From singing dhamakedaar chartbusters like Bolo Tara Rara, Dardi Rab Rab, Na Na Na Re to crooning motivational songs like Jagga Jiteya and Le Chhalaang, Daler Mehndi has been entertaining music lovers with his Punjabi-Indie songs since 1995. In fact, he is the pioneer singer who put Punjabi-Indie songs on the musical map of India. However, his journey to the top hasn’t really been easy and there have been many twists ‘n’ turns. In an interaction with the Cinema Journal, Daler Mehndi gets candid about his struggling days and his journey as a singer.
Recalling his journey from America to India, Mehndi says, “It took a lot of hard work to achieve my goals. Luckily, I have not faced a lot of hard times in my life. I went through a rough patch only once, and that was when I came to India from America in 1992. I was living a comfortable life in the US, but I wanted to do something in India. When I first arrived in India, I remember I used to get only Rs 150 per show in my initial days of my career in the Indian music industry. I performed for such a meagre amount for several months, but with dedication and belief in my ‘never give up’ attitude, I managed to carve a niche for myself and earn at least Rs 50,000 per show by 1994.”
For the unversed, Daler Mehndi was born and brought up in a family of musicians in Bihar. He was given training in ghazals, shabd keertans and folk songs in his childhood. He moved to America in the 1980s to be with his brothers there. After coming to India and performing several shows here, in 1995 Daler Mehndi introduced the concept of Punjabi Indie pop music with his debut track Bolo Tara Rara, which became a massive hit, and since then, he has never looked back.
He says with a smile, “If there is a party happening anywhere, it is certain that at least three or four of my songs will play. People love dancing to my tracks. It feels good to receive such immense love from my fans.”
Not just Indie pop, the singer also loves to dabble in varied music genres. “Change is the only constant. One should try out new things in life. Being a singer, I try to sing all types of songs. No doubt, I rose to fame for my Punjabi foot-tapping tracks, but I did not restrict myself to that only. I have also sung patriotic, motivational and inspiring songs. I advise all aspiring singers to be unique and different,” he avers.
Ask him what he thinks about today’s music, he quickly adds, “I think the current songs are inspired by the music of yesteryears only. Old melodies are being revived… So, nothing much has changed now. I personally enjoy listening to all types of music. I don’t find anyone’s music bad — perhaps because I don’t like to find flaws in other people’s work. Everyone is working hard, so it would be wrong to complain about another person’s music or anything else. I believe in giving attention to my work only. It’s my duty to entertain my audience. So, I always make sure to create original songs for them. I don’t copy anyone.”
King of vibrant styles
Apart from his amazing voice, Daler Mehndi is also known for his unique fashion statement. The audience has seen him sporting jewel-studded turbans and colourful embellished jackets in his music videos and live shows.
Speaking about his style, Mehndi laughs and says, “It’s important to look good. Our audience sees everything. When I started creating music videos, I intentionally started wearing unique styled different clothes. After seeing my videos, many celebrities like Govinda, Anil Kapoor, Johny Lever and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan copied my style in their respective projects. I am now planning to experiment more with my style.”
A new mix
On the work front, Mehndi recently came up with a new song Ragda, which is rendered in a fusion of Bhojpuri and Punjabi. “Bhojpuri is my mother tongue. I really enjoyed combining both these two languages in one song. I will try to sing more often in Bhojpuri. I am glad that people have loved my new song. I kept the lyrics of Ragda simple and funny. I wanted to bring smiles to people's faces through this song,” he explains.
Mehndi says that he is now looking forward to the release of his tracks in a couple of upcoming movies. “I have a lot of songs in the pipeline. Two-three songs of mine will feature in Akshay Kumar’s films. I have also worked with AR Rahmanji lately. I am sure my fans will love all my upcoming songs. Right now, I can just say that the upcoming tracks are dance numbers. The release dates of several movies have been postponed due to surge in Covid-19 cases... so it is not certain when my songs will be out.”