amar singh chamkila
An artist with strong powerful lyrics, charisma and a style that brought out the home truths of Punjabi culture. Chamkila's unique style won the hearts of a global audience. His tracks were mega hits across the world, but perhaps to a niche market of listeners.
Chamkila was born Dunni Ram on July 21st 1961 in Dugri, Ludhiana. He was from a poor family and lived in great poverty. He had one brother and two sisters who were elder to him. His mother Kartar Kaur passed away when Chamkila was a young child, and he had to leave his education to work in Ludhiana at a cloth mill due to family difficulties.
The name Chamkila comes from the name Rangila, who used to be a folk singer that Chamila greatly admired. Chamkila comes from the word "Chamak" (Shine) as he wanted to shine forever in the world of music.
Chamkila started learning to play Dholki drum at the age of 7 and used to play the dholki and vaja for pocket money whilst he was at school. He played the dholki for singers such as Shinda, K. Deep, Jagmohan Kaur and Mohammad Siddique. Soon he began to play the dholki and vaja for Surinder Shinda regularly. It was here that Chamkila began to make his stage career as he would perform Shinda's stage during intervals.
He also began writing songs from the age of ten. Narinder Biba and Surinder Sharma sang one of his first songs. Chamkila was over the moon as Punjab's top artistes were singing songs written by him. By the age of 15 he had a number of songs sung by famous Punjabi folk singers such as Surinder Shinda, Narinder Biba, Kulie Ram, Bibi Tara and Sohan Lal.
Chamkila soon went solo leaving Shinda. Chamkila and Surinder Sonia released their first record with hits such as Tukave Te Tukava Karkier and Kurti Sat Rang Di alongside Babu Gum Ho Gaya. These were released in 1979.
Punjabi folk fans grew fond of Chamkila's style quickly as he had a very charismatic personality. In addition to singing his own songs he continued to write and give songs to other artists.
Chamkila began singing with Miss Usha, which was only a stage arrangement. By late 1980 he heard of a famous female singer named Amarjyot who sang with Kuldip Manak. She soon became his permanent singing partner.
Their first LP record was Luck Mera Kach Varga which included a song written by Pali Dethawalia entitled Chak Lo Drivero. He married Amarjyot in 1982.
In 1984 Chamkila and Amarjyot were in high demand and were producing hit LP after hit with all songs written by Chamkila. The songs that Chamkila sang were mainly about relationships. In early 80's Chamkila went to the USA, Canada, Bahrain and Dubai for performances. His shows lasted about 2-3 hours and every show began with a few religious songs.
Chamkila wrote songs from his heart but a section of people in Punjab did not appreciate the lyrics as they found them vulgar and offensive. Chamkila started getting hate mails from this section, but he always said that...
"This is my music and this is what I sing, if you don't like it, then don't buy my records and don't call me to your functions."
In HMV's recording history, 3 of Chamkila's LP records are still the highest selling records that were ever produced by a Punjabi singer.
Some of his hits with Amarjyot include, Raat nu Sulah Safaiyan, Mittran Main Khand Ban Gayi, Ek Kuri Pataka, Baba Tera Nankana, Jija Lak Min Le, Bhul Gayi Mai Ghund Kadna, Hik Utte So Ja, Sarbat Vangoo Ghut Bahrla and Yad Aave Vari.
After receiving more letters from angry fans saying "Chamkila you have many songs containing vulgar and offensive lyrics. Do something good." Chamkila's LP produced 3 LP records of dharmik geet. His religious songs became number 1 hits. Chamkila however only wrote a few religious songs himself.
All profits that came from the religious songs went direct to the charities and local gurudwaras. This was done as Chamkila said it was God that gave him the gift of music and what better way to thank God.
By late 1985, Chamkila stopped singing his so called offensive songs. The public was still unhappy and wanted Chamkila to stop singing altogether. Chamkila started to write and sing songs whic were of a serious nature.
Chamkila could write songs as he spoke and was very talented. He liked working with producer Charanjit Ahuja. He also recorded music with K.S. Narula and S.N. Gulati.
Chamkila was killed in a show in Mesumpur as he stepped out of his car. Amarjyot was pregnant at the time and was shot in the chest and Chamkila was killed with 4 bullets in the chest alongside Gill Surjit and the dholki player Raja. The other memebers such as Tukham escaped. The blame was put on terrorists. A curfew order took place when Chamkila was killed and riots between gangs broke out.
He died on the 8th of March 1988.