When Brampton-based rapper Fateh teamed up with the Junos to release the latest documentary in their “Rising” artist series, he knew this was the first time he was letting people into his life in a vulnerable way, particularly in a way that many people had never seen him before.
“A lot of people don’t know. Like they’ve heard my albums, they’ve cried to my music or they’ve danced to my music, but they also don’t know what it took to get to this point and I really wanted to share that,” he said in an interview with 5X Press.
What most people know about Fateh is that he grew up in the Bay Area and moved to Brampton in his youth.
We also know that for nearly over 10 years, he’s been an artist that has been working at showing the world what it looks like when you fuse Hip-Hop with Punjabi music.
However, as he says, Fateh’s story goes beyond those details.
As we see in the documentary, Fateh’s story involves grappling with his identity, cyberbullying, and ultimately realizing how to carry himself with confidence. A great deal of that struggle stemmed from how he looks; Fateh is a sardaar who in his daily life wears a pagh (turban) with a full beard. Simply put, there was little to no representation for somebody that looked the way Fateh did.
“That’s why it was important for me to tell people the struggle of being a sardaar, like a Singh, and coming up in a place where maybe rap wasn’t accepted in general in the Punjabi culture,” says Fateh.
“The norm of a person that looks like me would only be rapping about religious stuff or revolutionary stuff, and I was like ‘great, but that’s not me.’”
Rather than feeling accepted by the Punjabi music scene for who he was, he was left feeling rejected, and on top of that, he says he was being cyber-bullied and pushed into a difficult place.
Even with the negativity around him and his image, Fateh continued to work hard at his craft, eventually landing a collaboration with the U.K. producer Dr. Zeus. We learn that his work with Dr. Zeus and their joint success was a catalyst for Fateh to get more in touch with his own sound, and solidify his confidence as an artist.
Fateh says he definitely had to push through barriers, but that was done with the support of many other creatives coming out of Brampton.
“Literally anytime I leave Brampton, in the last five to six years, everybody asks me, what’s happening in Brampton? Why is there so many artists coming out of Brampton, or influencers or singers or artists and stuff like that,” says Fateh.
He also mentions the influence of politicians such as NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and his brother and Brampton MPP Gurratan Singh, who are allowing us to reimagine politics out of Brampton.
“There is something special that happened here,” Fateh says.
That special feeling is something that you can see in this documentary, Rising.
As soon as the documentary opens up, we see Fateh making his way through Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport until he finally reaches his manager at arrivals.
As they get into the car, we hear Fateh say “let’s go back to Brampton.”
From that moment, images of Brampton take up space on our screen in a way that makes you stop and pay attention.
It is not the Brampton everyone makes fun of online for bad driving and wild occurrences. Rather, we see the Brampton that has become a hub for many immigrants, especially those in the Sikh-Punjabi community.
We see a place where many have come and been able to share their culture. and connect with other cultures. It was a no-brainer for Fateh to decide that this documentary would be filmed largely in Brampton.
“I think it was important for me to showcase Brampton in a positive light, and the people in Brampton,” he says.
And he did just that.
We get to see the faces of babies, Bibis and Bapus. We get to see shots of the varying neighbourhoods, restaurants like Tandoori King and a nod to the iconic Jagjit Textile. We get to see the beauty in Brampton.
“I tried to make it as Brampton as possible, just to be like I live here, I represent the people here, I like the people here,” he adds.
“All my friends live here, and I have so many friends that live here, so it’s like I’m not gonna hate on Brampton. I’m not going to run away from Brampton as soon as some outside media coverage wants to show love.”
“It’s disgusting the hate that Brampton gets. Obviously, it’s not perfect, but what city is?”
While Rising was a great opportunity to see a different side of his city, Fateh’s main hope is having people understand him and his journey, so that they can also have some guidance on their own.
“I think one of my biggest missions in life as a sardaar is just normalize this look and to take away the stigma or the fear that we might have as Singhs, and what other people might have as Singhs and really instil more confidence,” he says.
While he does that by simply existing as a visible Sikh rapper, Fateh chose to take things one step further by using this documentary to uncover what is beneath his turban and show his hair.
Fateh says he’s always faced stigmas relating to how he looks, especially having grown up in the U.S. post 9/11. He says he’s constantly met with weird questions about his turban.
“There’s always this mystique, you know, like all these questions. A gora will ask you some weird questions like ‘can you take it off? Can you shower with it?’ And it’s like ‘this is just hair. It’s hair and we tie a pagh on top of it, and we cover our hair and that’s it. There’s no grandiose thing that’s going to happen if you take it off” he says.
“I learned that from Jagmeet and Gurratan as well, eliminating that fear of what’s in there or that mysteriousness, it’s like no, it’s just hair and we’re tying it and it’s okay to ask questions about it and it’s okay for me to tie my pagh, it’s not some crazy religious thing that people try to make it.”
And now that Fateh has shared more of his story, he says he’s ready to keep moving forward with music and he’s making big plans for this summer and the year ahead.
“I’m trying to have a hot boy summer so I’m going to be releasing a lot of music, a lot of music videos as well,” he says.
He’s hoping to also drop videos for tracks from Goes Without Saying, the album he dropped last October. He says with COVID and the Farmers’ protests happening, he had initially chosen to put a pause on putting out videos, but he is ready to continue creating art and sending a message.
With Rising, Fateh’s message was clear: he was telling his story and he was being vulnerable. He says he hopes others can connect with his story and learn to become comfortable in their own skin.
“There’s a lot of beauty in that struggle and there’s a lot of things to be grateful for.”
“If I can help one person feel more confident in their own skin and [in] their beliefs, then I think I’ve done my job.”
About the author: Monika Sidhu is a freelance multimedia journalist based out of Brampton,ON. She loves covering all things arts and culture and enjoys telling untold stories coming out of her community. Monika recently graduated from Western University receiving a Master’s of Media in Journalism and Communication. In her off-time, you can find her discovering new music, spending time with her dogs or hiding the fact that she is binging reality tv shows.