AP Dhillon came to Canada with 2 suitcases and a dream. Now he's performing at the Junos

Punjabi-Canadian singer and rapper AP Dhillon is at his first Junos, eight years after leaving India to pursue a career in music.

'I'm happy that — finally — this brown skin is getting recognized,' he says

Singer AP Dhillon arrives at his first Juno Awards

7 days ago
Duration 2:16
AP Dhillon, the Punjabi-Canadian singer-rapper, spoke with CBC News on the Junos red carpet about South Asian representation and performing during Monday's event.

Punjabi-Canadian singer and rapper AP Dhillon is at his first Juno Awards, eight years after leaving India to pursue a career in music.

"I moved here with two suitcases and one dream, and that was just to do something that can inspire people back home," Dhillon told CBC News on the red carpet. "Immigrants that come into this country with the same hope that I had when I moved here."

"So I'm really excited to perform here and I'm happy that — finally — this brown skin is getting recognized," he said.

Dhillon made his mark in the Canadian music scene with his 2019 track Fake, showcasing a blend of pop, R&B, hip-hop with Punjabi musical influences that, four years later, has translated into over 10 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

"We're not afraid [of] experimenting with our music, and that's what makes it unique. That's the approach that we've been taking since day one," he said.

Man in shiny black suit posing on red carpet.
AP Dhillon arrives on the red carpet for the Juno Awards in Edmonton on Monday. The Punjabi-Canadian singer and rapper says his goal is to keep working with and uplifting other South Asian artists. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Dhillon is part of a fledgling movement of Canadian-Punjabi artists in hip-hop and rap, having worked with singers Gurinder Gill, rappers Shinda Kahlon and Sidhu Moose Wala, who died last year.

He also spoke about the importance of South Asian representation in Canadian music.

"This is the first step towards the marathon that we are going to run together," he said.

Dhillon, who frequently collaborates with other Punjabi-Canadian artists, said it was his goal "to help our people, to bring them to this platform. So that's why we're working toward it, we're collaborating with our people, collaborating with our people on this side of the world too."

Though Dhillon isn't nominated for any awards at this year's Junos, he will perform during Monday evening's show — and he's looking forward to all the performances.

"This will be my first-ever concert I'm going to sit and watch. All other ones are my own or I just perform there, so I'm excited," he said.


Jenna Benchetrit is a web journalist for CBC News. Based in Toronto and born in Montreal, she holds a master's degree in journalism from Ryerson University. Reach her at jenna.benchetrit@cbc.ca or on Twitter @jennabenchetrit.

With files by Jackson Weaver and Kory Siegers