How Punjabi Pop Music Distorts Punjabi Culture and Promotes Crime and Drug Culture


In 2019, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana noted that the glorification of alcohol, drugs and violence in songs affects children and gave rise to gangster culture in Punjab.

Live music. Representative picture

About its vibrant and rich culture, Punjab has a great and long tradition of poetry, music and dance which is reflected in its varied cultural heritage. The ethos of Punjabi culture is bravery, chivalry and gallantry. The land of Punjab cradled Sufis like Baba Farid, Bulle Shah and many seers, saints and sages. It is a land where Heer-Ranjha, Sohni-Mahiwal, Mirza-Sahiba and Sassi-Punhoon manifested and became the legends of soulful love and sacrifice. Their legends gave the underlying themes of Punjabi music, folklore and poetry. The Patiala Gharana of Punjab is one of the renowned gharanas of Hindustani vocal classical music which is an important traditional center of musical learning in India. It is a land where Shiv Kumar Batalavi echoed the pain of his emotions in his catharsis.

In the late 1980s, the tradition of Punjabi music was carried on by Gurdas Mann, Hans Raj Hans, Surinder Shinda, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, K Deep, Jagmohan Kaur, Surinder Kaur, Amar Singh Chamkila, etc., who are known for their enchanted display of Punjabi folklore. However, simultaneously during the 1990s, a parallel musical stream emerged which was a fusion of Western culture and Punjabi folklore. Seeking to reconnect their emotions with their roots, the young Punjabis who had settled as NRIs in Western Europe, the United States and Canada synergized the rhythms of the West and mixed them with the lyrics. of the Punjabi language, known as Punjabi pop music. .

The word “pop” is a short form or slang for the word “popular”; thus, pop music is synonymous with popular music. Punjabi pop music is the most popular pop music in India. He is popular not only in Bollywood but in many other regions like Southeast Asia and even in Hollywood. The influence of Punjabi pop music was such that Punjab became home to India’s largest non-film music industry. There is hardly any blockbuster Bollywood movie without a Punjabi pop song or two.

The rapid and impactful growth of Punjabi pop music is a result of many factors such as Punjab having a long tradition of live music and performances, fusion of Punjabi culture with other cultures where Punjabi immigrants have settled and the rich support of the Punjabi Diaspora abroad which is a big market. The distinctive characteristics of Punjabi pop are the fusion between club, hip-hop and Punjabi musical styles. It is known for its vibrant, energetic and fast beats in which the lyrics and themes remain Punjabi.

However, part of this parallel musical trend has given rise to a rather disturbing new trend. This trend has invoked the values ​​and themes that run counter to the very Punjabi culture they claim to reflect. Some of the Punjabi music distorts the rich culture of Punjab.

Although it is only a section of Punjabi pop music, this section is growing in number and impact on the people especially on the vulnerable youth. The themes of their lyrics distort, distort and degrade true Punjabi culture.

Here are the main themes of this distorted version of Punjabi culture.

  • One of the underlying themes of these songs is drugs and alcoholism. The lyrics justify and openly encourage young people to drink alcohol. The main lyrics revolve around words such as Daru, Weed, Nasha, Chitta, Vodka (Char Bottle Vodka, Kaam Mera Roj Ka), Whiskey, Ahata, Shots, Daru Di Gaddi, Thekha, etc.
  • The other theme shows macho power where weapons, the use of weapons, shooting, killing rivals, etc., are glorified. These lyrics revolve around shooting, fire, donali, hathyar, glock, pistol, AK-47 rifles, etc. Wanton violence is welcomed, glorified and justified.
  • One of the other themes is the use of muscle and political power and its show-off. There is a total disregard for authority, judicial power and the rule of law. Here, the theme of gangster-ism is welcomed. The life of a gangster is celebrated.
  • The other major theme is the objectification of women where women are compared and subjugated as objects. The main words used are Chikni, Afeem, Patakha, etc.
  • The other theme is the glorification of ultra-rich, high-end, super-luxurious lifestyles. The theme revolves around expensive foreign brands like Gucci, Armani, Prada, Gas, Gap, etc. It also uses words and themes like high-end cars, wealthy properties, Hummer, Audi, etc.


  • Music and singers not only reflect the cultural contours of any society, they also define those contours. According to a study by IIM-Ahmedabad, it is observed that young people who listen to such songs have a negative attitude towards women and a high propensity to indulge in drug use and violence. The lyrics used in these songs are so filthy and obscene that they can’t even be called art, the study said. Such music profoundly influences the addiction behavior of teenagers. Vulnerable teens and youth are beginning to accept drugs as a “cool” and acceptable societal norm.
  • Some songs aim to ridicule, mock and undermine established authorities like the police and the judiciary. It engenders and propagates a culture of crime and a tendency to glorify violence. It’s not uncommon for some young people to get carried away and openly carrying a gun with them is a new trend.
  • In one such case, in 2019, four teenagers died in a car accident while shooting a video and listening to the song “High end Gadiya, Dehd soh the Chaidya” (driving a high-end car at a speed of 150 km) and were directly influenced by the song and its performer.

A few singers have been arrested by the police for inciting violence and boasting of weapons. In 2019, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana noted that the glorification of alcohol, drugs and violence in songs affects children and gave rise to gangster culture in Punjab. This distortion by a few yet hard-hitting singers needs to be controlled by civil society and the government so that the youth of Punjab can get a true sense of the real culture of Punjab.

The author is a freelance columnist. The opinions expressed are personal.

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