Presenting Kanwar Grewal. It’s time to. A voice stuns you out of your blur under a sharp sun as your car grazes a national highway. Just like the road snakes out of the city chaos with trees bending over – celebrating journeys – a voice uncoils out of a CD and begins a snake dance, bending low, to raise its hood in naked fearlessness. It rides untamed winds, singing to the skies. It presses lustily into cotton-balls and silks, before setting on fire, the hearts of the Passionate. Like some Sufi that side of the Wagah, its choral embroidery barely allows you a whisper: Who the hell is this!
Presenting Kanwar Grewal. The voice of the album, Akhaan. The voice the worlds of bhajan sandhyas and Punjabi aficionados know, love and have begun to obsess about. It’s finding its way, out of the womb of something beautiful. You can see its upward arrow. You can see: it’s Coming Soon.But, its owner is a troubled man. Under a carelessly wrapped turban, his eyes burn coals. “I’m stepping into fire. A seat of sin. I can feel the fangs of fame,” murmurs he, sitting on the floor of a Khanna.
He’s not been easy to trace. The phone’s always unreachable. He’d like to be too. But something’s tugging at a corner of him. The lure of audience. Fame’s first honey drops. He’s smacking his lips. He likes the taste. And he hates this. He could’ve pointed a gun at himself as he says: “I am no faqir. Had I been one, I would’ve been in my kutiya, singing to my guru, my bebe. As I have, since 2010.”
Hungry for the rewind, we steal him from the studio, into the arms of the wheat fields nearby. So thin, so thin… almost driven by the rural wind, he, a blazing vermillion from head to heel, walks like a king who knows just where to bow. As we match steps, slipping into his sway, he begins.
No, he didn’t choose music…
In Mehma Shahwala village in Bathinda, a farmer’s son would dance to Chamkilas and Kuldip Manaks in empty afternoons. The father found hope. After all, he fancied a son who’d sing. The five-year-old laid out the deal: Buy me a Ranger bicycle; I shall learn to sing. The father promptly returned with the bait and the ‘baaja’ – the eternal harmonium. And Kanwar Grewal pedalled away into the world of the seven notes.