Some of you may want to know a little bit about me as a person, who I am and how my journey began. If this is you, then please do read on!
I was born in Nottingham, England on March 18th, 1985. Ever since my mother gave birth to me via Caesarean Section, on account of being a breach baby, she knew that I would come and turn her life on its head. I have always been a bit crazy and a bit on the eccentric side and I have always resisted my mother’s efforts to try and tame me!
I was named after a great Sikh General, who played an important part in modern Sikh History in the 1980s which was a difficult and turbulent political time for the Sikhs, both in the UK and in India. This had an enormous impact on my psyche as I was growing up.
I always felt a strong affiliation to the Sikh community despite being born and bred in the UK and therefore my sense of identity was very strong. A funny memory I have, from when I was a child in nursery, is that I used to poke fun at my non-Sikh friends for not having a topknot on their heads, when usually it was Sikh children with topknots who were singled out for bullying!
Though I came from a moderate Sikh family, I had always taken a keen interest in Sikh history, even as a small child. This was partly because of my parents’ influence, partly because of the fact that Sikh conflict with the Indian State was at fever pitch at the time, and partly because I had a hugely vivid imagination.
Sikhs are a martial race and this aspect of our culture used to take up a dominant space in my young growing mind. I would daydream for hours, play with toy swords and guns, and paint pictures of bloody scenes from Sikh history with my crayons and colouring pencils.
When teachers asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I always used to say that I wanted to be a Sikh soldier. My creative writing pieces were always about battle and warfare, and my artwork always depicted gory, bloody scenes.
It would be more than an understatement to say that both my parents and teachers were a little worried about me!
Initially, I didn’t do that well academically. I was good at art and creative writing but poor at maths. I always had a knack for performing though. I used to love drama and always used to get good parts in plays. In order to encourage my interest and passion for drama, my mother enrolled me for acting classes at Central TV Drama workshops for kids. Through this, I gained a lot of confidence and it landed me some small parts in Children’s TV shows like Harry’s Mad, Woof, and The Freddy Star Show.
I experienced a bit of bullying in primary school on account of being a Sikh kid and looking different. Sometimes kids would come and grab my topknot and shake it around. As a result, my mum would get very worried and come and wait in her car outside the school playground, during break times, to keep an eye on me and ward off the bullies. Unfortunately, I also experienced hostility from one or two teachers at primary school as well. As a result, I never really fulfilled my full potential and ended up being a slightly under confident and shy child.
It was only at Secondary School, at Trent College in Derbyshire, that I began to grow wings and realise my full potential. With a very supportive boarding school culture, great teachers, and so many different extra-curricular activities to choose from, the soil was fertile for development.
Interestingly, Trent College, though a private school, was not my first choice. My parents always wanted me to go to Nottingham Boy’s High School but I was not ever able to pass the exam. Although I was disappointed at the time, looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. I honestly do not believe I would have done as well as I did, had it not been for the support that I received at Trent College.
Whilst at school, I started taking a keener interest in sports and fitness. I was pretty good at Rugby and Athletics and represented the school teams in both. Rugby made me tough, durable and brave. I also started learning the drums and began playing the drum kit in jazz and swing bands.
Aside from that, I had some great experiences taking part in school plays and musicals, which at Trent College, were pretty high-level productions. I particularly enjoyed playing Daddy Warbucks in the school musical, Annie, for example.
Out of nowhere, I came to realise that I had a decent singing voice and had the opportunity to sing Lou Bager’s Mambo No5 and Tom Jones Sex Bomb in front of large audience concerts with a full live band!
Whilst at school, I aced all my exams, got fantastic grades, managed to get into Medical School, played sports at a decent level and drew great satisfaction from my exploits in the Performing Arts, for which I even bagged an award.
However, it always seemed apparent to me that I was living two separate lives in two separate cultures. Half of me was living the life of a white, middle class privately educated schoolboy, whilst the other half was fully immersed in the Punjabi Sikh world.
My parents had always wanted me to learn to read and write Punjabi, which, I managed to study up to A-Level standard. I also attended play schemes, youth clubs and camps for Sikh children to be able to socialise with each other and learn about the Sikh faith. The organisation, which took the lead on all of this, was the Sikh Community & Youth Service Nottingham, in which my father had played a pivotal role in setting up.
