Karan Aujla: Punjabi rapper feels blessed for global journey

By Manish Pandey, BBC Newsbeat

Getty Images A man holding a black microphone and trophy in his hands, wearing a black jacket.Getty Images

Karan Aujla has more than 13 million listeners on Spotify

When Punjabi rapper Karan Aujla reflects on his journey so far, he admits it is “hard to process”.

Born in Punjab, his parents died when he was a child and he later moved to Canada “with just this skill of writing”.

The 27-year-old will be touring the UK and Canada in months to come, and his recent release Tauba Tauba will appear in Bad Newz – the first time he has a track in a Bollywood film.

“I’m blessed,” he tells BBC Asian Network’s Haroon Rashid.

“Coming from such a small village and making it across the globe and getting so much love from people and touring.

“Getting to experience things that you never even knew existed.”

Karan’s hits such as Softly, Don’t Look, Red Eyes and On Top have spent multiple weeks in the Official Asian Music Chart and he has more than 13 million monthly Spotify listeners.

He is considered one of the most important artists taking Punjabi music global, along with Diljit Dosanjh and AP Dhillon.

‘I will never plan things’

Karan has previously spoken about having Bollywood offers, but wanting to wait for the right one.

“It was so quick, we decided that we wanted a song for the movie. And I made two ideas, sent them over and they picked one.”

“And I’m happy that they did. It just goes with the vibe of the movie.

“I never felt out of place, the whole team showed me so much love,” he adds.

There’s sometimes been criticism that to fit into Bollywood, artists need to change their style.

“My first thought was to go with a little bit of Hindi. Then I was like OK, that’s not me.”

“It was hard deciding which direction the sound should be… but it just happened like that.”

grey placeholderGetty Images A man wearing an all white outfit with his hands out wide as he performs on stage. Behind him are two female dancers wearing pink and purple.Getty Images

Karan is keen to retain his authentic sound

Karan says he is conscious about being original but also offering things for different audiences.

The inspiration behind the song was a friend who is “into Punjabi music” and the song is about a “love for Punjabi music”.

“I really wanted it to be easy to catch for the people that don’t know Punjabi too much. But I also wanted to keep it [Punjabi] and not have it like a Bollywood sound”.

“I want to keep my own tone original,” he says.

“It just makes me so happy that the language barrier is gone and it’s all about music.

“It’s going global,” he says of Punjabi music.

Karan says he has a relaxed approach to making music and takes pride in not overthinking things, describing that as “a big flex”.

“Every time I get into the studio, I don’t know what I’m going to write about. I just sit there, listen to the beats, make melodies and it just comes.

“I’m really proud of it, because that’s how I started as a writer.”

grey placeholderGetty Images A man wearing all white sitting on stage with a mic in his hand, wearing all white. The background is dark and smoky.Getty Images

Karan says his upcoming tour will have lots of stage production

Despite increasing success over the years, Karan says he doesn’t “get nervous” in the typical way, but that it is “a different type of feeling”.

“Sometimes you don’t know how it’s going to be when you enter these new rooms.

“But everybody loves your talent if you’re good.”

One of the things that helps is the people around him, and he says he is big on brotherhood in the industry.

“It’s really important for me because I grew up around brothers and friendship has had a big role in my career.”

But he is forward looking as well, and has the tour on his mind with many fans expected to turn out to see him perform.

He reveals that it will be “a different” sound to his previous tour, with greater production involved.

“This time I’m coming out with a new band, and nobody is Punjabi.

“Even if I have to put money out of my own pocket, I want to make sure people have the best time of their lives.”

“I’m doing some crazy stuff,” he teases.

With his music though, Karan says he’s just “trying to go with the flow”.

He name-checks Burna Boy and Wizkid as artists who he feels have a sound that “is so clean”.

But his own approach will remain pretty chilled out.

“I will never plan things… it just happens.

“That’s the best way to do anything in life.”

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