ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The Politics of Storytelling in Punjabi Music Videos: Analysing various figurations of Gurus in Sikhi genre


Duggal Koonal - University of Edinburgh, Social Anthropology, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


29 – Travelling stories, bodies and genres and the making of communities


 This paper will analyse Punjabi pop music videos engaging with the genre of Sikhi (Sikh principles or faith) sung by mainstream Punjabi pop singers such as Gippy Grewal, Vinaypal Buttar, Diljit Dosanjh and others, highlighting the crises in Sikh identity through various references, such as the influence of western modernity on singer/s – who in way presents himself as a representation of present, deviant, Sikh subject. While presenting the, deviant, influences on singer, the one which comes to prominence is reference to the institution of  Dera. Specifically, of Dera Sacha Sauda and its chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan whose image is being referred in attire performing a ritual that has become controversial in 2007. This representation was objected by several Sikh groups arguing that he wore attire similar to Guru Gobind Singh’s calendar image committing blasphemy against the Guru/religion. Another important aspect in these songs is located in the invocation of the stories highlighting martyrdom and sacrifice from Sikh history linked with  contemporary identity crises of the singer standing as an exemplar of entire Sikh community. Therefore the story of  Deras will be analysed in this paper through the analysis of music videos made in Sikhi genre which not only invoke the story of martyrdom in Sikh tradition but also foregrounds the contemporary religious identity crises in Punjab.