Asa Singh Mastana was a traditional Punjabi musician and singer. He became popular during the 1940s. He had an almost cult following after the 1960s when state-run All India Radio started promoting folk musicians, other singers on the list were Surinder Kaur and Kuldeep Manak.
Mastana is best known for lending his voice to the hit Bollywood film, "Heer''. His main style of singing was the ‘Jugni’ and ‘Heer’ genre of folk songs, which recount the tales of Heer-Ranjha, written by poet Waris Shah.
Mastana was born on 22 August 1927, in the village of Sheikhupur, Punjab to parents Sardar Pritam Singh and Bibi Amrit Kaur. He was interested in singing since childhood. Also Read: You Surely Cannot Miss This Video Of ‘Mogambo’ Aka Amrish Puri Singing A Punjabi Ghazal!
He got his basic education about music from Pandit Durga Prasad. But he did not need a tutor for long! Singing was a god-gifted quality for Mastana, and he had a good eye for lyrics and poetry too. His sharp mind and clear vision are what helped him at every turn in his musical journey.
Mastana was one of those singers who were educationally qualified at that time. He had completed his B.A. from the Khalsa College in Lahore, a year before partition. He was even a classmate of the former chief minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal.
His first song, which was ‘Thandiye Hawaye Kihde Paase Tu Aayi Ae’, was released on the radio after the partition in 1949. After partition, he built a life in Delhi where he even worked in the Reserve Bank of India. He worked there until he retired as an officer a few years later.
His personality after working in a bank for so long was such that he had become hard-minded about money and even though he won’t add to the income or prize money he got, he would distribute it easily among all his crew members. It is said that not even a penny would get lost by him. Also Read: Know More About The Journey Of ‘Goli’ From ‘Range’—All About Arundeep!
But do you know how he got his famous name ‘Mastana’?
He was named Asa Singh by his parent. However, the term ‘Mastana’ was added to his name by one of his teachers when he was in 6th Grade only! The story goes as such— One day he was doing a lot of mischief in school to which his teacher called out saying “Oye Asya, tu badi mastaniya kr reha hai. (O Asa, you are doing a lot of mischiefs)”. From that day onwards he came to be known as ‘Mastana’ which is basically a person who has fun in life, in Punjabi.
In all the years that he was active, most of the time he sang with the famous singer and songwriter, Nightingale of Punjab, Surinder Kaur. In the 40 years they sang together, the pair has given us many evergreen Punjabi songs. He even sang with Prakash Kaur for some time.
Mastana did not only do live performances with Surinder Kaur but even recorded studio albums. Sadly the duo broke up and sang separately in the last few years of Mastana’s life, which he repented. Also Read: Did You Check Out Ikka’s Fun-Filled Birthday Bash Pictures?
The language of his songs was pure and family-friendly for which requests are being made on the radio even in today’s date.
An interesting incident occurred once he and Surinder Kaur had performed at a college event. After the event ended and the people paid them their fees, Mastana said, “At least give me money to get a taxi so I can go home”. After this, they handed him a 100 rupee note. When Surinder Kaur and Mastana got out of the college, he told Kaur, “Drop me at the local bus stand. I’ll take a bus home from there. I’ll buy alcohol with this money”. Also Read: UK - Based Popular Punjabi Music Producer ‘Twin Beats’ Passes Away!
However, he lost his wife Sheela, because of cancer. He has 2 children— a daughter and a son. His children were not particularly interested in his singing career. But he was a gem for Punjabi Music. His songs "Muteyare Jana Door Pea", "sadhke sadhke jandiye muteyare ni", "Peke Jaan Waliye", etc are listened to by today's modern generation also.
As far as his accomplishments go, Mastana is one of the only two Punjabi Singers to be awarded the ‘Padma Shri’ award (in 1985), the other being Surinder Kaur. He also won the Sangeet Natya Academy award in 1986 and had been a member of several cultural delegations abroad.
Did you know that he is even called the ‘Milestone’ of Punjabi Music! But even after so many accomplishments, it is important to note that Mastana has no solo LP records of his own!
His well-known songs, "Balle Ni Panjaab Diye Sher Bachiye", "Doli Charhdeyan Marian Heer Cheekaan" and "Kali Teri Gut", have served as templates for later Punjabi musicians. Plus, his work is not limited and also expands into sad songs like "Jadon Meri Arthi Utha Ke Chalan Ge". Also Read: White Hill Studios Announces Its First Ever Web Series!
The singer passed away on 23rd May 1999 due to a prolonged illness, but his memory is still alive in our hearts. He has inspired many modern-day artists including singer-actor Diljit Dosanjh, who even sang the song ‘Kali Teri Gut’ at MTV India Unplugged in 2019 as a tribute to the legendary Asa Singh Mastana.