Amar Singh Chamkila

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Amar Singh Chamkila Amarsinghchamkila.jpg
Birth name Dhanni Ram
Also known as Amar Singh Chamkila
Born (1960-07-21)21 July 1960
Dugri, Punjab, India
Died 8 March 1988(1988-03-08) (aged 27)
Mesumpur, Punjab, India
Genres Punjabi duets, solos, lok-tath, lok-katha, dharmik
Occupations Singer, songwriter, musician, composer
Instruments Vocals, tumbi, harmonium, dholak
Years active 1979–1988
Labels HMV
Associated acts Chamkila & Amarjot, Surinder Sonia, Miss Usha

Dhanni Ram (July 21, 1960 – March 8, 1988) commonly known by his stage name Amar Singh Chamkila was a popular Punjabi singer, songwriter, musician, and composer. Chamkila and his wife and singing partner Amarjot were killed, along with two members of their band on March 8, 1988 allegedly by Khalistani militants.[1]

Chamkila is regarded as one of the best stage performers Punjab has ever produced. His music was heavily influenced by the Punjabi village life he was surrounded by growing up. He commonly wrote songs about extra-marital relationships, coming of age, drinking, drug use, and the hot tempers of Punjabi men. He earned a controversial reputation, with his detractors regarding his music obscene, and his supporters regarding it a truthful commentary on Punjabi culture and society.[citation needed]

His best-known hits include "Pehle Lalkare Naal" and his devotional songs "Baba Tera Nankana" and "Talwar Main Kalgidhar Di". Though he never recorded it himself, he wrote the widely popular "Jatt Di Dushmani" which has been recorded by many Punjabi artists.

Early life and career[edit]

Amar Singh Chamkila was born as Danni Ram Singh on July 21, 1960 in the village of Dugri near Ludhiana, Punjab, India.He was born into a poor family. The younginest child of Kartar Kaur and Hari Singh, he was educated at Gujar Khan Primary School in Dugri. His aspirations of becoming an electrician were unfulfilled and he found work at a Ludhiana cloth mill. With a natural aptitude for music, he learned to play the harmonium and dholki. Punjabi folk musician Surinder Shinda has said that in 1979, Chamkila approached him for the first time on a bicycle. When Shinda heard the 18-year-old Chamkila sing, he had finally found the protege that he had been looking for. Chamkila would go onto play alongside Punjabi folk artists such as K. Deep, Mohammad Saddiq and Surinder Shinda. He wrote several songs for Shinda and accompanied him as a member of his entourage before deciding to pursue a solo career. It is rumored that Chamkila was happy enough writing songs, but he wasn't earning enough money to look after his family, so had to start singing.

He was married to Gurmail Kaur with whom he had two daughters, Amandeep Kaur and Kamaldeep Kaur. Chamkila's second marriage was with his co-singer Amarjot Kaur.

Rise to Fame[edit]

Career in Music[edit]

Adopting the stage name Amar Singh Chamkila – Chamkila in Punjabi means one that glitters – he partnered up with the female vocalist Surinder Sonia and recorded eight duets. The record was released in 1979 and was produced by Charanjit Ahuja. The cunningly worded lyrics, which he had written himself, became hits across Punjab and paved the way for the unique lyrical mastery his fans would come to expect.

In 1980, Chamkila left Sonia and established a short-lived stage relationship with Miss Usha. He left Miss Usha in the same year in favor of teaming up with a female folk singer named Amarjot. Not much is known about Amarjot Kaur, except for the fact that she was previously married but left the marriage to pursue her dream of singing. Amarjot herself was a renowned singer and sang with Kuldip Manak. She would become Chamkila’s permanent singing partner providing the female vocals for his duets, that is, the majority of the songs that he wrote.

Chamkila, for the most part, wrote his own lyrics, the majority of which were boyish and suggestive, yet fluent, commentaries on extramarital affairs, alcohol and drug use. The couple’s appeal grew not only in the Punjab, but they quickly raced to international stardom among Punjabis abroad. Around this time, Chamkila was receiving more bookings than his contemporaries such as Kuldip Manak, Gurdas Maan and Surinder Shinda. The biography "Awaz Mardi Nahin" by Gulzar Singh Shaunki found during its research that at the height of his popularity Chamkila had performed 366 shows in 365 days.

By the early 1980s, Chamkila and Amarjot had recorded hugely successful LPs on the HMV label and they toured Canada, U.S., Dubai and Bahrain. They were also commonly booked for wedding parties, charging a reported Rs. 4000 per performance, an unprecedented amount for the time. Chamkila sold more HMV LP records in the world then any other Punjabi singer. He was also an accomplished player of the Tumbi instrument.

