Image:
Diljit Dosanjh/Youtube

“Welcome to my Hood": Cultural appropriation or a symbol of unity?

By:
Manisha Singh (@yourwishpoetry, @bulamentalhealth)

Punjabi music mogul Diljit Dosanjh recently wowed fans worldwide with the release of his latest single and video for “Welcome to my Hood.”

However, it quickly became clear that people were wowed for very different reasons.

The track has garnered immense support from some, but others can’t seem to overlook how problematic the song and the video truly are, given that they borrow from Black culture and use Black people as extras in the video, and as backdrops to Diljit throwing up the middle finger and the “Westside” hand symbol.

From the video and lyrics, to Diljit’s multiple middle finger cameos to attempt to appear “hard” or “hood,”  it is not what you would expect from an artist who has pleased audiences with classic tracks such as “Patiala Peg,” and “Do You Know,” since the beginning of his career.

Being born in the Jalandhar District of Punjab, India it was surprising to see Diljit reppin’ the streets of Sacramento, California in this video, and singing about how it is his “hood”.

In fact, he literally went to somebody else’s neighbourhood, copied aspects of Black culture, and tried to portray it as if it was his own in trying to achieve his desired aesthetic. 

While some on social media are saying this is a way of creating unity and bridging cultures, others are criticizing Dosanjh for clear cultural appropriation.

But, who can you blame for this catastrophe? Kharewala Brar for writing the song’s lyrics? Rahul Dutta for directing the video? Or the countless other team members involved in the project? At the end of the day “Welcome to my Hood,” is a poorly executed attempt to stay relevant, and jump on the hip-hop wave that Punjabi artists have been riding for the last few years.

The music video for “Welcome to my Hood,” features many different aspects of hip hop culture including low riding cars, large wads of cash and of course -- twerking. 

The Punjabi music industry itself has been heavily influenced by hip-hop, with a plethora of artists hopping on rap style beats and creating music that has proven to be popular.

As a Punjabi music fan, I love seeing the two cultures intertwine, creating fusion tracks that appeal to both ends of my music taste.

However at some point, we have to draw the line.

A celebrity such as Diljit Dosanjh who has the ability to reach and educate a wide variety of audiences, has a responsibility towards being knowledgeable of his lyrics and videos and how they can impact minority communities. 

The song itself begins with, “Bande saare bande saare galat ae ni hood de,” which roughly translates to “the people in the hood aren’t all bad.” Although I can see the positive message this line is trying to portray, it also inexplicitly strengthens the problematic stereotypes of the Black community, by reinforcing the negative connotations of the “hood.” 

In addition, towards the end of the song, Diljit also brags about his “Goriyan mame’an,” meaning, “white girls,” which helps to underpin society’s idealistic beauty standards that favours fair skin and undermines the beauty of BIPOC women, while surrounded by Black people in the “hood” Dosanjh references.

Fans and personalities across the world however,  have applauded Diljit for the song saying that he is creating unity, and as is evident in the comment section of his music video on Youtube, his audience is impressed with his attempt to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter Movement, as well as the Farmer Protests in Punjab.

Whether this song is a symbol of unity or a prime example of cultural appropriation is still up for debate, and has the Internet abuzz.

What do you think? Does this song miss the mark by reinforcing negative stereotypes? Or do you see this bridging communities and culture?


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