How Punjab became home to India’s biggest non-film music industry

Has papa listened yet to the song “Prada”, Dinesh Auluck’s 14-year-old son wanted to know. “Prada” is a recent track that is creating ripples in the Punjabi music scene. Auluck, 42, is the cofounder of Speed Records, the largest music label in Punjab. But even for him, things can feel too frenetic.

The rise and fall of singers, music videos with lavish production budgets that amass hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, new sensations born virtually overnight, the overhang of drugs, guns and violence, and the thrill of taste-making — Punjab listens today to what India will hear tomorrow — can all get overwhelming.

These are heady days in Punjab’s music industry and Mohali is where the action is. It’s a veritable music factory — some 20 songs are written, composed, recorded and released here every day, by some reckoning.

The Land of Five Rivers is overflowing with artistes and music labels, all vying for virality, stardom and revenues. There are some 400 registered labels, with some 20 leading the pack. “Prada”, a slow-romantic number by rookie artiste Jass Manak, went online in mid June, and within a fortnight had become a rage with kids his son’s age, notes Auluck. At the time of writing, the track had amassed 79 million views on YouTube

The heady rise of Punjabi music is a result of several factors. The state has a long-standing tradition of music and live performance. The massive Punjabi diaspora overseas, now brought closer by digital distribution, is a big market for online sales and live shows. Producers of Punjabi origin who grew up in cities such as London or Toronto brought back a distinct quality and production sensibility to the state.

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