Part of my Sikh education included learning classical kirtan, or the singing of devotional hymns on the harmonium. I also learnt how to play the tabla. I wouldn’t say that I was a particularly talented or enthusiastic student, and I remember my harmonium teacher suggesting to me, on more than one occasion, that I should give up! Despite this, I felt great solace and peace whilst singing devotional hymns and the skills I learnt would prove to be very useful to me when I decided to pursue a singing career in later life!
A parallel strand that was also growing in the backdrop was a passion for the martial arts. The first martial art that I learnt was the Sikh martial art of Gatka. I learnt from a man called Nanak Dev Singh, a white American who had converted to Sikhism and travelled all the way to India to learn this great art. I also took lessons from one of his main students in the UK, Dilbadshah Singh.
Gatka is a weapons based martial art, characterised by agile, leaping footwork and circular twirling motions with the weapon. It is a demonstration art as well as a competitive combat sport like fencing. I had a chance to have a go at both and took part in various demonstrations and competitions up and down the country.
When I was about 13, I started taking Taekwondo lessons with my father and younger brother. I developed physically so much from this pursuit with regards to fitness, strength, flexibility and fighting prowess. At the time though, I had little interest in the combat sport side of Taekwondo. I was far more interested in the combative street fighting application of the art.
I once almost got into a fight as a teenager in school and remember the uncomfortable shaking feeling in my legs and the dread in my stomach as the adrenaline raced around my blood vessels. This prompted me to start researching and reading more about martial arts and combat. This is how I came across the street fighting and combat books by Geoff Thompson, a Coventry based martial artist with 20 years’ experience working on nightclub doors.
I found his books to be so enthralling and for the first time, I learnt about my own body, the effects of fear and adrenaline and about the savage yet very simple nature of martial arts techniques that have any hope of working in a real street fight.
I became obsessed with Bruce Lee, training, street fighting, weapons, and pretty much anything combat related! It was not a sinister obsession in the sense that I was always a gentle soul that avoided conflict and never got into trouble, yet I always had a true, genuine passion for the martial arts and wanted to learn as much as I could. I achieved my 2nd Dan Black belt in Taekwondo just before I left school
At the age of 18, I went to Medical School, in Nottingham. University was not the happiest time of my life. I stayed at home so made few close friends on campus. I found the studying and course content to be far from enjoyable. My enthusiasm for it waned even more when I was rejected from the Officer Training Corps and the Territorial Army on the grounds that I used inhalers for asthma. I remember this to be a crushing experience as I had always thought that a career as an Army Doctor in the Special Forces would suit me far better than just as a Doctor alone.
It always felt like I was on a never-ending treadmill of studying, coursework and exams. However, I still managed to do quite a bit of fun stuff whilst at University. I took part in the Medics play, A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream and performed a few Tom Jones covers at student concerts.
I also had the pleasure of hosting several events as a compere. This was also my first experience of stand-up comedy in a sense, as I used to prepare gags and jokes for each event in between introducing new acts on stage. I performed at the International Student’s Ball and Asian Ball in Nottingham and received a tremendously positive response from all of this.
Whilst at University I found that my social circle became increasingly Asian, Punjabi and Sikh. Whilst I was raised with white children throughout my school days, for some reason, I started to feel that I had more in common with Asian students when I was at University. I don’t believe that this was because I did not want to engage with white people. On the contrary, sometimes I felt excluded from their social circles.
As a result, I began to attend Asian events a lot more. Started listening to Punjabi music and dancing Bhangra a lot more than I used to when I was at school. I used to practice dancing in front of the mirror for hours and developed a real talent for it that was completely self-taught. I used to rock up to Bhangra gigs in nightclubs dressed in a white suit and dance with some real flair, to the extent that the whole club used to stop dancing and stop just to watch me dance! After that everyone would come and shake my hand and take pictures!
My first taste of fame came when I was spotted dancing in a club and some Bhangra music producers asked me if I wanted to dance in a video. Of course, I accepted and had the opportunity to perform a solo dance with one of my Punjabi music idols, Surinder Shinda who was the singer! I performed another solo dance in another Punjabi music video about a year later.
