourage us to stay in excessive spirits, in everlasting optimism within the midst of those attempting instances. It isn’t doable to proceed combating in opposition to oppression and exploitation with out the steadfast and revolutionary perception that justice and dignity will finally prevail. This album is my humble providing in that path. I hope my album will encourage Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike to mirror extra deeply on Gurbani and incorporate these phrases of revolutionary love into how we stay our lives.


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And I look ahead to taking this music on the highway! The stay present is an entire different expertise for me, my band and the viewers — to share area, to sing collectively, to work together in actual time, all the time in chardi kala.

“Chardi Kala” is offered here. Watch his newest single “Aisee Preet” here. Comply with Sonny’s work and music on Instagram or Twitter at @iamsonnysingh.

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