Punjabi Munda: Satinder Sartaaj

Satinder Sartaaj

No one would have thought that a lecturer, who hails from a small village in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, would become one of the most successful Sufi singers in the world today. But that is exactly what Dr Satinder Sartaaj is, amongst the Punjabi Diaspora and further, his name is known across the world, from Delhi to London, Paris to New York.

Having rigorously studied the Sufi traditions and later achieved a Doctorate in Sufi Gayan, Sartaaj began his musical career in 2003, performing live, yet abstaining from recording anything, that would not come until 2009, when he signed to Mahal Enterprises Ltd. Finally releasing the album Mehfil-E-Sartaaj – Live Concert, which was a recording of his live performances, it immediately brought Sartaaj to greater public attention and gained him numerous celebrity fans in the process, including the Bollywood legend Dharmendra and Yuvraj Singh.

Sartaaj brings his classical oeuvre to the masses in a way which is quite unique. Whereas the majority of classical Indian artistes stick to a very specific set of rules and boundaries, Sartaaj breaks those down in a distinctly creative manner; his outward style is that of a colourful fakir, with brightly hued kurtas and turbans, on top of this his music videos are always richly executed, with high production values. However, despite the grand trappings of success, Sartaaj is a humble person, who never negates the spiritual importance of his work. For example, he begins every concert with a prayer, and respectfully touches each one of his eight accompanying musicians.

It is as a performer that Sartaaj has managed to gain such huge success in a relatively short space of time, only recently turning 30. As a child he was influenced heavily by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Sufi poets such as Baba Farid, so the importance to perform to an audience, rather than sit in cramped unimaginative studio takes precedence. Not only this, but as a Sikh Sartaaj was exposed to the pivotal traditions of live performance.

His latest album Afsaaney Sartaaj De, released through Firdaus Productions and Eros International, is a rollercoaster of celebratory folk and poetic Sufi ditties, which explore some very modern issues like Environmentalism, female empowerment and war. The album is Sartaaj’s best yet; his voice has matured exponentially, and ranges from the tender and melodic, to the powerful and ecstatic. A stand out track from the album is the recent single Soohe Khat, which makes clear just what a unique musician he really is.

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