Punjabi music is enjoying a remarkable rise in popularity—and not just with listeners in India, but also among the diaspora and broader global audiences. Of the 10 most-streamed songs in India in 2022, four were in Punjabi, with “Excuses” by AP Dhillon, Intense, and Gurinder Gill taking the top spot as the most-streamed song and Moosetape, by the late Sidhu Moose Wala, nabbing the spot for the most-streamed album. Outside of India, Punjabi artists have been lighting up the stage at some of the world’s top events, representing the community and the demand for this music beyond the home country.
“Today Punjabi is one of the most-streamed music languages on Spotify in India, with playlists such as Punjabi 101 and Hot Hits Punjabi emerging as the go-to destinations for listeners to discover the best and biggest hits,” says Rahul Balyan, Spotify’s Head of Music for India. “The global recognition for Punjabi artists is evident with moments like Diljit Dosanjh’s recent gig at Coachella, a first for any Punjabi artist, and AP Dhillon’s performance at the Juno Awards in Canada earlier this year.”
Recently, Spotify partnered with music labels in India to launch three new Spotify Singles: “Maan Punjabi” by Tarsem Jassar, “Raanjha” by Nimrat Khaira, and “Challa” by Gurdas Maan and Diljit Dosanjh. These tracks highlight the true breadth of Punjabi music’s folk roots and traditional sound mixed with the modern, global elements that have put the scene on the world’s must-listen list.
Speaking to the adoption of these international sounds in Punjabi music, Nimrat Khaira, one of India’s most popular singers, tells For the Record, “The Punjabi music industry is inspiring the world, and the world’s music, in turn, is inspiring us. Our music is an amalgamation of hip-hop, pop, rock, and classical, so it truly is made up of a global sound.” She adds, “We commonly use piano and guitar in Punjabi music, which makes the music familiar to the global audience. These two instruments are now becoming an imperative part of the Punjabi music industry.”
The growing popularity of Punjabi pop around the world has also led to some of its elements making their way into international music. “Punjabi music is influencing international beat patterns by reintroducing Punjabi beats based on instruments such as the dhol, sitar, and flute, and percussion instruments—like the tabla,” says Indo-Canadian rapper, singer, and songwriter Karan Aujla. “It’s fascinating to see our community and all our hard work expand so much.”
“Punjabi music is influencing music today by connecting with people that are hungry for art,” says Ikky, a Canadian music producer who has worked with some of the biggest Punjabi artists in the world today, including Diljit Dosanjh and Shubh. “Punjabi people tend to support their own, and I think the music industry picks up on that.”
This growth is only set to continue, these artists believe. “Punjabi music is in a position like never before,” says Nimrat Khaira. “Millions of people are listening to it, humming it, and dancing to it. The entire credit goes to the artists and their teams who have been making some Earth-shattering content that is blowing up the international market. From here I just know there’s no looking back.” B Praak, an Indian singer, composer, music director, and producer, says, “We are present in almost all the continents now. Our aim is to present Punjabi music at the Oscars soon!”
If you’re beginning your journey into Punjabi music, Karan Aujla recommends the track “Gangsta,” which he made with YG, “to further recognize the melodies and rhyme patterns of Punjabi hip-hop songs.” B Praak, whose favorite genre is sad romantic, recommends starting with his track “Mann Bharrya.” And Ikky, who enjoys Punjabi pop, suggests “Summer High” by AP Dhillon.
Listen to the latest trending tracks in Punjabi with our Punjabi 101 playlist