When compared to the global music arena, Punjabi music industry is still in its nascent stages. We still have not grasped the kind of professionalism required in the industry to reach its apex. Punjabi music albums are solely based on singer’s taste. Most of the albums are based on a formula of including a couple of sad songs, couple of beat songs, one song about family including father or mother, one patriotic song, and a couple of remixes. (This trend made its appearance a couple of years ago). Punjabi Music industry still thinks that cutting an album is just about releasing 8 – 10 songs and making a few videos out of them, so that the singer makes an appearance in public.
We rarely get to see anything more than that. Even if the content of the album is based on formula recipe, at least the albums, as a package can provide the buyers something more. What I’m trying to say here is that there is no extra bonus that comes with the album. If you buy an English music album you’ll get to see the difference that I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is the inlay cover, which is an integral part of the album. In our industry the inlay covers are really really boring. They just have a mug shot of the artist and lots of legal information, songs, disclaimers and a thanking note; again, a trend that started a couple of years back.
Satinder Sartaj made a brilliant break from this trend by making his albums more than just albums. His albums are always collectibles with a lot of information, lyrics or images and stuff like that. When you buy an album like that, that album becomes a collectors’ item. It becomes something you cherish to keep with you. It’s not an album that you simply throw away in the glove box of your car. One can understand that having a 12 page booklet in an album raises the cost of production of the album and its mostly avoided. But still if not the booklet, at least we deserve to have better cover designs.
Mostly in 99.99% of the times, it’s just the artist on the cover or the models in the songs, a trend that captured the industry around 10 years back.. 6 years back or 5 years back may be. I’ve never ever seen an album cover which can induce me into purchasing that album just by looking at it. But, recently we had something new and this something new came in the shape of Diljit Dosanjh’s religious album Sikh.
Album front cover for Sikh doesn’t have the face of Diljit wearing religious clothes and praying to God as most of the other religious albums usually have. The album has a brilliant artwork, where you see a sketch of a Sikh wearing turban. On the back you have a male and a female sketch in proper Sikh attire.
My point here is not to go into the religious details but into the artwork implications. This is the first time that artwork has appeared on the cover of a Punjabi Music Album, even if it’s religious in nature. This definitely is a very-very fresh thinking. I was impressed at the thinking of whoever came out with this idea. So, I called up Diljit to know how he conceived this idea. What Diljit told me lead me to two more persons who were involved in this project. Diljit told me that he met a young guy named Harnav Bir Singh a couple of years back. He told me that he was really impressed by his photographs. What he really liked about his photographs was that he rarely added any post effects to his images and his photographs seemed very real, very raw and this inspired Diljit to contact this guy and admire his talent. So, Diljit called up Harnav and since then, they have been good friends.
Diljit told me that while being so young, Harnav has a very pure thinking. So, I probed into more questioning about how it relates to the artwork on Sikh. Replying to this query Diljit told me that he had been planning a religious album for a long time and he shared this idea with Harnav, and Harnav immediately gave the album its name. He suggested calling it Sikh and just that. Harnav also suggested to do the album in a different way. And so whatever happened on the Sikh album; the artwork; the inlay and everything else was entirely Harnav’s idea.
But there was one input that Diljit stood on firmly as he told me himself, “I didn’t want to be on the cover of the album. I was very sure of that. Be it because of my profession or for any other reasons”. I asked him if he can be more specific. He told me that he thinks himself as a sinful being and he does not think that he should be representing the entire community. He told me that “Although I wear a turban, I am not a representative. If I had done it, if I had put myself on the cover, I would have felt guilty with myself and so I told Harnav Bir that it shouldn’t be me on the cover” So, on that clue I knew that to get more details I had to call Harnav and ask him personally.
That very night, I contacted Harnav and asked him about the Sikh project. Harnav Bir was entirely forthcoming and filled me with a lot of details about how it all happened. Harnav said that he was very happy that he was given the chance to shape an entire album and from the beginning he wanted this not to be just an album but a tribute to Sikhism. This feel indeed reflects in the album as the inlay cover says “A Tribute by Diljit Dosanjh”.
So Harnav was the one who came out with the idea of having a person wearing turban on the cover. Intially the idea was to use a photograph, but then Harnav remembered a friend he had made a couple of months back. This friend was Sharan. Harnav told me that Sharan is very popular on Facebook for his artworks and sketches and sometime back he had made a sketch for Harnav. So it occurred to Harnav that it would be a great idea if they would put a pencil sketch of a person wearing turban on the front of the album. Immediately he called up Sharan and gave him the idea about the album’s cover art that he had in his mind.
Another aspect of the concept was that it shouldn’t become a gender based album and the people shouldn’t think that it was a male oriented album. Hence Harnav also came out with the thought of a male and a female Singh in proper Sikh attire on the rear of the album. Just after this information Harnav told me that this was the only information he provided to Sharan and left everything upto him for deciding and creating the artwork. What Sharan came out with was so incredible that everybody loved it and it became the album’s cover art right away.
And now after Diljit and Harnav’s part of the story, it was time for Sharan’s part of the tale and so I called up Sharan.
I called up Sharan and asked him to inform me with his experience of the Sikh project. Talking to Sharan was an enriching experience as I myself am an artist and we share the same canvas of art. Sharan told me that Harnav approached him with the idea of a sketched cover art and drawing proper “Singh and Singhni” on the rear. “It was quite straight forward in the beginning. i just had to sketch and I spent the time on doing just that.”, Sharan told me. While drawing the portrait much of thought went into drawing the eyes. He wanted to have eyes that had peace, aggressiveness and serenity all together. After sketching the front and rear of the sketches he sent them for approval and Diljit simply loved the very first attempt. Sharan had also added some color tones in the background. The colors were chosen on the merit of Sikh colors of blue and orange. Sharan also added hues of pink and cyan to depict the peace of heart and harmony. As per Sharan told me there were very few changes that were required to be made in the initial design and everything went smoothly.
When it came to the inside of the inlay Sharan also confirmed Diljit‘s theory that Diljit didn’t want his own photograph to be included on the album, but “I pressed him hard to do so”. Sharan said. Sharan said that he told Diljit that the people who liked him will buy the album without any bias and they will in fact feel proud that Diljit hasn’t given himself the importance”. Once Diljit agreed, it was understood that even Diljit’s photograph will be in the form of a sketch.”
Sharan really enjoyed the experience of doing an album art for a main league singer and he thanked Harnav Bir for being the conduit of this experiment. For Sharan this has become one of his personal achievements. As Sharan says, “A good person is the one who values your work and values it more than you expect. I was paid fully and more than I expected. I think Diljit Bai is one of the nicest people I know. he really knows how to value and encourage artists”.
As for Diljit, he openly admits, “When I was of their age (Harnav and Sharan), I didn’t have that kind of thinking. I was not that mature. These young men have such intellect that it simply amazes me.” He further said that meeting young people like Harnav and Sharan makes him sure that Punjabi community is not entirely lost.
All in all to get to know about the complete saga of how the album art of Sikh came about was really elevating as it is a new beginning in the Punjabi Music industry. The article has become quite long, but I really enjoyed writing it. After all it gave me an insight into Diljit’s personality and brought me in contact with two intellectual souls. I wish them all the luck for their future and I wish they do more work in the industry and also hope that more people like them join this field. (9018)