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The twang of a tumbi and pounding on a dhol, merging into an addictive hook, announced the arrival of Labh Janjhua into the mainstream music scene. The film, ‘Boom’, may have tanked, but the song ‘Mundeya toh bach ke’ found much success, playing possibly at every wedding that followed in north India.
While the song can safely be called one of the most popular Punjabi numbers in Bollywood, Labh Janjua had never factored in the success this piece found. “He got in touch with Jackie Shroff, and Boom paved his way into Bollywood,” said Ludhiana-based singer and music video director Ravinder Ranguwal, a friend of Janjua’s. According to his wife Daljeet Kaur, he was suffering from kidney damage and had heart and lung problems. “His heart was functioning at 25 per cent and doctors had advised a bypass, which he rejected,” she said.
Born in 1957 in a village near Ludhiana, Janjua came from a family of farmers. He was drawn to music after listening to his grandfather, Bakhtawar Singh, perform kirtan. When his father asked him to choose between farming and music, he opted for the latter, and made his way to Ludhiana where he started training under musician Jaswant Bhamra.
About his early years, Gurbachan Gill, president of Punjabi Sahitya Akademi said, “He would sing boldly in the days of terror, along with another singer Pawandeep.” But it was the song in Boom that established Janjua as the quintessential Punjabi voice in mainstream Bollywood, which was different from the existing voices of Mika Singh and Honey Singh. It still had a touch of folk, which the audience rediscovered in Queen’s ‘London thumakda’ and ‘Jee karda’ from Singh is Kiing.