The crossover of Punjabi music: From regional to mainstream

In Punjab, there’s a song for every occasion and what started out with Dhols and Sarangi, is now a bold movement led by artists bringing a fresh perspective through their music production. Once considered niche, today, Punjabi artists are at the forefront of multi-genre collaborations.

Punjabi music is becoming an integral and undeniable part of Bollywood. In 2018, three of the ten most popular songs on one of JioSaavn’smost streamed Bollywood playlists, Nach Le were Punjabi. “Ban Ja Tu Meri Rani” by Guru Randhawa, Arijit Singh’s “Main Tera Boyfriend,” and Yo Yo Honey Singh’s version of “Dil Chori” featured prominently all throughout.

Yo Yo Honey Singh

The celebratory undertone of Punjabi tunes has helped position it as a genre that people can groove to. This statement is supported by the fact that the playlist still features seven Punjabi numbers out of fifteen, like – “Coca Cola” by Neha KakkarTony Kakkar and Young Desi“Aankh Marey” by Neha KakkarMika Singh, and Kumar Sanu, and “Proper Patola” by Diljit Dosanjh.

The rising popularity of Punjabi music across the country has enabled both established and independent artists to add hip-hop and rapovertones to songs being recreated for new-age Hindi films. This, in turn, helps movie makers leverage the existing fan base of the said artist and use the collaboration as a promotional tool for the film. On the flipside, it also helps the artist get tremendous visibility and reach, beyond the confines of geographies and demographics.

In an attempt to empower South Asian artists on its platform, JioSaavn announced Artist Insights Dashboard in January 2018 as a tool to study insights on who streams their music, and how that can influence their sound, tour plans, possible collaborations, and career trajectory. 

With popular singles such as “Kya Baat Ay”“Backbone,” and “Naah.” Punjabi sensation, Harrdy Sandhu has rapidly gained momentum. His latest single “Yaarr Superstaar” has garnered over a million streams on JioSaavn within three months of its release.

“The popularity of Punjabi music has been growing and today it has become a universal language. It is amazing to see how independent artists like me are getting to widen our audience base.” – Harrdy Sandhu

Harrdy Sandhu

With the number of Punjabi artists making it big in Bollywood in the last couple of years, it is rapidly becoming an aspiration for several others. Music composers today target users by leveraging the celebratory emotion that is almost expected out of any Punjabi song. In the list of top-15 most streamed playlists on JioSaavnNach Le, an algorithm-driven playlist, made an appearance on the fifth spot for the first time ever in 2019, and Punjabi Chartbusters featured at tenth position. From 2014-17, Punjabi Chartbusters was the only Punjabi playlist to be featured in the top-10, sitting at number nine.

Interestingly, as per data from JioSaavn’s Artist Insights platform, the top five5 cities by streams for popular Punjabi rapper Badshah are New Delhi, Patna, Pune, Lucknow, and Kolkata. This is a good mix of both metropolitans and tier-2 cities covering North, East, and West India.

Bollywood’s influence on Punjabi music is undoubtedly massive. In fact, Punjabi music is growing at a rate which is helping other regional categories of Indie music as well. The number of songs we release on a daily basis is varied enough to appeal to different audiences. The Punjabi diaspora also contributes massively to the demand for Punjabi music. Interestingly, Punjabi artists enjoy loyal fans who help them market their music in a way which increases their credibility.” – Badshah

Badshah

Despite having a number of digital platforms at their disposal, most artists in this space generate a majority of their revenue through live shows (weddings, college shows, corporate events). With a vast Punjabi population spread across the world in regions such as Canada, UK, USA, Australia, Malaysia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, there is immense potential for Punjabi artists to leverage their cultural ties, and strike a chord globally.