Humble Beginnings

Canada-based Kanwer Singh features in a film titled Balbir the Barber.

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Published:November 19, 2013 4:30 am

Canada-based Kanwer Singh features in a film titled Balbir the Barber. With a long,flowing beard and a turban,the Sikh gentleman makes a razor sharp statement. Singh has co-written this Canadian Punjabi comedy,and is playing the lead role as well. He is almost done with his debut book,and an album titled Unlearn – 101 things to let go to learn more. Virtually speaking,thepoetproject.tumblr.com is a hit,while his song with Canadian producer Kanwar Anit Singh Saini,titled Baaghi,is a rage.

Last year,India embraced him when he collaborated with Monica Dogra and Midival Punditz for The Dewarists. Today,India ranks at number two in terms of his fan following. At the S Lounge for his first performance in city recently,courtesy Gaah Entertainment,Singh talks about his thoughts and words.

“Did you know everything in the Guru Granth Sahib rhymes? For me,Guru Nanak Dev was the first real rapper,” he says,adding,“Rap is more evolved than literature. It’s about being the voice of the people.”

Raised in a “dogmatic institution where kirtan classes and Sikh camps were a regular feature”,Singh would take part in open mic nights and poetry slams under the pseudonym “Humble the Poet”. “Sikhism teaches how ego is our biggest enemy,hence I took on the word ‘humble’,” he says. Humble,for him,is not just an adjective. “It’s also a verb. All of us have humbling experiences,” says the poet-writer,whose social-political commentary varies from the plight of immigrants in Canada (films such as Life of an Immigrant),and domestic violence (Voice for the Voiceless) to supporting the desi gay community in Canada.

His poetic influences range from “inspirational writings” of Sikh gurus to Bulleh Shah and Shiv Kumar Batalvi. Interestingly,it also comes from reading Dr Seuss. “I was teaching elementary school and realised how so much crap was poured in my head when I was a kid,” says Singh. Unable to straddle both teaching and music,Singh chose the latter in 2008. Cultural diversity and travels added depth to his work. “It broadened my mind and sparked creativity,” he says. Singh calls himself “an active cultural contributor,and not a passive participator”.

With a documentary made on him (Humble the Poet by Brendan Naumas),and three mix tapes down,Singh is now releasing another album,titled Feathers,on November 26,and is writing a film based on the story of original immigrants in Canada.

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