Raman Bains is a Surrey-based singer and composer with a passion for bringing something new to the Punjabi music industry.
Bains sat down with 5X Press to tell us more about his journey as an artist and thoughts on the Punjabi music industry right now.
From a young age, it was clear that Bains’ love for music was inevitable. His dad, who is a talented, classically trained singer in his own right, fostered a home environment that was anchored in music and art.
As he grew up, Bains explained how his Dad pushed him to play music.
“My dad wanted us to play music because it was good for the soul. I guess that was his way of saying that art is good for the soul. And he was right.”
In fact, Bains describes his childhood as swirling in music and film. Growing up, he cited his first major musical influences as Punjabi artists Sabar Koti, Jazzy B and Durga Rangila.
The first ever soundtrack he was gifted was from the film Veer Zaara, which would ultimately go on to influence the passion and intensity in his own tracks.
When it came to his career and education, Bains said he was given immense freedom to pursue what he wanted, and chose to go university for Political Science.
Somewhere along the road, Bains started posting his music covers on Instagram, and people noticed something special.
In 2016, Bains said he took part in the Vancouver-based “15 Seconds of Fame” Instagram challenge led by Aftershock Roadshow which he said sparked huge periods of growth for him, both as an artist and as an individual.
As he refined his craft, he built his own community of local South Asian artists to work with.
While Bains sings and composes, he also works with local producer Ajay Gill (more commonly known as Beats by 40k) and a young Punjabi lyricist named Gopi.
Despite the community he has now built at this stage in his music career, Bains said it hasn’t always been this way.
He noted that navigating the music industry can be bleak, and there are many obstacles to living out your dreams in your own time frame.
“It’s frustrating, but it goes to show that it doesn’t matter how good you are if you don’t play the music game right,” he said.
Bains defines the music game as having countless moving parts, ones that can be overwhelming for a young artist to keep track of and later take advantage of.
“There’s a whole game of releasing enough, [and] financial factors that come into play,” Bains added.
“Am I getting put on the right playlists? There are times and moments where it’s all overwhelming and you’re just like ‘Man, I want to start living my dreams out now.’”
Bains shared a list of important considerations in the industry, adding that context matters.
As an artist, he said he recognizes that there will always be someone who can sing better, look better or be more popular on social media, and there will always be people who gatekeep opportunities, information, and money. Bains reminds himself of these things not to self-deprecate, but to keep his feet planted firmly on the ground as he navigates the industry.
He said he is also critical of where the industry is headed, explaining how so much of Punjabi music has become commercialized, to the point where authenticity in big ticket artists is much harder to find than ever before.
“In English music we have artists like Frank Ocean, like Tyler the Creator… [for them] it’s not even about being genre-bending, it's about making people feel a certain way,” he said.
It is this lack in the industry that Raman is hoping to fill and further cultivate through his music.
Don’t get it twisted, Bains said he is all for artists chasing their bag. But he added that his priority is not to create music that feeds into fleeting trends and over-commercialization.
His goal is to make people feel something when they listen to his music.
While competition is ablaze, Raman Bains knows there is something special in his voice. That’s what keeps him going.
This much is evident in his latest single, “Heer Ranjha,” a bittersweet love song with haunting Punjabi melodies and sharp drums that cut through to the listener.
Bains describes the song as a love letter, an opportunity to contrast lyrics of a woman confessing her love with painful vocals—indicating a dull, looming pain that isn’t explicitly addressed.
The song occupies the space between love’s union and ultimate heartbreak, which makes it a fascinating and beautiful listen.
Bains says romance and heartbreak songs with an angelic air are his specialty, but he’s looking to explore a darker, more devilish energy for his next few tracks.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Raman Bains. He’s just getting started.
You can catch Raman Bains at this year’s 5X festival on Sunday, September 19. Tickets are selling out quick, secure your spot before it’s too late.
About the author: Jeevan is a UBC Sociology student, writer and self-proclaimed cinephile (to annoy the film majors). An aspiring journalist, she loves writing silly little articles about pop-culture, media, politics and the South Asian experience while balancing her job in community-engaged learning. When she isn't having an existential crisis, you can find her over-caffeinating, binging a new show or trying to prove that she's a much cooler, brown Rory Gilmore