King of pop Daler Mehndi, who in no time carved a niche for himself with his debut album Bolo Ta Ra Ra (1995), is also credited for making bhangra popular across the globe. The 50-year-old singer, in conversation with Guardian 20, emphasised that every musician should have an exclusive style of singing and dressing. He also shared his experience of being a part of the special edition of MixTape Punjabi and reviving his two classics—“Na Na Na Re” and “Kudiya Shehar Diyan”—for it.

Q. What according to you are the most prominent changes that have come about in the Punjabi music industry—be it in terms of the lyrics, style of music, artistes, the way video albums are shot, and so on? 

 A. I feel good because music will always be good. Punjabi music is pretty much the same as it was when we started it back in the day. It has only been a little more modernised in terms of beats and music.

Q. Punjabi artistes are adding value and variety to Bollywood music. But do you think that the Punjabi music industry have been awarded its fair share of accolades and recognition, or does it  remain undervalued? 

A. What can be a bigger exposure than Bollywood in our country? All around the world people listen to Bollywood songs. Bollywood definitely gives you a wider reach. My first song got world famous after it was launched in a Bollywood movie. I’m very thankful to God to have got an opportunity to break into Bollywood. Also, after punjabi artistes were launched in Bollywood, people’s perception towards our music has changed and we have got more acceptance from the audience.

Q.  Do you think your style and range of singing will have any successors in the future?

A. Yes, why not. There will be many. Every musician is trying his best. It is all in the hands of God, he can make magic work anytime.

Q. Do you think Bollywood and playback singing has become a priority of a large section of musicians? 

A. Absolutely.  However, it is also important for Bollywood producers to generate good songs, just as it is equally important for singers to do playback singing. It works both ways. What’s important is that, it should be loved by the audience.

Q. You have worked with varied genres of music—romantic, pop, sufi, patriotic and others. Is there a particular genre you enjoy the most?

A. I enjoy singing sufi music the most. Good sufi music needs deeper musical knowledge about taal, ragas and sur. If it is sung in its pure form, it can create a wonderful experience.

“All around the world people listen to Bollywood songs. Bollywood definitely gives you a wider reach. My first song got world famous after it was launched in a Bollywood movie. ”

Q.  Audiences love you for your versatility. But do you think musicians from the present lot lack that sort of versatility singers of your generation had? 

A. No. There is immense versatility in the musicians these days.

Q. Any particular thing that you miss the most from ’90s pop scene?

A. No, not really. I don’t miss much and I have my brother Mika Singh singing most of the dance numbers in Bollywood. I feel Sukhwinder [Singh] is doing a great job too in keeping pop dance music alive.

Q. You have a unique style of singing. And a characteristic style of dressing and performing too. How important do you think cultivating a unique personality is for artistes?

A. It is very important for artistes to have a personality of their own. Dressing style and looks matter a lot when you’re entertaining the audience.  Nowadays, young singers wear shorts and chappals to perform, and I feel they should be taught how to dress before their fans. Along with singing well, it is quite necessary to look good as well.

Q. What was it like working for the special edition of MixTape Punjabi and mashing up two of your biggest hits—“Na Na Na Re”, and “Kudiya Shehar Diyan”? 

A. It was really a great to associate with T-Series and working on MixTape Punjabi. This is a special party edition, where so many renowned artists and singers from the Punjabi fraternity will be performing under one roof. I am pretty sure our tracks will do well. I am doing a solo performance on my songs—“Kudiyan Shehar Diyan” and “Na Na Na Re”. Music director Abhijit Vaghani has created a wonderful version of the song and given me a chance to revive my chartbusters.

Q.  MixTape is proof how the digital medium is pushing boundaries and featuring fresh talent. So, do you think young artistes who are just starting out are now in a better position, given the digital medium, than you were when you began your career with the album Bolo Tara Ra Ra?

A.Yes, absolutely. Unlike before, artistes now have grown so much thanks to the digital platform. My song “Tunak Tunak” is trending online even after so many years. Digital platforms help you connect with your international fans and help create a wider fan base as well.  Today’s generation is attached to digital and social media. I am thankful to God for this digital age.  I’m sure all the people around the world are going to get their dancing shoes out.

Q. Tell us more about your upcoming projects?

A. I have recently given music for Firangi [a Hindi action-comedy drama]. I am also composing for Happy Bhaag Jayegi 2. Apart from it, many more in the pipeline.

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