Amar Singh Chamkila
Amar Singh Chamkila
He wrote several songs for Shinda and accompanied him as a member of his entourage before deciding to pursue a solo career. He was married and subsequently divorced. He had one son and one daughter. Adopting the name Amar Singh Chamkila – Chamkila in Punjabi means one that glitters – he partnered up with the female vocalist Surinder Sonia and recorded eight duets. The record was released in 1979 and was produced by Charanjit Ahuja.
The cleverly worded songs, which he had written himself, became hits across Punjab and paved the way for the unique lyrical mastery his fans would come to expect. In 1980, Chamkila left Sonia and established a short-lived stage relationship with Miss Usha. He left Miss Usha in the same year in favor of teaming up with a female folk singer named Amarjot. She would become Chamkila’s permanent singing partner providing the female vocals for his duets, that is, the majority of the songs that he wrote. Chamkila wrote his own lyrics, the majority of which were boyish, suggestive and titillating, and yet fluent, commentaries on extra-marital affairs, alcohol and drugs. The couple’s appeal grew not only in the Punjab, but they quickly raced to international stardom among Punjabis abroad.
By the early 1980s, Chamkila and Amarjot had recorded hugely successful LPs on the HMV label and they toured Canada, USA, Dubai and Bahrain. They were also commonly booked for wedding parties, charging a reported Rs. 4000 per performance, an unprecedented amount for the time. Much of Chamkila’s success may be attributed to the fan-base he acquired performing in free, open-air concerts (known as akhade in Punjabi) around Punjab. Accompanying the couple would be a harmonium and dholki player and Chamkila would play the tumbi, an instrument that he had mastered.
The concerts served as a medium for gaining exposure and testing people’s response to new songs that were planned for future recordings. In addition to singing his own songs, Chamkila wrote several songs and sold them to other artists. Starting in 1985, Chamkila and Amarjot released three religious LPs: Baba Tera Nankana, Talwar Main Kalgidhar Di Haan and Naam Jap Le. While the LPs were highly successful, none of the songs featured on them were written by Chamkila. The profits made from these LPs were reportedly donated to charities.
His religious album were huge hits and allowed him to be able to sing at religious function and in front of women. Chamkila’s song Pehle Lalkare Naal was featured in the soundtrack of the 1987 Punjabi film Patola. He also recorded the song 'Mera Jee Karda' for the Punjabi film 'Dupatta'. Both films faired averagely at the box office, but still increased Chamkila's popularity. He also recorded a music video for one of his songs for the state-owned 'Doordarshan' channel, but after his death his video was taken off the air. Chamkila and Amarjot recorded in excess of ninety songs before they were killed in Mesumpur, Punjab in 1988.
At the time of his death, he reportedly had 200 songs that had not been sung or recorded. Having arrived to perform in Mesumpur, Punjab, both Chamkila and Amarjot were gunned down as they exited their vehicle on March 8, 1988. A gang of motorcyclists fired several rounds fatally wounding the couple and other members of the entourage. No arrests were ever made with connection to the shooting and the case was never solved. The reason for the murder is the subject of speculation and is shrouded in mystery. Read more on Last.fm.
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