British Columbia

B.C. fans celebrate Punjabi representation at Coachella this year

B.C. fans are praising a diverse lineup of South Asian artists, such as Diljit Dosanjh and Ali Sethi, at Coachella, one of the largest music festivals in the U.S.

Diljit Dosanjh and Ali Sethi among those taking the stage at Coachella

A composite image of two South Asian singers, one with a turban and the other laying down on grass with a orange and gold fabric on him.
Punjabi singer Diljit Dosanjh, left, and Pakistani singer Ali Sethi are among the South Asian artists set to perform at Coachella this year. (Left: Diljit Dosanjh/Facebook. Right: Submitted by Umar Nadeem)

The moment Jeevan Sangha found out Punjabi superstar Diljit Dosanjh will take to the stage at Coachella, one of the best-known music festivals in the world, a particular feeling sparked in her heart.

"I was ecstatic. It was so exciting to hear," she said. 

For B.C. fans like Sangha, a roster of South Asian performers at Coachella marks the importance of bringing cultural representation through music to the world stage. 

Artists like Diljit Dosanjh and Ali Sethi will be bringing the Punjabi language to Coachella for the first time, and fans are celebrating the milestone. 

"Music holds so much of our culture. And for it to be celebrated on such a big scale, it feels like we are being celebrated, our culture is being celebrated," said Sangha, who is also the editor-in-chief of 5X Press, a South Asian youth culture magazine. 

The festival in Southern California attracts tens of thousands to the desert community of Indio, Calif. and features emerging and popular artists like Dosanjh. This year, the festival held over two weekends will also include headliners like Bad Bunny, Blackpink, and Frank Ocean. 

Woman with short black hair sitting on blue chair.
Jeevan Sangha says Punjabi singer Diljit Dosanjh's upcoming performance at Coachella is a huge achievement. (CBC News )

Diljit's music is being embraced across generations in India and abroad. Coachella provides a stage for non-Punjabi speakers to also appreciate the music, says Sangha.

"We really do claim him as our own, and we really do love him and every time he breaks another barrier, we all celebrate."

A Punjabi superstar with a local B.C. footprint

Dosanjh has had a large impact on British Columbians through his songs and movies, some of which have been shot in Metro Vancouver, says Kamal Sharma, a concert promoter in Surrey, B.C., who is also the president of  KVP Entertainers. 

His movie Honsla Rakh was filmed in Surrey and Vancouver with nearly 100 staff from B.C. and broke box office records in India last year. 

Dosanjh released his first album in 2004. His 12th album, MoonChild Era, entered the Billboard Top Canadian Albums Chart in 2021. He also recently collaborated with Canadian rapper Tory Lanez on the song Chauffeur

Last year, Dosanjh made history in Vancouver by being the first Indian artist to sell out Rogers Arena during his Born To Shine world tour. 

Fans from across B.C. flooded Rogers Arena on Sunday to see Punjabi singer and actor Diljit Dosanjh, who performed in Vancouver as part of his Born To Shine world tour last year. (Diljit Dosanjh Facebook)

Sharma watched Dosanjh perform in his early days in Abbotsford, B.C., in large venues like Rogers Arena. He says hearing about his performance at Coachella is a "huge honour not just for the Punjabi artist, but shall I say to the entire South Asian community."

"This means the music has really arrived. This music is being appreciated by everyone," said Sharma.

Hope for more South Asian representation in music

 Ali Sethi, whose hit song Pasoori garnered almost half a billion views in 2022, will also be performing in Punjabi and contemporary music at Coachella.

Sethi, who grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, says when he heard about the opportunity to perform at Coachella, he reflected on the word "magic."

"I thought … what will be my version of  beauty, of magic, of excitement." 

This year's Coachella roster also has South Asian artists like Jai Wolf, a Bangladeshi-American electronic music producer, and Joy Crooks, a singer and songwriter who is Tamil Sri Lankan.

Sethi hopes this is the beginning of featuring more South Asian talent on global stages. 

"About time … so many of the things that we find in global music today are connected to South Asia in interesting ways."

"I sincerely hope that there will be even more South Asian acts at next year's festival and other festivals because there's a lot of really interesting music coming out of South Asia and out of the South Asian diaspora right now."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Baneet Braich

CBC Journalist

Baneet Braich is a journalist with CBC News. Connect with her at baneet.braich@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @Baneet_Braich

With files from Belle Puri

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