More than 1,100 people are trying to stop a Punjabi rapper whose lyrics they deem violent and misogynistic from performing at Canada’s Wonderland this weekend.
Yo Yo Honey Singh, one of India’s most popular artists, is set to headline Punjabi Virsa Day 2013 at the Vaughan amusement park this Saturday. But some in the Punjabi community are worried he is influencing their youth to get involved in gangs and abuse women. They’ve signed a petition urging the park not to let him take the stage.
“We don’t think a singer like him has any place in a peaceful country like Canada,” said Gurmukh Singh, co-founder of Guru Nanak Mission Canada, a Sikh charity that launched the petition. “We don’t want to bring all the gun violence and vulgarity from back home into this nation.”
Both Canada’s Wonderland and the show’s promoters deny that Singh’s lyrics are too offensive to allow him to perform.
“Obviously we’re a family park, and it is important to us to ensure any kind of programming respects that family-friendly environment,” said Canada’s Wonderland spokesperson Dineen Beaven. “We’ve done background on the performer and we’ve spoken to the producer and we’re going to proceed with the show.”
Concern over Singh’s objectification of women, which has been growing for years, erupted last December after a young woman was fatally gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi. Shortly after the attack, a track attributed to the rapper titled “Mein Hoon Balatkari (I am a rapist)” surfaced on the Internet, prompting police to investigate. Singh denied writing the song. His case was dismissed in July on the grounds that there was no certain proof he had authored the tune, which was never officially released.
A publicist for Singh declined to comment.
Joginder Bassi, organizer of Punjabi Virsa Day, argued the petition signees are overreacting to Singh’s music.
“Canadian society is a lot more open than Indian society, and if Indians and Punjabis have no issue with Honey Singh, one must ask why a few people here are trying to make it an issue,” he said.
But Singh’s naysayers argue that many of his songs — not just the rape track in question — are corrupting Punjabi youth.
“He is always shooting guns in his videos and referring to women as sexual objects just there for men to use,” said petition signee Arwinder Kaur, 25. “A lot of Punjabi teenagers want to replicate him. After the gang rape in New Delhi, that is really hurtful to our community.”
Pritpal Chattha, president of the Guru Nanak Mission Centre in Brampton, said the Punjabi community is divided over Singh’s music. He worries the tension could lead to fights at the Wonderland show.
“If there’s some kind of clash it will just give a bad name to the whole community,” he said.
Kuldip Bassi, another organizer for Punjabi Virsa Day, said 8,000 tickets for the event have been sold thus far.
“Honey Singh is a world-class artist,” he said. “[The petitioners] are just making a big deal about it … . These kinds of people are too religious.”
But Chattha argues Singh’s music is teaching young Punjabi men to be misogynistic at a time when it is most imperative to teach them the opposite.
“Especially for a society that is so male-dominated, it gives the wrong message,” he said. “People in Punjab are afraid to even give birth to a daughter. The whole society’s getting screwed up because of these kinds of songs.”