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Sidhu Moose Wala: Punjabi singer and rapper shot dead

Sidhu Moose Wala: Punjabi singer and rapper shot dead

Sidhu Moose Wala: Punjabi singer and rapper shot dead

Indian police are investigating the murder of a popular Punjabi singh after he was shot by unidentified people while travelling on Sunday evening. He was 28.

Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, better known by his stage name Sidhu Moose Wala, was killed on Sunday evening while driving his car in Mansa, a district in Punjab state, northern India. Moose Wala, 28, was taken to hospital where he was declared dead.

Thousands of fans gathered outside his village home to pay their respects. He was cremated on Tuesday.

The attack took place a day after the state government had pulled security cover for more than 400 individuals, including Moose Wala, in an attempt to clamp down on VIP culture, local media reports said.

A preliminary post-mortem, done by a team of five doctors, found bullet marks on Moose Wala's chest, feet and abdomen, sources in Punjab state's health department told BBC Punjabi.

An artist who tried to raise up all that raised him

In 2015, Sidhu started writing songs for others in the Chandigarh-based Punjabi music industry while a college student, finding early success as the writer of Ninja’s track License, but soon vowed to write only for himself. He moved to Brampton, Ontario in December 2016 after completing his degree in electrical engineering and moonlit as a musical artist.

His stage name – meaning “Sidhu of Moosa”, his birthplace – is a grounding article of devotion to his village, which he purposefully sought to elevate: wherever he went, he once said, his “village would go too”. Sidhu is the village’s clan name, and so in essence, Sidhu Moose Wala allowed Shubhdeep to embody the aspirations of anyone from Moosa.

Beyond gun-referencing lyrics and machismo, Sidhu used his mic to speak on Punjab’s sociopolitical issues, and challenge the status quo. On Panjab (My Motherland), Sidhu personifies a Punjab that will not “take the pushes” of the Delhi government. It was released as an anthem for the farmers’ protests: Sidhu supported them in the August 2020 to December 2021 mass movement for agricultural subsidies, and ran an unsuccessful campaign in 2022 for the Mansa district seat in the Punjab legislative assembly.

On the back end of his magnum opus Moosetape – a 32-song tour de force that pays tribute to forefathers such as Bohemia while convening international contemporaries such as UK MCs Stefflon Don and Tion Wayne – Sidhu interrogates the Indian penal code. Over a piano melody and trumpet blares, 295 takes the vantage point of a loving parent advising Sidhu that regardless of his path, he will be trapped. His choices are either “speaking the truth” and suffering Section 295 violations (penalising actions “intended to outrage religious feelings”) or progressing his career and garnering hate. Sidhu consoles himself, consigned to a controversial fate either way.

Recently Sidhu released The Last Ride on 15 May. In what now seems portentous, Sidhu used photos of 2Pac’s assassination site as the cover art. Sidhu revered the California rapper, and the track delves into west coast G-funk sounds, mimicking a low-rider anthem via the production of Wazir Patar. It opens with a sample from a news broadcast about 2Pac’s death, and Sidhu sings of how his “coffin will be raised in his youth”.

Martyrdom is omnipresent in Punjabi Sikh culture, from the sacrifices of gurus to the hanging of 1920s revolutionary Bhagat Singh to deaths in the farmers’ protests, and Sidhu ruminates on the subject in The Last Ride. His art is an uneasy contradiction: speaking positively of caste and violence, while rooted in a Sikh faith that is anti-caste, peace-loving and egalitarian.

This contradiction, though, was what made him a riveting artist. Sidhu’s humility, and the flipside of his bravado, is most apparent on another 2Pac homage: his 2020 song Dear Mama. Instead of rap, a whistling flute and a guitar give way to Sidhu’s sonorous voice belting out his love for his mother, almost like a classic folk song from Moosa: “Mom, I always feel as if I am exactly like you. I want to write your name, Charan Kaur, on my chest.” Aside from the violent nature of his death, this is how he could be remembered: an artist who tried to raise up all that raised him.

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