‘Punjabi Wave’ Music Hits the Juno Awards Stage

By John Mercury April 2, 2024

For many watching the Juno Awards on Sunday, the first few lines of Karan Aujla’s upbeat love ballad were probably their first introduction to Punjabi music.

But Mr. Aujla’s energetic performance at the show in Halifax, a marquee event in the Canadian music industry, inspired even the timid sections of the crowd — for whom the sound and lyrics were something entirely new — to boisterous enthusiasm, said Baldeep Randhawa, a talent buyer and promoter at the entertainment company Live Nation.

“He won everybody over by the end,” Mr. Randhawa, who was in the Juno audience, told me. “The cheers after his set were one of the loudest of the night.”

Mr. Aujla, 27, immigrated to Canada 10 years ago to live with his sisters after his parents had died, and he worked odd jobs before committing to a career in music. His music has bubbled to the top of what some industry watchers are calling the “Punjabi wave,” a cohort of artists who are blending South Asian sounds with influences from rap and hip-hop, and collaborating with Western stars to reach new audiences.

On Sunday, he became the first Punjabi artist to win at the Junos, taking home the Fan Choice Award.

[Video: Karan Aujla performs at the Juno Awards with Ikky, a 23-year-old Punjabi music producer from Toronto.]

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