My second taste of fame came from writing and performing little Punjabi comedy songs. One in particular, called the Nottingham Trent Boli about a girl at Nottingham Trent University who behaves badly on nights out, was recorded by someone on their phone whilst I was singing it and went viral on the internet.
Whilst at University, I also found my true musical niche. I had always been involved in several different genres of music and listened to everything whilst growing up. However, it was at University that I developed a real taste for traditional Punjabi folk.
I began listening a lot more to Punjabi folk music from the 70s and 80s and was heavily influenced by singers like Surinder Shinda, Kuldeep Manak and the music production by Charanjit Ahuja. I just felt that their work was so soulful and deep, and that modern Punjabi music seemed weak, superficial and commercial in comparison.
I formed my own band with my brother and some kids from the youth club that I attended. All were talented musicians. The name of the band was 12 Bore or Barran Bore in Punjabi. A 12 Bore means a 12-gauge double-barrelled shotgun, which is the weapon of choice of the Punjabi Farmer and enjoys a special place in Punjabi folklore.
We had a traditional set up for the band. We only had a Dhol player, a Harmonium, a Dhad, a Chimta and myself singing old school folk songs on the mic.
We had a couple of small performances and received some great feedback. However, all of us had study commitments so we couldn’t keep up the performances for too long before it fizzled out. However, the feeling of singing and performing traditional folk songs to a live audience was soulful, exhilarating and very satisfying.
I continued my intense training and study of martial arts in my early twenties. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) or Cage-Fighting, as it is colloquially known was rising in popularity all over the world and particularly in America. I instantly become a fan and was attracted to its realism. Whilst watching DVDs of fights and watching TV shows, I started training in Wing Chun, Brazilian Jujitsu and Free-style Wrestling.
By the time I graduated from University I had achieved my Black Belt in Wing Chun and Blue Belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. At this stage I was now an experienced well-rounded martial artist and I really wanted to test myself against other trained fighters in the ring or in the cage.
At this stage in my life, I had begun working as a junior doctor. When not working I would train intensely in kickboxing, grappling and mixed martial arts. I had my first kickboxing fight in 2008. It was a very tiring, brutal and intense experience. I won the fight but realized that I had a little way to go before I would be ready to have my first mixed martial arts fight.
I had my first MMA fight a year later and I was more than ready at this stage. I was the first Sikh fighter with a turban and full beard to compete as a professional mixed martial arts cage fighter, so I developed a very large following amongst the Sikh Community with a huge turnout at events.
I was interviewed on Sikh TV stations, radio and had articles printed in magazines.
I was approached by another music producer to star in a music video, which, would highlight my training regime as an MMA fighter. The song was called Jatt di Jawani by Gupsy Aujla.
This video sky-rocketed my profile and generated interest from the worldwide Punjabi Community who started to take a keen interest in my MMA career.
I was not enjoying my medical career at this point and was looking for a way out. My success in MMA fighting then inspired me to quit work as a Doctor and become a full time professional MMA fighter instead
My parents, who had always been supportive, were happy with my decision and wanted me to succeed in my new career. I always wanted my Mother to attend my fights and support me, and she never had the heart to say No. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her to come and watch her son fighting in a cage.
I had great fun and some great experiences fighting on MMA shows. I also took part in lots of grappling tournaments and had Kickboxing and Thai boxing fights. I had the pleasure of training in Thailand for a month and I was most impressed by the humble, friendly nature of the Thai people as well as their ferocious fighting skills.
Unfortunately, with MMA, it is very tough to break into the top tier of the sport and involves a lot of good luck and timing. It is only at the top level that decent money can be made from it. Two years after embarking on this venture, it seemed, for a number of reasons, that I was not making progress towards making it into that top tier so I decided to explore other career opportunities. I had a good run at MMA and won all but one of my fights.
For a little while I worked in the family Nursing Home businesses as a Trainee Operations Director. I also did some property development work and started a fun Photobooth Business.
However, in the end I decided to return to Medicine as I enjoyed the intellectual challenge and the fast-paced nature of the work in Accident and Emergency.
