Premiere: Sonny Singh Celebrates Vaisakhi and the Spirit of Community in ‘Aisee Preet’ Video
The New York trumpeter and vocalist’s album ‘Chardi Kala’ is out on May 13th
A journey of a year and a half nears culmination for Indian-origin New York trumpeter, singer and composer Sonny Singh, who has released the music video for “Aisee Preet.” The song is off the Red Baraat artist’s debut solo album Chardi Kala, which releases on May 13th.
From August 2020, Singh has been working with American producer Wil-Dog Abers (from hip-hop/rock group Ozomatli) on reimagining Punjabi kirtans and traditional songs for Chardi Kala, which kicked off with “Mitar Pyare Nu.”
The opening track on Chardi Kala, “Aisee Preet” vibrantly offers Punjabi folk arrangements and surges with rock and cheery brass band sections. In addition to Singh on harmonium and vocals, the track brings in guitarist Jonathan Goldberger, sarangi artist Michael Dwan Singh, trombone by Ernest Stuart and drummer-percussionist and mandolin player Dave Sharma. Singh says about interpreting Punjabi devotional compositions, “For me, there are no musical limits on what I am able to do as long as I am serving the poetry. Whenever spiritual and religious texts are involved, there will be some who take issue with different approaches – but I’m okay with that.”
While Chardi Kala also has hues of the Sikh spirit of revolution (“Ghadar Machao”), “Aisee Preet” is the artist’s way of showing humanity and love. He teamed up with filmmaker Shravya Kag for the music video, centered on Sikhs in her local Richmond Hill, a neighborhood in Queens, New York. “I wanted this video to feel like a love letter to the Richmond Hill community. I don’t live there, but it is the largest concentration of Sikhs in the northeast United States and is a place that is near and dear to me,” Singh says.
As it turns out, Singh also used to be a community organizer in the neighborhood over a decade ago and still regularly visits. Kag had also spent years with several photography projects in Richmond Hill. “So she felt in her element, and together we were able to quickly build trust with the community members we filmed,” Singh adds. The setting is also important because it allowed the artist to talk about Sikh solidarity at a time when anti-Asian violence has been flaring up. As recently as April 4th, elderly Sikh resident Nirmal Singh was attacked while on his morning walk. “[It was] right outside the Sikh Cultural Society, the same gurdwara where we filmed. It is truly heartbreaking and sadly an all too familiar story since 9/11, but also given the huge wave of anti-Asian violence since the COVID pandemic began,” Singh adds.
While these were often the incidents which brought Sikh-Americans into the news, the vocalist wanted to change that. “Part of our intention with this video, and my music in general, is to amplify the beauty, love, and strength in the Sikh community, who have dealt with so much oppressive trauma but remain in ‘chardi kala’– revolutionary eternal optimism,” he says.
There are more music videos expected from Chardi Kala, including “Ghadar Machao,” which was written as an ode to the Ghadar Party founded in the early 1900s in California and also featured on Red Baraat’s 2018 album Sound the People. Understandably, Singh says every music video is “such an undertaking, a labor of love.” While those are being figured out, Singh is writing more music and hopes to take it on the road. “Let’s see what the world allows us to do!” Singh adds.
Watch the video for “Aisee Preet” below.