Amar Singh Chamkila
Deapite having only been a performer for less than a decade, Amar earned himself the title of most influential Punjabi singer of all time. His incredible stage performances at free open-air concerts earned him a reputation as an electrifying live performer. His stamina was also immense; he was known to cram in as many as three energy packed performances a day.
Following his untimely death in 1988 at the age of just 26, Amar’s music has immortalised the star and his legacy lives on. Only recently, one of his daughters has released an album and several of the songs on the record were written by her father.
The mystery shrouding Amar’s death has never been solved although there are a number of conspiracy theories doing the rounds. Along with his female singing partner, Amarjot Kaur, the pair were gunned down by a gang of disguised motorcyclists as they arrived at a performance in Mesumpur, Punjab.
There’s been speculation that a rival singer ordered the killings after feeling threatened by Amar’s growing popularity. Another theory is that a disgruntled venue owner who Amar had been unable to perform for had decided to seek revenge. Or, one option which seems very likely is that the Khalistani Separatist Movement carried out shooting after taking offence at some of Amar’s lyrics which they deemed blasphemous.
Growing up in the Punjab district, Amar had aspirations of becoming an electrician. He also had musical talent but it wasn’t until a famous singer of the time, Surinder Shinda spotted his talent and became his teacher that be realised his potential for a professional career in Bhangra.
His music was particularly controversial at the time. He was divorced and his long term singing partner had also run away from a marriage to pursue her singing career. His lyrics were modern and often dealt with issues such as extramarital relationships as opposed to warriors and heroes as was the traditional content of Punjabi folk music. It was this controversial style which helped propel his career along at such an astonishing rate and enabled him to become a runaway success. However it may have also been his downfall and reason for his death.