July 21, 1960 – March 8, 1988
Amar singh chamkila was a high-profile Punjabi Singer, Song writer, and Musician. He is widely touted as the most influential Punjabi folk singer of all time. This is an incredible feat as Chamkila sang for less than a decade. He is also regarded as one of the greatest Punjabi folk live stage performers. In his heyday, he was known to do three stage performances in a single day. Chamkila is regarded as one of the best stage performers Punjab has ever produced. His music was heavily influenced by the Punjabi village life he was surrounded by growing up. He commonly wrote songs about extra-marital relationships, coming of age, drinking, drug use, and the hot tempers of Punjabi men. He earned a controversial reputation, with his detractors regarding his music obscene, and his supporters regarding it a truthful commentary on Punjabi culture and society.
Amar Singh Chamkila was born as Dhani Ram on July 21, 1960 in the village of Dugri near Ludhiana Punjab. He was born into a poor family and was from the Chamar caste. The youngest child of Kartar Kaur and Hari Singh, he was educated at Gujar Khan Primary School in Dugri. His aspirations of becoming an electrician were unfulfilled and he found work at a Ludhiana cloth mill.With a natural aptitude for music, he learned to play the harmonium and dholi. Punjabi folk musician Surinder Shinda has said that in 1978, Chamkila approached him for the first time on a bicycle. When Shinda heard the 18-year-old Chamkila sing, he had finally found the protege that he had been looking for. Chamkila would go onto play alongside Punjabi folk artists such as K. Deep, Mohammad Saddiq and Surinder Shinda. He wrote several songs for Narinder Biba,Surinder Shinda,Ajaib singh rai,Jagmohan kaur,Promila pammi,k s kooner. It is rumored that Chamkila was happy enough writing songs, but he wasn't earning enough money to look after his family, so had to start singing.
He was married to Gurmail Kaur ( 7 Dec,1975) and had two daughters, Amandeep Kaur and Kamaldeep Kaur. Kamal has gone on to follow her father's footsteps by becoming a singer. She has released albums of her own, some of which contain unsung but written lyrics by her father. There house is on the outskirts of Ludhiana.
Adopting the stage name Amar Singh Chamkila – Chamkila in Punjabi means one that glitters – he partnered up with the female vocalist Surinder Sonia and recorded eight duets. The record was released in 1981 and 1982 and was produced by Charanjit Ahuja. The cunningly worded lyrics, which he had written himself, became hits across Punjab and paved the way for the unique lyrical mastery his fans would come to expect.
In 1980, Chamkila left Sonia and established a short-lived stage relationship with Miss Usha. He left Miss Usha in the same year in favor of teaming up with a female folk singer named Amarjot in 1983. Not much is known about Amarjyot , except for the fact that she was previously married but left the marriage to pursue her dream of singing. Amarjot herself was a renowned singer and sang with Kudeep Manak. She would become Chamkila's permanent singing partner providing the female vocals for his duets, that is, the majority of the songs that he wrote.
Chamkila, for the most part, wrote his own lyrics, the majority of which were boyish and suggestive, yet fluent, commentaries on extramarital affairs, alcohol and drug use. It could be argued that his lyrics have a double meaning. The couple's appeal grew not only in the Punjab, but they quickly raced to international stardom among Punjabi uncles abroad. Around this time, Chamkila was considered by some to be more popular than folk legends such as Kuldeep Manak, Gurdas Mann,Mohd Sadiq and Surinder Shinda.
Much of Chamkila's success may be attributed to the fan-base he acquired performing in free, open-air concerts (known as Akhade in Punjabi) around Punjab. Accompanying the couple would be a harmonium and dholki player and Chamkila would play the Tumbi. The concerts served as a medium for gaining exposure and testing people's response to new songs that were planned for future recordings. In addition to singing his own songs, Chamkila wrote several songs and sold them to other artists. Some of these include Main Digie Tilak Ke (Surinder Shinda), Gabroo Nu Marda (Jagmohan Kaur) and Deor Naal Nach Bhabiye (KS Kooner). Chamkila continued to work with Charanjit Ahuja but also experimented by working with SN Gulati & KS Narula.Chamkila also perform live on akhara with co-singers Usha Kiran,Harneet Neetu.
Starting in 1985,1986 and 1987 Chamkila and Amarjot released three devotional LPs:, Talwar Main Kalgidhar Di Haan, Naam Jap Le and Baba Tera Nankana. While the LPs were highly successful, none of the songs featured on them were written by Chamkila himself. The profits made from these LPs were reportedly donated to charities.
Chamkila's song Pehle Lalkare Naal was featured in the soundtrack of the 1987 Punjabi film Patola.Punjabi Film Patola fared well at the box office and had a positive impact on Chamkila's popularity.
Chamkila recorded in 100 songs before he got killed in Mehsampur,Distt Jalandhar,Punjab in 1988. At the time of his death, he reportedly had 200 songs that had not been sung or recorded. Of these some were sung at stage shows including Dhee Mar Jai Badkar Loko, Jatt Di Dushmani,Kise nu ki fitkare,Teri hik te amli and Akhiyan Di Maar Buri. Chamkila also sang another serious song on the folk hero Jeona Morh called Kaadha Soorma, which was remixed by Panjabi MC in 2007.
He also had many solo songs which have been sung in recent times by artists such as Nirmal Sidhu, Amar Arshi,Chamak Chamkila,Kikar dalewala,Avtar chamak and even his teacher Surinder Shinda,Son Jaiman chamkila and daughter Kamal chamkila. Some singers have used some of Chamkila's lyrics in their songs as part of their chorus. These include Nasha, Mere Yaar Ne (Gippy Grewal) and Shad De Vairne Yaari by Jazzy B.
The appeal of Chamkila's music prominently lay in both the content of his lyrics and the delivery of those lyrics. The majority of Chamkila's songs were about extra-marital or other taboo relationships. Chamkila came under frequent criticism citing his work as offensive.
Chamkila had introduced the paradigm of modern day relationships into Punjabi folk music which had until then, restricted itself to singing about legendary heroes, warriors and lovers from Punjabi folk-tales. His energetic singing style and the provocative nature of his lyrics are often considered to be the reason for his colossal success.
Having arrived to perform in the famous village of Mehsampur, Punjab, both Chamkila and Amarjot were gunned down by AK47'S along side Gill and other group members as they exited their vehicle on March 8, 1988 at approximately 2 o'clock. A gang of unknown youths shot several rounds fatally wounding the couple and other members of the entourage. The driver got away and ran for his life and saw the police coming towards him in a jeep, Chamkila's driver told the police commissioner what had happened as they got near the community well in mehsampur where Chamkila was supposed to perform the disguised youths fled and the people of the village who had come to attend the akhara bravely chased them, but they got away, the gun fire could be heard in the neighboring village of Darapur also. Chamkila was lying in the hay stack near the well with shots fire on his chest.
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