Music Mecca: Metro Vancouver is a destination for Punjabi music stars

Jun 14 2019, 9:50 pm

Vancouver has become a destination for some of the music’s biggest stars to film their videos.

If you’re a fan of Punjabi music, you know it’s not Drake or Cardi B filming in Vancouver, but some of the biggest names in the South Asian music scene who have featured the city and other parts of Metro Vancouver in their videos, many of which receive millions of views.

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Tarun Nayar, executive director of 5X Festival, explains that this phenomenon started back in the ’90s and early 2000s with artists who laid the foundation of Punjabi music’s success in North America.

“I think Vancouver and Metro Vancouver– to be a little more correct– has long been a hot spot for Punjabi artists from back in the days of Manmohan Waris to a little bit more recently with Jazzy B and Harbhajan Maan. Like, all of these kinds of legends of music have very strong ties — if not houses and families based in Surrey and surrounding areas,” Nayar told Daily Hive.

“I think that because of that, because so much content has been generated … and because obviously, we have such a high South Asian population here it makes a lot of sense.”

Today’s Punjabi music fans can spot familiar local landmarks in the videos of some of the industry’s biggest stars such as Jasmine Sandlas, Sidhu Moose Wala, and  Garry Sandhu, whose hits have garnered hundreds of millions of views on YouTube.

“If it wasn’t as scenic a city I would understand. But we’re so scenic and we’re so close to so many beautiful vistas and I think that there is an element of fantasy that is necessary especially in the higher budget Punjabi videos, you know where they want a scene like they’re in Europe or a Riviera somewhere,” said Nayar.

Now in its second year, the multi-genre 5X Festival is celebrating the connection many South Asian artists have to Metro Vancouver.

The festival — currently in its third day — showcases South Asian talent through art, fashion, film, and a block party that features some of the best DJs and singers in the industry.

“We really feel at 5X Festival that we can be a cultural flagship for this South Asian creative renaissance that’s happening mostly online,” said Nayar.

“And what 5X is really about is providing a real-life experience to bring the URL to IRL (in real life)  — to create that in life experience from all this content that we see.”

Saturday’s Block Party features Mickey Singh, Jaz Dhami, Raja Kumari, Malinder Tooray, as well as local talent Intense, Apogee, Impact, and Arsenal

The artists are known for blending traditional Punjabi sounds with hip-hop and urban beats — something that is drawing in the next generation of younger music fans.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Sidhu Moose Wala — one of Punjabi music’s biggest stars — would no longer be performing at the festival due to concerns from the City of Surrey.

The announcement was met with disappointment from fans — highlighting how significant his impact is on the South Asian music industry.

The singer’s unique fusion of hip-hop with a Punjabi folk sound is something Nayar says has “broken many of the stereotypes within Punjabi music.”

“I think the clarity and poeticism of his lyrics…is what is driving this thing. It’s not about having a major record label behind him… it’s about the honestly and poeticism of his lyrics.”

Today’s block party is expected to draw huge crowds to Central City Plaza in Surrey.

Nayar explains that the 5X Festival and the artists in the lineup speak to the youth driving the next generation of Punjabi music.

“Young people want to party and they want to celebrate in the way that all their friends celebrate and they want music and culture that speaks to their hybrid identities because they have roots in their culture but they also like Drake.”