The godfather of bhangra has been recognised by Her Majesty the Queen and honoured in one of Britain’s highest civilian awards for his “services to Bhangra music, charity and to the community in Hounslow, West London”. Channi Singh, recognised as the driving force behind the popularity of Punjabi music in the West, has been selected for an Order of the British Empire (OBE), in the Queen’s birthday honours list released on Saturday.
Channi Singh, also known as Harcharanjit Singh Rapal, is the founder, lead singer, producer and director of London music group Alaap, internationally credited for its contribution to the influence of Punjabi music in the West. Son of a top military rank officer, Channi was born in Salar Village of Punjab in India, and moved to the UK in 1975. The music maestro has had a penchant for music from a young age, often singing the popular song ‘Mera Man Dole’ from the film Nagin. He went on to complete a postgraduate degree in English Literature from a prestigious college in India, all the while winning awards and medals across the country for his singing prowess, before moving to England.
Upon moving to the UK, Channi realised the lack of cultural awareness amongst the Asian youth when it came to their roots back in India. He formed Alaap in 1977, initially performing in temples and small events. The group revolutionised the bhangra music scene and are recognised as the pioneers of the genre in the West. Alaap regularly travel to the US, Canada, Australia and Dubai for shows and have been extensively covered in the media.
Channi Singh is among a handful of individuals of Indian-origin, representing different walks of life, to be honoured in the prestigious list.