Much of Chamkila’s success may be attributed to the fan-base he acquired performing in free, open-air concerts (known as Akhade in Punjabi) around Punjab. Accompanying the couple would be a harmonium and dholki player and Chamkila would play the Tumbi. The concerts served as a medium for gaining exposure and testing people’s response to new songs that were planned for future recordings. In addition to singing his own songs, Chamkila wrote several songs and sold them to other artists. Some of these include Main Digie Tilak Ke (Surinder Shinda), Gabroo Nu Marda (Jagmohan Kaur) and Deor Naal Nach Bhabiye (KS Kooner). Chamkila continued to work with Charanjit Ahuja but also experimented by working with SN Gulati (Deora Ve Tavitan Walia) & KS Narula (Mera Jee Karda). Starting in 1985, Chamkila and Amarjot released three devotional LPs: Baba Tera Nankana, Talwar Main Kalgidhar Di Haan and Naam Jap Le. While the LPs were highly successful, none of the songs featured on them were written by Chamkila. The profits made from these LPs were reportedly donated to charities.

Chamkila’s song Pehle Lalkare Naal was featured in the soundtrack of the 1987 Punjabi film Patola. He also recorded the song Mera Jee Karda for the Punjabi film 'Dupatta'. Both films fared averagely at the box office, but still increased Chamkila's popularity. He also recorded a music video for one of his songs for the state-owned Doordarshan channel, but after his death his video was taken off the air. Chamkila and Amarjot recorded in excess of ninety songs before they were killed in Mesumpur, Punjab in 1988. At the time of his death, he reportedly had 200 songs that had not been sung or recorded. Of these some were sung at stage shows including Dhee Mar Jai Badkar Loko, Jatt Di Dushmani and Akhiyan Di Maar Buri. Chamkila also sang another serious song on the folk hero Jeona Morh called Kaadha Soorma, which was remixed by Panjabi MC in 2007.

He also had many solo songs which have been sung in recent times by artists such as Chamak Chamkila, Nirmal Sidhu, Amar Arshi, and even his teacher Surinder Shinda. Some singers have used some of Chamkila's lyrics in their songs as part of their chorus. These include Nasha, Mere Yaar Ne (Gippy Grewal) and Shad De Vairne Yaari (Jazzy B).

Death[edit]

Chamkila & Amarjyot funeral

Having arrived to perform in Mehsampur, Punjab, both Chamkila and Amarjot were gunned down as they exited their vehicle on March 8, 1988 at approximately 2 o'clock. A gang of motorcyclists fired several rounds fatally wounding the couple and other members of the entourage. However, no arrests were ever made with connection to the shooting and the case was never solved.

There are many other conspiracy theories of why of Chamkila was killed. It is widely reported that Chamkila had been the victim of several death threats. The nature of those threats or the reasoning behind them still remains a mystery. The high-profile murder sparked a frenzy of controversy and speculation. Some of the most prominent theories explaining the killings are:

* Due to the public’s declining interest in other Punjabi singers in favor of Chamkila, one or more of these artists may have planned for his killing.

* The Khalistani separatist movement of the 1980s may have found Chamkila’s liberal and provocative lyrical content a threat to its conservative agenda. They may have arranged for his murder.

* Amarjot’s caste, was commonly viewed to be higher than Chamkila’s caste. Disgraced by Amarjot’s involvement with Chamkila, her family or others may have arranged for the couple’s killing.

* Chamkila may have been murdered by an individual whom he rejected to perform for due to a scheduling conflict or otherwise.

Legacy[edit]

Influence[edit]

Indian film composer Amit Trivedi called Chamkila "a legend, the Elvis of Punjab."[2]

British Indian musician, Panjabi MC, cites Chamkila as one of his musical influences.[3] The song Kaadha Soorma from his 2008 album, Indian Timing, includes Chamkila's vocals.[citation needed]

Film adaptation[edit]

Indian filmmaker Gunjit Chopra has completed a Chamkila biopic.[clarification needed] and is working on a script for a full-length feature film.[4]

Discography[edit]

Chamkila's studio recordings were released by HMV as LP records and EP records during his lifetime. Though several compilation albums have been released since his death, the following CDs compiled by Saregama comprise nearly all of Chamkila's studio recordings:

Posthumous Albums[edit]

  • 2014 The Diamond

References[edit]

  1. ^ "In '80s, Chamkila sung double meaning songs". Times of India. 2013-01-03. 
  2. ^ Shah, Shalini. "Composer Amit Trivedi speaks to Shalini Shah on lending his voice to ‘Keh ke lunga’ and being on Season 2 of Coke Studio", The Hindu, 27 June 2012. Retrieved on 30 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Panjabi MC - Bio". Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  4. ^ Dutt, Nirupama. "Telling Untold Tales". The Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 24 August 2012.