Why Punjabi singer Diljit Dosanjh selling out Rogers Arena is a big deal

·3 min read
Fans from across B.C. flooded Rogers Arena on Sunday to see Punjabi singer and actor Diljit Dosanjh, who performed in Vancouver as part of his Born To Shine world tour.  (Diljit Dosanjh Facebook - image credit)
Fans from across B.C. flooded Rogers Arena on Sunday to see Punjabi singer and actor Diljit Dosanjh, who performed in Vancouver as part of his Born To Shine world tour. (Diljit Dosanjh Facebook - image credit)

Diljit Dosanjh made history on June 19 when he became the first Indian artist to perform at the Rogers Arena.

The Punjabi singer and actor, who performed in Vancouver for his Born To Shine world tour, also sold out the venue's nearly-18,000 seats.

While Punjabi entertainers have performed in Canada since the 1960s, many feel that Dosanjh's performance marked a shift for Punjabi music.

"It seemed like every single person from Surrey, Vancouver, Burnaby was there," said DJ Intense, a music producer based in Surrey and one of thousands in the audience who came to watch Dosanjh perform.

He says Dosanjh has helped bring Punjabi music from the fringe to the mainstream.

Diljit Dosanjh Facebook
Diljit Dosanjh Facebook

"It finally got to that point where it needs to be recognized as ... actually the mainstream," he said on CBC's On the Coast.

Dosanjh released his first album in 2004. His 12th album, MoonChild Era, entered the Billboard Top Canadian Albums Chart in 2021. He also recently collaborated with Canadian rapper Tory Lanez on the song Chauffeur.

Harpo Mander, general manager of the annual Surrey cultural festival 5X Fest, says Dosanjh's music speaks to people like her.

"For someone like me who's Punjabi but grown up in the diaspora, he's really merging these different parts of my identity in the music that he's creating," Mander told Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition.

She says Punjabi music traditionally helps immigrants stay in touch with their culture; now, performers like Dosanjh have created a new genre of pop music.

"The reason Punjabi music resonates so much and it is doing what it's doing is because it's starting to dream really big."

Many also feel that Dosanjh's music is helping second- and third-generation Punjabi Canadians feel like they belong, while bringing them closer to their roots.

Gurnaz Sandhu, a Vancouver-based actor and content creator, says she learns Punjabi words while listening to Dosanjh's music.

Diljit Dosanjh Facebook
Diljit Dosanjh Facebook

"One fun thing about his music, it helped me really improve my Punjabi vocabulary," Sandhu told Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition.

Sandhu says Dosanjh's use of words from ਠੇਠ (Theth) Punjabi — rural, conversational Punjabi — has a big influence on youth living in North America.

"The real, authentic Punjabi he's really carrying that through his music, and I think it has a really big influence on children living in the West."

Many families also brought their kids to the concert.

Barinder Bhuller says he took his four- and six-year-old sons, Aanakh and Maeva, to expose them to Punjabi language and culture.

"Ironically, English has become the dominant language at home but through songs, we try to bring it in as much as we can," said Bhullar.

He adds that his kids' nighttime routine involves listening to Punjabi music and doing Bhangra — a type of Punjabi folk dance — as a family, which Dosanjh's music helps them do.

 

Kamaljit Sidhu, who says she is in her early 50s, decided to attend the concert even if it meant going alone.

"If I go to a bridal shower or some small function, I kind of feel awkward being by myself ... but for this one, I was like, 'No, I have to go,'" said Sidhu.

"It was a big crowd and every single person was connected with him."

Sidhu says she bought a ticket for the nosebleed section at the last minute, but moved to the front during the intermission after she ran into acquaintances who had an extra seat available.

She ended up leaving the concert with Dosanjh's glove.

"It's so much, so much to absorb still."

LISTEN | Music producer DJ Intense on Diljit Dosanjh's concert at Rogers Arena

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