British Columbia

Famous Punjabi-language rapper Sidhu Moose Wala shot dead in India

Sidhu Moose Wala was set to play Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum on July 23 as part of an eight-city tour across Canada.

Moose Wala was planning an eight-city tour of Canada

Sidhu Moose Wala, a Punjabi-language rapper and performer famous in Canada and worldwide, was shot dead in Punjab, India, on Sunday. Moose Wala, who was born in India and later moved to Brampton, Ont., was 28. (Sidhu Moose Wala/Facebook)

Punjabi-language rapper and music producer Sidhu Moose Wala has been shot dead in India, according to officials. He was 28.

Moose Wala was born in Moosa, a village in the Mansa district of Punjab, India, in 1993. After receiving an electrical engineering degree in 2016, he moved to Brampton, Ont., and found success as a rapper while in Canada.

He became famous worldwide, especially in the Punjabi diaspora, for his charged rap performances and slick music videos.

Police say Moose Wala had left his home in Mansa at about 4:30 p.m. local time on Sunday, driving in a jeep vehicle along with two other people.

At about 5:30 p.m., police say the occupants of three vehicles — one behind Moose Wala's vehicle and two alongside — fired into the vehicle when they were in the village of Jawaharke.

Moose Wala was injured and was declared dead after he was brought to hospital, police said, adding it was likely the slaying was the result of an "inter-gang rivalry."

The rapper, who also had an acting career, had joined the Indian National Congress party last year after returning to his home country.

He had contested the Punjab state elections in 2022, losing to Dr. Vijay Singla of the Aam Aadmi Party, which is the ruling party in the state of Punjab and in Delhi.

Punjab State Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann tweeted his condolences to Moose Wala, with a statement from the Congress party saying that his death "has come as a terrible shock to the Congress party & the entire nation."

Iconic in Punjabi diaspora

Moose Wala found much success in the Punjabi-language rap scene after moving to Canada. He has performed to sold-out crowds in Winnipeg and Toronto, and was also an iconic figure in Surrey, B.C. — home to Canada's second-largest South Asian population.

On Sunday, several hundred people gathered in Surrey for a vigil following the star's death.

"Together we are here praying for his soul," said Ishbret Singh, who organized the vigil. "May he rest in peace."

Singh said Moose Wala was an important figure in the community whose life came to an unjust and violent end.

"He was a very popular star, a very gentle star," said Singh. "He was on the top of his career now and ... he is no more, so that's a very heartbreaking thing."

Fans of Sidhu Moose Wala gather at 120 Street and 72 Avenue in Surrey, B.C., on Sunday. (Jon Azpiri/CBC News)

Moose Wala was set to play Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum on July 23 as part of his Back 2 Business Tour, an eight-city tour across Canada. The concert fell under the purview of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), an annual summer fair in Vancouver.

Laura Ballance, a spokesperson for the PNE, said ticket sales for Moose Wala's concert were delayed as organizers verified security details, and discussions were set to happen with the musician this week regarding safety.

"It's sad to see somebody who is clearly a talented artist, regardless of what people think of his music, who had a large fan base ... fall victim to any sort of violence," she said.

Moose Wala's music touched on themes of violence, bravado, and machismo, particularly with respect to Punjabi men, and the state of affairs in his home state. He was an outspoken supporter of the widespread farmers' protests in India.

The rapper released a few singles in 2017 shortly after moving to Canada. His first album PBX 1 was released in 2018, and subsequent albums went on to chart in Canada and abroad.

His music videos frequently garnered millions of views in a short span of time, and featured slick production and camera work. His 2018 song, Its All About You, was the most-watched YouTube video on Valentine's Day in 2018.

He subsequently went on to have his own eponymous record label, and starred in the 2021 Punjabi-language movie Moosa Jatt. He branched into politics before the Punjab election in December 2021.

Moose Wala had a performance cancelled in Surrey in 2019 due to security concerns on the part of RCMP and the city, after a previous stabbing at one of his Surrey concerts.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story identified a person police said they believe to be associated with Sidhu Moose Wala's shooting death. That person's name has been removed. No charges have been laid.
    May 29, 2022 1:08 PM PT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Akshay Kulkarni

Journalist

Akshay Kulkarni is a journalist who has worked at CBC British Columbia since 2021. Based in Vancouver, he has covered breaking news, and written features about the pandemic and toxic drug crisis. He is most interested in data-driven stories. You can email him at akshay.kulkarni@cbc.ca.

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