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Poet, Singer, and Activist

My Father’s Day Present: Heer CD Cover Design

Posted by on Jun 20, 2011 in Discussion, Punjabi Poetry | 0 comments

Audio CD for Waris Shah's "Heer" sung by Pashaura Singh Dhillon (artwork by Navreet Kaur Dhillon)

Audio CD for Waris Shah’s “Heer” sung by Pashaura Singh Dhillon

This year for Father’s Day, I received a very nice joint gift. My daughter, Navreet Kaur Dhillon, is a physician in the Bay Area, and also a very talented artist. My son, Navdeep Singh Dhillon, is a Creative Writing/English Literature lecturer in New York City.

Both my son and daughter collaborated via phone and internet from East and West Coast to create a CD cover for “Heer,” an album I didn’t even know I was making! I had recorded one track giving my own interpretation to Waris Shah’s epic poem, and uploaded it to FaceBook after several people requested me. It was (and still is) available for free download in a blog post I wrote, “Heer Forever Stands Tall (ਗੁੱਝੀ ਰਹੇ ਨਾ ਹੀਰ ਹਜ਼ਾਰ ਵਿਚੋਂ )” in addition to Audio Downloads (above in the navigation bar). Many have since asked me to sing some more tracks, which I had said I would do in my own time. Now, it looks like I better get moving!

Below is my daughter’s original drawing:

Artwork for Waris Shah's "Heer - Ranjha" by Navreet Kaur Dhillon

Original Artwork for CD Cover of “Heer” by Navreet Kaur Dhillon

And below is my son’s contribution. Have a listen to this CD, which currently only has one track, but there will more soon! Let me know what you think!

While you wait for “Heer” to be completed, check out my e-books, available in Punjabi (both Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi scripts) and English. You can also download/listen to completed digital albums/CDs at


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Eleven of My Favorite Punjabi Poets

Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Discussion, Punjabi Poetry | 0 comments

There are, of course, many poets in Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, and English who I have read and been influenced by in some way over the years, but these eleven poets are perhaps the reason I am even a poet today. Their beautiful verses touched my soul from a very young age and helped me make sense of post-partition Punjab, as well as the world around me. It has taken me around 60 years to feel comfortable enough to pay homage to my all time favorite Punjabi poet, Waris Shah. This is my rendition of one part of his epic tragic love story,”Heer.” This particular scene is when Ranjha makes the difficult decision to leave Takhat Hazara.

Classic Punjabi Poets


Sultan Bahu (1628-1691) wrote in Punjabi and the Persian language, but is much more well known for his Punjabi poetry. What separates him from many other poets of his time (and indeed of any time) is that his verses are sung in a variety of genres associated with Sufi music.

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Punjabi Poetry At A Glance

Posted by on May 1, 2011 in Discussion, Punjabi Poetry | 2 comments

Punjabi Poetry: Sher, Kavita, Nazm, GhazalOne of the questions I am often asked about is something that confuses many people: what are the various terms in Punjabi poetry? People have this misconception that Punjabi poetry is not at par with poetry from other languages in the region, such as Urdu or Hindi. It has an incredibly long history and is as complicated as any other form of literature. There is also a misconception that Punjabi is not a poetic language. What this is based on, I am not sure, but if this were true, at over 70 years old, I would have found another language to sing and write my poetry in by now!

Like many other ancient languages, Punjabi has evolved through various stages and Punjabi poetry is perhaps as old as Punjab’s Indus Valley civilization. It has beautiful and complex ballads both from the past and contemporary Punjabi poetry can easily be compared to verses from Shakespearean sonnets, traditional Japanese haikus, or modern “free verse” forms of poetry, including Spoken Word. Stalwarts from the past have contributed significantly to Punjabi poetry like Waris Shah, Sultan Bahu, Bullhe Shah, Chandar Bhan and Ali Haidar amongst many others. Bhai Vir Singh, Puran Singh. Mohan Singh and Amrita Pritam are considered luminaries who pioneered the new era in Punjabi Poetry. Properly defining the different styles and forms found in Punjabi poetry is an impossible task for someone who is not a literary historian. I have never taken a poetry class, or studied the form in an academic setting. I have read countless poems over the decades and they have all, in some shape of form, influenced my views on life and, of course, on my poetry.  Here is Punjabi Poetry at a Glance:

ghazal has its origins in the Arabic language and is traditionally considered a more scholarly form of poetry. It is a collection of couplets that embody a single thought or subject. A couplet is known as a sher. The plural of a sher is an ashaar(s). A  ghazal contains  5-15 ashaars and follows the rules of matla, maqta, behr, kaafiyaa and radif.
Here is an example of a sher from Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s poem, “ਮਾਏ ਨੀ ਮਾਏ”/ Mae Ni Mae :
ਮਾਏ ਨੀ ਮਾਏ/ Mae Ni Mae
ਮੈਂ ਇਕ ਸ਼ਿਕਰਾ ਯਾਰ ਬਣਾਇਆ/ Mai ik shikra yaar banalia

There are many subcategories of a ghazal and the rules that govern its definition can get very complex. For example, a ghazal is an arrangement of lines whereby the first two lines rhyme with each other which in turn rhyme with the fourth, sixth, eighth and so forth. Each couplet conveys a complete message and may be interconnected to continue a theme. I told you it was confusing!

Any poem which does not pass the criteria to be considered a ghazal is called a kavita in Punjabi and a nazm in Urdu.

For a more in-depth look at the intricacies of the ghazal and many of the terms surrounding it, check out this article, “What is a Ghazal?”

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Punjab is in the Tube!

Posted by on Jan 10, 2011 in Discussion | 2 comments

A Relic of the Past: The Persian WheelA few days back I was invited by one of my friends to attend a dinner party he helped arrange to honor a promising legislator from Punjab. The dinner party took place in Fresno the uncrowned capital of California. Fresnans of the Punjabi community are unique in welcoming politicians of all parties with equal zeal and affection. Although weary of unkept promises to the NRIs by visiting politicians from Punjab in the past and not so good news from near and dear ones back home, they still appear to be ever so anxious to hear any leader big or small, in power or in an opposition party from Punjab tell them what he or she has to say. They love to share their concerns and ask questions in the hope of learning something positive or expecting something new. Any news giving them the hope that Punjab is not going down the tube.
Over the years, I have attended many such gatherings, and the questions posed this time were ones I have often heard over and over covering topics from rude treatment meted out by the Indian Consul General office in San Francisco for getting visas, rampant corruption, brain drain by mass exodus of youth in hopelessness leaving Punjab by whatever means; drugs, unemployment, farmer indebtedness and suicides, safety of NRI life and property in Punjab, and everything in between.

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Free Audio Download: Heer-Ranjha Leaves Takhat Hazara

Posted by on Dec 15, 2010 in Audio Download, Featured | 0 comments

This beautiful epic poem was originally composed by the legendary Punjabi poet, Waris Shah. The part that I am singing is a very poignant moment in the doomed love story of Heer-Ranjha, and takes place when Ranjha makes the difficult decision to leave his ancestral home in Takhat Hazara. Please let me know what you think.


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