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SIKH HERITAGE AWARDS GALA 2008: ENTERTAINMENT

Rabbi Shergill - Acclaimed Punjabi & Sufi Recording Artist

Rabbi’s eponymous debut album was an undisputed success. It was remarkable even
more so because it was the classic underdog story – recorded in parts, zero money
spent on its advertising and the only promotion being Anand Surapur’s brilliant video of
Bulla Ki Jana Main Kaun and word-of-mouth.

Now Rabbi is ready with another album of nine original songs. Most of it has been
produced in Milan, Italy by Italian ace Mauro Pagani. This album like the previous one
doesn’t have a unifying theme and the only common thread is Rabbi’s distinct way of
looking at life and the events unfolding around him. This one’s a little more ‘direct’,
there’s a more direct expression of love & other emotions than his previous work. Also
because it’s almost all live there’s a certain warmth and depth of feeling to the
collection. All the familiar Rabbi traits are there – intense lyrics, a cultural grounding,
skillful composition and great musicianship. All combine to stir up that smooth brew –
the song. Rolling along the many delightful curves & bends of these nine songs one
realises that this is not an ordinary effort, a cut-and-paste object d’art but a careful
study of the craft of songwriting by someone with diligence.

This album contains some songs that were written before his debut and some that
were informed by his post-Bulla experiences. But an artistic spirit that hasn’t changed
holds them together. In Rabbi’s case there’s no sudden departure from the past, no
abrupt transformation but just a gradual evolution, a subtle infusion of the new.
It’s the same pair of eyes looking at new vistas. Which have only just gotten broader.
And to accurately convey the variety of his kaleidoscope Rabbi takes up some artistic
leaps. Glides over various barriers – of language, of themes. He has to.

What however has definitely changed is Rabbi’s involvement in production. On this
album Rabbi dons the additional hat (turban?) on three songs. And it changes the
chemical composition of his art somewhat. There’s more froth, more bite. Also one
hears more of the guitar player Rabbi throughout the album but more so on his own
productions. He again uses loud, wailing electric guitar to eviscerate the guts of his
person, to amplify the subterranean howls of a lonely heart but all with the intent to
resolve, to heal.

There’s no overt spirituality a la Bulla, just the spirituality of ordinariness. Of letting
emotions enter & leave your heart. Of seeing it all go by. If in the last one the
emotions gushed out, in this one they merely abide. It has the surety of strokes and a
lightness of touch. A touch of someone who know what he’s doing.