Outside of work, I had also been very active, particularly in sports and creative pursuits. Initially, I started writing poetry and posting poems on the Internet, which were very well received.
I also started training intensely again and decided to compete in the sport of Boxing. Boxing used to be part of my training regimen when preparing for MMA fights, but now I was able to focus solely on this individual discipline. I found the study of the sweet science to be highly stimulating and rewarding, and I found that my skill level shot up quite quickly. I had a few unlicensed boxing fights and won all of them.
Next, I started making comedy skit videos and started posting them on the Internet. I received a tremendous response from this and quite a few of my videos went viral. One in particular, the Sebastian Singh Skit caused some unintended controversy as it was based on a religious topic but was highly popular nonetheless.
Making comedy skits is great fun and a great release. I love to be silly and make people laugh as laughter is the best medicine!
My life plans took another unexpected turn when I started posting acapella Punjabi folk songs on the Internet. Once again, I received a huge response, so continued posting them and even began to take requests from my friends and fans!
By this I time I had so many people taking interest in the various things that I had been doing over the last 10 years, that it did not take long for a top music producer to contact me on Facebook and ask me if I wanted to work together on a track. The producer was Popsy Nandha.
When Popsy got in touch I told him that I wanted to do a traditional folk track and recreate an old sound from the 70s that people are not using so much anymore.
I also suggested that I wanted to sing sad break up songs as nobody from the public would expect this since a lot of my previous creative material was comedy and because of my MMA fighting background.
Luckily, Popsy had the same musical taste as I do, and was delighted with the idea. We started working on a track called Jhoothiye Ni Laare, which was written by a very good song-writer from India called Mangi Chak Mughalani. I loved the lyrics and started perfecting my vocals whilst Popsy prepared the composition.
I loved working with Popsy as he was a perfectionist like myself and put a huge amount of importance on getting every detail right. He is immensely dedicated to his work and I learnt so much from working with him.
It wasn’t long before I found another great songwriter Laddi Gobindpuri from India. Laddi was very professional and shared the same musical and lyrical taste as myself. Furthermore, he was computer literate and I could interact with him easily on Facebook, WhatsApp and he would clearly type up the Punjabi lyrics for me so that they were easy to read. We spoke regularly on the phone and bounced ideas off each other. Laddi wrote the lyrics for my second song Nazran Fer Ke.
Popsy made fantastic music for both songs. It had a very traditional sound and was very different to the current musical sound that was out there in the market. We both agreed that we had two top quality products but that all the hard work done in creating them would be wasted if we did not market the products properly.
As a newcomer to the music industry, I had heard that many artists were unhappy and felt like they had not been promoted properly by record labels. I showed the two songs to my family who were very impressed and agreed that we had something special and that they would support me and invest in the promotion of the two songs.
At that point, after getting legal advice, my mother and I set up our own record label, Mahaveer Records. We flew to India and met with video producer, Amrinder Goraya who was introduced to us through Popsy and had done previous work for him.
Initially we were apprehensive about going to India in order to conduct business and make the videos as we had heard so many horror stories. Luckily, Amrinder was a very genuine guy and looked after us very well. The trip was euphoric and a mountaintop experience for all of us. It could not have gone better. Jhoothiye Ni Laare was shot in Mattiarra village on the banks of the Sutlej River whilst Nazran was shot in the beautiful and scenic deserts of Bikaner, Rajasthan.
It felt surreal to be working with such a professional film crew. After a few anxious weeks both videos were ready. After some small changes and editing we were left delighted with the final products and I am very proud of them.
I had always loved singing and I always felt that it was in me to become a professional singer but I never thought that it would actually happen. It appears to be a career door that has opened for me naturally and organically.
I never envisaged that setting up a record label and promoting your own songs would be such hard work and so costly. I also don’t think that my Mother ever realized that she would need to become my full-time manager on top of her existing day job.
Having said that, we have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the journey so far. Over the last few years I have released many tracks. I am always trying to improve and evolve and find new ways to express myself artistically. My goal is to become a household name in Punjabi Music and to enter into mainstream. I also wish to pursue a career in acting and film
Everyone’s life is full of ups and downs and mine is no different. However, I feel very blessed to have experienced all the things that I have and I am very excited about my new venture into singing.