The news of the tragic loss of Sidhu Moosewala shook the world this week and was yet another blow at a time when many of us felt we couldn’t take anymore.

But this loss felt different. It felt personal.

Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, known by his fans as Sidhu Moosewala, was a Punjabi singer who changed the Punjabi music industry forever. 

The murder of Sidhu has left many feeling deeply unsettled, as the Brampton international student turned superstar, hailing from his pind Moosa, was able to reach international success—acting as a blueprint for many who were inspired by his story.

“I've been in radio for 25 years, I've seen many artists pass, people that I knew personally, people that were friends, but this feels this is different. He didn't just die, he was killed. There's something about this, which is just, it's so difficult to make any sense out of it,” said Lady B, radio host with Swaraj Radio in an interview with 5XPress.

“I've seen people today not go to work that I know, not get out of bed, [people] that never met him. It feels like they lost somebody in their family. That's what it feels like.”

Moosewala’s impact is undeniable, given that so many people from so many walks of life had heard his music and knew his name. If you went to a wedding reception, you were guaranteed to hear banger after banger—with his sound that mixed hip-hop beats and Punjabi lyrics and garnered global appeal. 

“He was the sound of a generation,” said Lady B.

“People that grew up in the diaspora, perhaps younger people who were more removed from Punjabi language, it's been that bridge for them, it kind of merged their worlds. They're listening to hip-hop, they're listening to rap, and this is in their language, right, and they sound similar and the beats are the same.”

After his passing, Moosewala was recognized by mainstream artists like Drake, Burna Boy, and Stefflon Don among many others, showing how broad his reach truly was. 

“From a musical standpoint, I think the loss, the really big loss is here's this musical genius, this amazing lyricist, and he was the sound of a generation. There's never going to be another Moosewala,” said Lady B.

“It's super, super important to recognize that he wore a dastaar. He's been recognized by Drake and all these artists, and he's a Punjabi singer [who] looked so different—and there was space for him.” 

Behind the music was an international student from a middle class family in Punjab, who inspired so many and pushed the boundaries of what many thought was possible.

“It feels to me like a beacon of hope. Because here he is, this very nondescript, average-looking man who grew up in the pind, didn't grow up with any special privileges, [from] an average family, and he's hit dreams like you couldn't imagine,” said Lady B.

“And it's kind of like wow, somewhere in there, maybe there's hope for me too.”

While many stories about Sidhu’s passing have focused on some of his more contentious lyrics and imagery, the man behind the music was close to his family, cared about his community, and stood for something much larger.

“This was just art and he was expressing and he was pushing edges. And those edges have taken Punjabi language someplace that it’s never been able to go,” said Lady B.

And despite the fact that even in his death people are attempting to vilify him, the reality of his impact speaks volumes more than the criticism.

“One of the things I respect most about him is I did not hear in any of his songs, misogynistic content. I saw him show massive respect to the female artists that he worked with,” said Lady B.

“He was so close to his mom, he posted her so often, he mentioned her in his songs, and he talked about the parts of her that he carried in him.” 

Videographer Qarn Mallhi got the opportunity to meet and work with Sidhu Moosewala a few years ago, while filming behind the scenes on one of his films.

Mallhi, who is also an international student himself, mentioned how impactful Moosewala’s career was for him.

“We all kind of related to him in some way because he was one of us. I think his journey was like a roadmap for us, how he came here, how he came [and] did his studies and followed his passion and then went back to India and built a home for his family,” said Mallhi in an interview with 5XPress.

“I used to think that, okay, so this is what I'm also going to do in the next three years or four years. So he was like a big brother. If he can make it, then we can also do it.”

Mallhi said that when he met him, Moosewala was already familiar with work that he had previously done.

“It was so shocking for me that a big artist knows my name. For me, that little conversation, [it] was inspirational for me to do it full time. I was like if he recognizes my work, I might be doing some good work.” he said.

“He used to support every new artist in every field. He was really very supportive to everyone who was doing good work—like everyone. Even if he didn't need to do anything, right? He was a superstar.”

Mallhi said that Moosewala frequently responded to his Instagram messages and reposted the work of those asking for shoutouts.

“Everyone you will talk to, nobody will say that he was arrogant or something like that. I met a lot of people who knew him him personally, and in my experience as well, he was very, very humble,” said Mallhi.

Beyond his demeanour, what was so special about Moosewala was that he always remained true to himself.

“He didn’t change himself. He made a brand out of himself, he made a brand out of his own village, about his humble beginnings,” said Mallhi.

“He didn't go to any big city, after becoming a star he went back to his village. That that was inspirational for everyone, like sticking to the roots and making it big.”

This is why so many people around the world are continuing to feel such deep sadness and heaviness at the thought of losing such a phenomenal talent like Moosewala. 

A kid from Punjab who made it big but still had family and community at the front of his mind, and a talented artist who continually put out hit after hit—Moosewala still had so much life and art left in him.  

In seeing his parents grieving the loss of their only child, many of us see our own parents reflected back to us, showing how our community comes together in both our shared losses and collective wins.

All we can hope for is that despite the repeated unbearable loss, that we can use Moosewala’s artistry, life, and legacy as a reminder of what connects so many of us. 

We felt like we lost one of our own, because we did.

There will never be another Sidhu Moosewala. 

About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

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