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Sakaar Singh, son of Bhangra Artist – Jasbir Jassi, “Simba Sing”, is an emerging R&B and Pop Singer. Singh left his home state of Punjab at the age of 16 to embark on absorbing and contributing to musical styles far beyond his homeland. Sarkaar’s released singles, “Got You,” “80s Love,” and “Big Boy,” bring to his listeners an eclectic mix of influences, which represent his upbringing in India, along with his adventures around the world.
Singh’s exposure to Western-style music began when he was about nine years old and he sang in a school choir group in English for the first time. As a result of this experience, Singh thought, “this is what I want to do. That was the only perception I had of what I like to do.” Later on, his friends introduced him to famous American rappers such as 50 Cent, Eminem, and Akon. Singh remarked candidly, “At first, I was more fascinated by their gold chains and big cars. But later, I realized that was not everything they were about. There was much more to them.”
Although Jalandhar was his home for 16 years, Singh felt it was not enough for his future as a musician. It seemed to him that he was the only musician pursuing Western music styles in Punjab. Singh recalls, “The place I was growing up was a place where you did not think of being a pop singer because there were no pop music sources around. Bhangra music is so deeply embedded in the state’s culture and there are so many sources of Bhangra music that everyone can think of being a bhangra singer. I made a decision to be an American R&B singer, that made my choices and tastes different from others.”
While Singh always had an inclination towards Western music, he considers his constant exposure to Indian music in Punjab as important in shaping his own style. All of his father’s songs are Punjabi folk tunes and Sufi songs. Singh says, “Indian music tends to take a story into intense detail. I took the calm serenity of Sufi songs and applied it to my own music.” He added, “when I perform, it is just inbuilt in me. It is not something I consciously learned; it just naturally came to me.” For example, “Got You,” is about an experience with a lover and the lyrics invoke strong passion and love. “I like to go to those places so people can feel these things at a deeper level,” Singh says.
A chance encounter at a relative’s wedding in Delhi was the turning point for Singh’s destiny. When Singh sang on stage at the wedding, Madan Gopal Singh, a friend of his father’s and a well-known singer in his own right, encouraged Sarkaar to move to Delhi because it offered more opportunities for aspiring music artists. Singh stated, “It was his influence that made me move from Jalandhar to Delhi, so I could soak in more.”
In 2014, Singh embarked on what became the most gratifying chapter of his life. He traveled to the USA on Madan Singh’s recommendation to study at the famous Berklee School of Music in Boston. He reflects, “Berklee gave me a lot of knowledge. It gave me the foundation of what music is.” The college’s resources also gave Singh access to music styles from around the world and exposed him to teachers from several different nations. This exposure to international music is evident in Singh’s first song, “I Got You,” which features a rhythm that has roots in South American music.
Singh is indebted to his two years with Jeff Bhasker for shaping him as a human, songwriter, producer, and singer. According to Singh, “Bhasker loves to mix genres…his beats are very unique.
Bhasker commented, “Sakaar is a supremely talented guy who has a strong lineage to follow because his dad is so brilliant. It has been awesome to see Sakaar going from being an intern to ultimately seeing him release songs on his own. He has so many of the great qualities his father has but he is making his mark with his own style. He is an Indian guy making truly authentic western pop music.”
Singh’s early exposure to the gold chains and expensive cars of American rappers gave him the courage to leave the land of five rivers, and ultimately travel across the globe in pursuit of his vision to become an English music pop star. By soaking in all these unique vibes along the way, he has created a distinct name for himself which further exposes Indians to the richness of music traditions from around the world. His pioneering efforts have sowed the seeds for other enterprising Indian youth to seize the day and picture the universe as a destination full of opportunity in store.
In reflection, Singh says “I think the path I have chosen will influence the Indian audience, especially in my hometown and state. My decision to be an American mainstream R&B singer had a certain amount of risk attached to it. Through overcoming all these challenges to reach my goal, I hope to show to the Indian people that it is possible to think about something and achieve it.”
Nikhil Misra-Bhambri is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. He is a graduate from University of Southern California (USC) with a bachelor’s in history.