Satinder Sartaj: The Black Prince, Quite Literally!

by Saloni Poddar

“Koyi Ali aakhe, koyi Vali aakhe
Koyi Kahe dataa, sache malka nu
Meinu samaj na ave, ki naam deva
Es gol chaki diya chalka nu…”

Some call him ‘Ali’, some call him ‘Vali’, some call him the ‘great giver’ (Daata), the true master of the universe
I cannot fathom what name to call him by… this master who makes our earth go round.

“Sai, sai ve sadi fariyad tere tayi
Sai ve bahon farr behra bane layi
Sai ve mereye gunaha nu lukhai
Sai ve hazra huzur ve tu ayi…”

Oh Lord our request is delivered to you,
now hold our hands and lead us ashore
Oh Lord forgive my sins
for you are everything O Lord.

Satinder Sartaj needs no introduction, as he is known by kids as well as elders as the king of Punjabi music! He wears many hats – singer, composer, poet, lyricist, and even an actor. A true inspiration! As an artist, he excites, enlightens, and embraces his culture and heritage through his poetry and songs. His songs are soul-stirring; they liberate minds and heal hearts.

Sartaj is a prolific performer and demonstrates an uncanny ability to transcend. While he is one of the handfuls of singers holding a Doctorate in Punjabi-Sufi music, he has a crazy fan following and is widely acclaimed for his spellbinding performances. However, he is also the first Indian-man-with-a-turban to walk the Cannes red carpet. Music, for him, is life, not a mere ‘money-making profession’ as is evident from his collaboration with the United Nations to help raise funds for their agenda against human trafficking working alongside legends like A.R. Rehman, Sonu Nigam, Quincy Jones, and President Jimmy Carter.

Born in a sleepy little village of Bajrawar (Distt. Hoshiarpur, Punjab), Satinder Sartaj was enchanted by melodies from a very young age, the melodies emitting from instruments like flute and ‘Sarangi’ haunted him. His journey as a performer started when he was in third grade performing in ‘Bal Sabhas’ in his village school. He graduated in Music Honors from Hoshiarpur Govt. College. He went on to complete his M.Phil and Ph.D. in Sufi Music. Sufism always interested him; hence, we see a strong Sufi influence in his songs.

The abovementioned song, “Sai” was penned by him in 2010 and there has been no looking back since. In a matter of moments, Sartaj became a youth icon synonymous with the reflection of Punjabi culture and history.

The most enticing aspect of Satinder Sartaj’s personality is his poetry. Since childhood, he has been inspired by nature; beauty and fragrance of flowers, marvel of the rainbow, and melodies in flowing streams of water. He writes his own songs. There’s an interesting anecdote about his ‘stage name’, Sartaj. After he started singing, he felt that he should have a different surname and one night he could not sleep, so he woke up at 3AM and randomly wrote a song whose last line read, “tere sir taareyan da taaj ve”, that moment he took up the surname ‘Sartaj’. Coming back to his poetry, this year Satinder Sartaj launched his first Urdu poetry album titled ‘Shayarana Sartaj’. A few lines from the song ‘Inayat’ from this album are as follows,

“Kuchh inayat kijiye, kuchh meherbani kijiye
Guftagoon karke zara si toh aasani kijiye…

Vaise toh kissa hi poora keh diya nazaroon se par
mukhtalif si baat kuchh yon bhi zubani kijiye…”

Please grant me some favors gracefully by making my life easier by having a conversation with me. Although your eyes have told the complete story, for my sake, say some things verbally also.

And the last lines say,

“Gaur farmaiye kuchh pesh-e-nazar hai apke
halki si muskaan se misra lasani kijiye…
aap aaye hain toh ye aalam munnavar ho gaye
aarz hai Sartaj ki rooh bhi noorani kijiye.”

Look carefully as I present something to you, please make my poetry priceless with a small smile of appreciation. You have brought brightness to my world but now accept my appeal and illuminate my soul as well.

Well, soulful as his Urdu poetry is, this is not where he wants to stop. He stepped into the world of cinema recently with ‘The Black Prince’ where he plays the role of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last king of Punjab. Just like all his other endeavors, he acts the part with conviction and honesty. He said in an interview that he took up the challenge because “I was destined to play Maharaja Duleep Singh, one because of the startling resemblance we share in terms of our looks, and two because of my respect for his story. The more I read up on his life, the more 1 realized how much we share in common. It was a huge honor to be cast as one of the leading lights in Sikh cultural history”.

Sartaj faced various challenges while playing this character like, acting Duleep Singh at different ages in terms of years and the more difficult aspect of maintaining the Victorian British accent suited to the role. Nonetheless, the singer-turned-actor is very satisfied with and hopeful about his debut, as it is a subject related to Sikh history and also because it is the very first time that a Sikh is playing the lead role in a Hollywood movie.

Well, as viewers and fans, we have our fingers crossed but we certainly believe that Satinder Sartaj will never disappoint us. For he definitely is the ‘crown on the head’ of Punjab and its entertainment industry.

Sartaj’s musical talent remains undeniable and has given him acclaim and recognition on a global level. From sold-out concerts in India to captivating performances in  USA, Canada, Australia, and beyond, his music transcends borders and resonates with people from all walks of life. Apart from receiving numerous awards and accolades, Satinder Sartaj has emerged as a cultural ambassador of Punjab showcasing the inherent spirituality, resilience, and universal teachings of Sikhism and spreading the message of love, compassion, and harmony everywhere he goes, through everything he does.

Saloni Poddar

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