Jaswinder Brar, renowned as the “Folk Queen,” is an Indian singer celebrated for her expertise in Punjabi folk and Bhangra music. Revered as “Akharheya Di Rani,” she has gained acclaim for her stage performances, especially for her captivating Lok Tatths. Her musical journey took flight with her debut album “Keemti Cheez” in 1990, marking the onset of her illustrious career.
Q. Tell us about your early years and your wish to havea collaboration between you and AarifLohar.
A. I used to live in a village, and we would often blend Haryanvi with our songs. I didn’t know who was a good singer and who wasn’t, and I had no knowledge of musical notes. But, I used to listen to a lot of Pakistani songs; I don’t know why that was. I had no specific knowledge of melody and rhythm, One more thing, if you notice when VividhBharati used to play songs between 8-9 am in the morning, which was the time for our household chores, especially on Sundays, when they announced, “This song from that movie has been sung by LataMangeshkarji or AshaBhonsaleji, ‘ I used to think, that it was Rekha who sang it, or sometimes I thought it was HemaMalini. Why are they mentioning AshaBhonsle? I’ve come a long way from that environment, and now I’m here in front of you. At that time, I had no idea that there were playback singers who sang for actors with different lip movements. I listen to a lot of Pakistani folk music, and although I haven’t learnt enough to understand the intricacies of the art or the depth of their singing, I feel a connection to songs like AarifLohar Sahib’s BolMitti De Baweya, Reshmaji, and Ghulam Ali Sahib’s soulful ghazals that have appeared in many films. I have also listened to Afsanji. And for me it will be great achievement to have sung a song with AarifLohar son of the great AlamLoharsaab.
Q. Tell us about the hard work and struggle that you have also put in to make a name for yourself.
A. Struggle is something that never really ends. I’ve mentioned in several of my interviews that my struggle is still ongoing today. Struggle is a constant companion, but what has changed is my ability to endure it. As they say, “Don’t take the broken and damaged road,” but instead choose the longer one, if it’s in a better condition. The determination to choose the right path has come to me, even if it’s a bit longer. But, at this stage in life, I’ve come to understand that what will happen is what destiny has written. I vividly remember when I used to play by the roadside with dolls, collecting colorful broken glass bangle pieces, back then, I didn’t care much about anything; I was a carefree child. We had our rope beds in the backyards or on the roof, and there were no fans. We used to gaze at planes in the sky or whatever we could spot, and watch them soar into the sky until they disappeared from my sight. We didn’t have kites to fly, so the elders at home would suggest naming cities with long names, so that we children could divert our attention, and we wouldn’t think much about the heat. This way, we would get lost in counting and eventually fall asleep, feeling drowsy from the heat.
Q. Let’s discuss your song, co-written by SimranKaur, and your collaboration. Is this your second duet song?
A. No, this is my third duet. In the year 2000, I sang RanjhaJogiHo Gaya and SucchaBalbeero. I also sang Akhara also which was in between, where the dubbing was done in such a way that one girl provided the female voice, and the other one the male voice
Q. You mean both vocals were by female singers.
A. Yes. Because I had accepted the challenge of singing in a masculine voice, I got to sing Ranjha’s lines in RanjhaJogi, and SuchaBalbeero’s lines in SuchaBalbeero.
Q. So, how did this song with SimranKaur come about?
A. As I mentioned before, the struggles of life never really end. I was also engrossed in it, thinking something should be done. I was quite slim; my teeth were also protruding. Look, today we feel that all these things cannot hinder someone’s progress, but those who want to hinder progress are the ones who highlight these obstacles negatively. I shared some personal experiences with Simran, and I found her to be honest and transparent. If she didn’t like something, she always spoke up. “When Simran’s, my husband’s, Sandeep’s, and Labbhi’s thoughts came together, a song emerged that closely matches 80% of my life.” I only entered the media and social media scene about two years ago. About 3-4 years ago, I had no idea about it. Now, my management team is taking care of things. Initially, I used to be happy just to have done 20-21 ‘live’ shows, people gathered, and I received a lot of love.
Q. Now how do you handle your social media which is imperative for any public figure?
A. My nephew, Shubhdeep, helped me with all this social media work. He said, Bhuaji, you have a lot, share it. Now, the song that used to reach 5-10 lakh people now reaches millions. When I came back from Australia and New Zealand after performing shows, previously, shows were limited in reach, but now, you can perform a show anywhere in the world, and it can be seen in any country with Punjabi communities through the media.
Q. In today’s times do you think that artistes like you still get the same amount of love from the audience?
A. Although people may think that old songs won’t find a place in today’s media with newer artistes having more followers, the truth is, the veteran artistes have a wealth of experience. They might not always express it verbally, but fans certainly feel their impact. I’m a fan of actress Rekha. Once, I watched her interview where she said that the film industry used to bid farewell to actresses with the label ‘mature’ until they could no longer lip-sync and express emotions properly. But, today’s era appeals to me because talent is valued, and age is no longer a barrier. Audience and listeners have become more discerning now. If I were 48 today, I couldn’t even think of dressing like a 16-year-old; such a thought wouldn’t even cross my mind.
Q. You once shared SushmitaSen’s video where she mentioned that even insults can be responded to with respect.
A. I believe it’s not necessary to retort back to rudeness, for example, we can use our wisdom to calmly handle cunningness, when we encounter it. We often know who is trying to degrade us, make us look foolish, but we should never let them know that we are aware, because time will eventually provide its own response. I strongly believe, time has its own way of showing the ‘right’ place to people.
Q. You mentioned in an interview that you really like Ajay Devgan’s eyes and watch all of his movies.
A. Well, maybe not the recent ones, but I have seen all of his earlier films. The way he looks at things with his eyes, it’s like you don’t even need dialogues. Once, Ajay Devgan went to a director’s office with someone and then came back. The director liked him and said he would sign him for his movie. Someone questioned, saying there’s nothing particularly special about this dusky guy, to which the director replied, “There’s something profound in his eyes. I watched his movie Thappad, where he says, Stopsin at the very first step.”
Q. What’s the message from you to today’s youth?
A. Respecting our parents is the most important thing. It’s a mistaken belief that our parents will always be there before us. Who knows, our time might come first. Parents are above all, and even educated people sometimes make mistakes that an uneducated person wouldn’t. You can never be greater than your parents, nor can you repay their sacrifices, no matter how much you earn. Parents who have raised us to become who we are can never really become small in our eyes. Actually, the realization often dawns when our parents are no longer with us. I’d like to say to the youth that there are no guarantees in life. Value your parents, show them love, and create a nurturing environment at home.
Q. You once mentioned that you were very close to your father?
A. Yes, I was extremely close to my father. I loved him deeply. He worked in the forest department, and I’m the second child in the family. He had an elder son who passed away before my birth. My mother started crying when my father returned home, thinking another daughter had been born, as people in the village sometimes used to say that having a daughter is like a stone being born. But my father said, “Why cry? Look how beautiful she is.” My mother replied, “What’s the use of beauty? We don’t know what’s written in her destiny.” Taking this lesson to heart, today I love my daughter immensely. She’s our dream, our peace, and everything to us. She’s only nineteen today, and I pray that when the time comes for her to get married, she finds a kind-hearted and good life partner. That’s my heartfelt wish.