In 1995, the world was introduced to a song that later on broke records. The song, ‘Bolo Ta Ra Ra Ra’ sold half a million copies in four months and 20 million copies total, making it the best selling non-soundtrack album in Indian music history.
And with this soundtrack, the name Daler Mehndi came in the limelight. Over his approximately 26 years long career, Mehndi has given us hits after hits and his contributions towards making Punjabi music a worldwide phenomenon have not gone unnoticed. So if you’re a fan of his pop beats too, keep reading to know more about him! Also Read: Tito-Tony, The Forgotten Producer Duo Behind Amitabh Bachchan’s Movies
On 18 August 1967, a future star took birth in the city of Patna, Bihar. Born into a family of Gurbani singers, Daler began performing on stage with his father at the early age of 4. However, not many know that at the age of 11 he ran away from home to seek training in the classical Indian vocal tradition from the Late Ustad Rahat Ali Khan of Patiala Gharana of Gorakhpur, UP. Daler lived with his guru for almost a year before he gave his first stage performance in front of about 20,000 people at Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, when he was 13 years old. Also Read: Punjabi Singer Armaan Bedil Turns Actor With ‘Allahr Vres’!
Then in 1991, he formed his own group, comprising his brothers, cousins and friends. Not just any singer, Daler Mehndi is India’s coveted Pop Icon, the country’s celebrated Live Performer and a prolific songwriter, composer, musician, environmentalist and philanthropist.
Talking about his musical journey, even though his debut ‘Bolo Ta Ra Ra Ra’ became the highest-selling album in 1995 (We know you’re singing the song now!). But that wasn’t all, his second and third albums were a huge hit too, leading him to perform in concerts across the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, UAE, South Africa, East Africa, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Singapore, West Indies, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Then in 1998, he released another masterpiece, ‘Tunak Tunak Tun’, which had a music video produced on a then-unprecedented budget of ₹25 million. The song and video was a success in India, cementing Mehndi's status as India's biggest popstar at the time, later becoming an international success. The album won the award for ‘Best Indian Pop Album’ at the 1998 Screen Awards and gave him his first international tour! Also Read: Punjabi Actress Mahreen Kaleka Gets Married! Have You Seen The Pictures?
Another story from his life that is not known by many is the one behind his name. Mehndi shared on his social media that his parents were so inspired by the name of the character Daku Daler Singh, that they named their son after him. Then when he grew up, he added Mehndi to his name dedicating it to the popular singer Parvez Mehndi.
The non-drinker, deeply spiritual, always dressed in signature long flowing robes, bejeweled, turban and jewelry, his snappy fashion and eye-catching outfits have earned him Elle magazine’s “Most Stylish Person in Music” award. But this isn’t all, his extensive body of work and the stage have earned him many titles like the “Messiah of Masti,” “Sardar of Swing”, He is all that He is bigger than the Beatles.” Also Read: Bollywood Celebs Who Turned Punjabi Brides On Their Big Day!
But even before he was famous, in 1994, he represented India in the annual Voice of Asia International Ethnic and Pop Music Contest at Azia Dynasys in Almaty, Kazakhstan and even came second. Wow right?
To add, Mehndi is also a philanthropist who created his own initiative called the “Daler Mehndi Green Drive.” He supports homeless children in Kenya, starving families in Orissa, and supports the families of Kargil martyrs. He won the Bharat Seva Ratna Award for his work towards helping the environment by planting trees.
Mehndi’s success was apparent but his friends, particularly the Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan invited Mehndi to sing for him and make his first appearance on the big screen, in Bachchan’s comeback movie ‘Mrityudaata (1997)’. After that, Mehndi made several cameos in Bollywood movies and even started playback singing. Since 2000, he even owns a record label called ‘DRecords’ which has artists like Hussain Baksh and Safri Boys signed under its name. Also Read: Har Gobind Khorana, The Only Punjabi To Get A Nobel Prize!
But Alas! The ‘Turbaned Tornado’ who created such beautiful music to the extent that he has his own genre of music called “Rabbabi” which is a mixture of Thumri, Sufi and Rock music, did not have such a merry journey. He was involved in a few controversies which were a difficult chapter in his story. Also Read: 4 Times We Saw The Character Of Sardar Udham Singh Being Played On-Screen!
In 2003, Mehndi along with six others were accused of coordinating a scam that sent illegal musicians abroad under the pretense of being musicians and dancers. He was in hiding for a month before he surrendered to police in Patiala and was charged with 31 counts of immigration law violations. In March 2018, Mehndi was sentenced to 2-years in prison by Patiala court in a human trafficking case. Though later the police gave him bail and confessed that Mehndi was innocent and the confusion arose because Daler and his brother, who was the original target of the scandal, looked alike!
Mehndi has also commented on the legal troubles of his brother Mika Singh and performer Rakhi Sawant, saying that "party kissing" is an undesirable addition to Indian culture. In another case, an Indian Islamic group called Raza Academy took Mehndi to court over some of the lyrics and the video of his album Nabi Buba Nabi to be offensive. Several of the words were changed, removing references to "prophet".
Then Mehndi entered politics by joining the Bharatiya Janata Party on 26 April 2019. Also Read: Blog: Punjabi Celebs Who Turned Politicians!
From releasing favorites like 'Dardi Rab Rab', 'Tunak Tunak Tun', 'Na Na Na Re', 'Rang De Basanti', 'Dangal Tribal Track', 'Jio Re Baahubali' and becoming a legend in the Punjabi music industry, no one can compete with his legacy. Daler Mehndi was one of the first few sardarjis who ruled the music charts for the longest time and changed the market for aspiring turbaned singers. His songs are heard and enjoyed by the Punjabi diaspora across the globe, even today.
Lastly, his foot-thumping beats will surely make you get lost in the music! So do comment your favorite Daler Mehndi song below.