In a candid conversation with The Indian Express, singer, songwriter and composer Tejbir Singh, popularly known as Bir Singh, shares how and when he realised his talent for singing and the turning points that introduced him to the “reality of life”.
Born in Amritsar, Bir belongs to Nagoke village located in Khadur Sahib Tehsil of Tarn Taran district in Punjab.
His father Davinder Singh is an officer in the Punjab electricity board, while his younger brother Jodhbir Singh, who he refers to as his backbone, manages and runs the house. His grandmother Pyar Kaur lives with them. Bir’s mother Paramjit Kaur passed away in 2008.
After completing Class 10 and 12 from Sri Guru Harkrishan Senior Secondary Public School, Amritsar, Bir Singh graduated as a mechanical engineer from Amritsar College of Engineering & Technology (ACET), Manawala. Following this, he enrolled himself for a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) but dropped out midway to take on on singing as a career.
It all started early in my childhood. I was a schoolboy when I started singing. From taking part in school functions to performing at college festivals, singing was my constant companion. In fact, I started writing much later, in high school.
I adopted singing as a profession in 2013. I used to sing self-written songs at that time. It was only in 2016 that my film career kick-started with a song titled ‘Heerey’ from the film ‘Love Punjab’. It was my first song in a movie and was sung by Amrinder Gill.
Even before I could realize the talent, my maternal uncle Kuldeep Singh Pannu noticed it and envisioned that I could be a good singer. I was very young then, barely 5 years old. And later, when I was in school, my teachers also saw the potential in me and decided to train me.
There is a story behind this. I was in the 6th grade when I had a fight with my friend. Just to make him realize where he was wrong, I wrote him a letter. Surprisingly, it worked. My friend read it and got emotional. It was he who suggested that I should try writing songs. And, hence, I got my inspiration from this episode and started my journey as a writer.
The place of your birth, the people in your surroundings, and your parental conditioning determine the depth in you and your art. Luckily, I was born in a good family and to parents who were positively associated with religion and literature — who always preached the right things to me.
My mother used to take a lot of interest in my songs. Even though I felt rather shy while singing in front of her, my mother would always inspire me saying, “If you can sing so well in front of me, you would sing well anywhere.”
During my teenage, I was worried about my stunted height. Knowing it was bothering me so much, my mother asked me to name one person who was known for his height. When I could not answer her, she told me it was not the height or the physical appearance that mattered, but the work and the impact it created on others that did. I remember how beautifully she taught me so many things about life.
There have been many turning points. The death of my mother and a younger cousin were the major turning points that introduced me to the reality of life.
The songs which bring out optimism in me or encourage me to explore my limits are my favourites. For me, good music is something that takes you on an eternal flight. There are many singers I like. I love listening to Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Punjabi singers such as Surinder Kaur and Yamla Jatt. Among contemporary singers, I am fond of Amrinder Gill, Manmohan Waris, Satinder Sartaj to name a few. Besides, Pakistani singers such as Mansoor Malangi, Abida Parveen, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan are dear to me.
Cinema has a lot of responsibilities, and it can refine a society. I prefer to watch movies that motivate me to lead a better and more meaningful life besides generating a sense of satisfaction within me. My favourites of all times include a TV series titled ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ (2013-2015), Peter Chelsom’s ‘Hector and the Search for Happiness’ (2014), and Raj Kapoor’s ‘Mera Naam Joker’ (1970).
Bir has worked with well-known production houses namely Priyanka Chopra’s Purple Pebble Productions, Rhythm Boyz Entertainment, and PTC Punjabi Networks.
He has written songs for many Punjabi films such as ‘Love Punjab’ (2016), ‘Sarvann’ (2017), ‘Lahoriye’ (2017), ‘Vekh Baraataan Challiyan’(2017), ‘Bhalwan Singh’ (2017), ‘Golak Bugni Bank Te Batua’ (2018), ‘Daanaa Paani’ (2018), ‘Bhajjo Veero Ve’ (2018) and for Chal Mera Putt sequels.
His individual releases include ‘Tareyan Di Loye’ (2014), an album ‘Khwaab’ (2015), ‘Neend Befikri Di’ (2015), ‘Teriyan Yadaan’ (2016), ‘Eh Tanhayi’ (2018), ‘Mera Ki Kasoor’(2021), ‘Moon Bound’ (2021), ‘Chal Jindiye’ (2021) and ‘Johra Jhajhran Da (2022).’
Recently released film ‘Aaja Mexico Challiye’ features songs written by Bir. Another music video titled ‘Alvida’ will be released soon.
I have been very lucky in this case as my very first song ‘Tareyan Di Loye’ was a hit and got me recognition in the industry. The next big step was my song ‘Ambran Toh Taare’ from the film ‘Love Punjab’, where my writing was appreciated. Another song ‘Dishaheen’ from a movie titled ‘Sarvann’ not only brought me laurels but also got me acknowledgment for the variation in my voice and good singing skills.
Just like all kids are equally dear to a parent, all of my songs are close to my heart. I listen to different songs at different times, depending on the mood. Based on the current mood, my song ‘Jithe Malak Rakhda’ is on my mind.
I derive inspiration from nature. Air is one element that lends flow to my creativity. Beautiful natural landscapes, travel, and isolation are the things that motivate me to understand life better and write more profoundly.
The Punjabi film and music industry is on a rise. All of us, as artists, have a great responsibility to perform our best as it is we who represent the Punjabi culture and community through our works. People of other countries and those belonging to different cultures perceive us through our movies and music only. What we do in the entertainment industry reflects the thinking of our community as a whole and therefore, we must bring out what is beautiful about us.
Growing up has taught me that challenges are inevitable. They not only bring sadness but also lessons for life. It is then up to us to decide what we want – sadness or a lesson. The choice is always ours. If we are wise enough, we will always pick the lessons and move ahead towards a happier life.
I am so blessed that my mother gave me this learning during her last days when she was admitted to a hospital. She prepared me for what was to follow. And that’s how I believe we should be prepared to deal with everything that comes our way and learn from life.
I don’t really make far-stretched plans for the future as life is uncertain and we have no idea what may happen the next moment. However, this February and March, I will be touring the United States. Besides, I have my shows scheduled in the United Kingdom in April.