Honey Singh and Jazzy B are not the only singers drawing flak for vulgar, misogynist songs, but there are several other Punjabi singers, who have been doing the same without any subtlety for some time. In fact, Amar Chamkila started the trend of using double entendres in the 1980s even as he had sung a number of popular religious and folk songs. He even defied militant threats warning him against singing vulgar songs till he was killed along another singer Amarjot in March 1988.
“Romanticism has always been there in Punjabi folk and other popular songs, but Chamkila had crossed the line and started openly using double-entendres. After his killing, no Punjabi singer sang any vulgar song for around a decade,” said columnist Swaran Tehna.
He pointed out that then there was no internet and only those with cassette players could listen to these songs along with those who attended Chimkila’s Akharas (programs) in villages. “What these singers are singing today may even shame Chamkila as abuses and explicit words are being unabashedly used in and these songs are reaching most youngsters,” said Tehna.
Others like Ashok Masti, Geeta Zaildar, Diljit Dosanjh and Gippy Grewal have also been drawing flak for singing vulgar songs. Gippy and Zaildar had to apologize for their songs after women activists staged dharnas before their residences.
Critics say many Punjabi songs depict women as “mere enjoyment objects”. They cite songs like Jassi’s `Yaaro Aaundian rehndia kudian te Bassan (girls and buses keep on coming)’.
Even most popular Punjabi female singer Miss Pooja has sung songs on similar lines.
Dinesh of Speed Records, which recently released Jazzy B and Honey Singh’s song facing flak for vulgarity, argued that the two cannot be made scapegoats. “If there is going to be action, then it should be for everybody,” he said. “Nobody speaks out against Bollywood.”
Speed Records had apologized and pledged to avoid vulgarity after activists protested outside its office.
The vulgarity in Honey Singh’s songs has not impacted his popularity. His songs on video-sharing sites get millions of hits. On such song ‘G**** mein Danda’ has got over 8.5 million hits since 2008. Another song he sang with Deep Money that describes Punjabi girls as “second hand stuff” has over 6.5 million hits.
“Honey Singh is popular among teens for using sexually explicit words,” said Tehna. He sought action against channels playing such songs. “(They) are also responsible for promoting these songs.”
“The objective is to screen the content shown in such videos besides lyrics so that the censored content reaches the public,” said Phillaur.
Earlier, Punjab transport minister Ajit Singh Kohar had banned drivers from playing “vulgar and provocative songs” in state-run transport buses to prevent accidents in November.