Girl who’s got everyone humming about her- Ginni Mahi

Ginni Mahi AmritBani
Jalandhar: Behind the posh Model Town block in Jalandhar, stands the crowded neighbourhood of Abadpura, where a huge section of the Ravidassia community lives. Here, in the serpentine lanes, nestles a small 150 sq-yard house, home to a young voice of freedom and equality.
At a time when the flogging of Dalit youths in Una has triggered protests, Ginni Mahi, 17 years old, is raising her voice and asserting her identity in songs that are finding resonance across the country.
Mahi hails from the community of Jatavs in Punjab and wears it as a badge of honour. One of her lines goes like this: “Kurbani deno darrde nahin, rehnde hai tayyar, haige asle to wadd Danger Chamar (the one who is not scared to sacrifice, the one who is the real thing is Chamar).”

The new voice of ‘Dalit pop’ in the country, Ginni Mahi aka Gurkanwal Bharti, is a YouTube sensation with close to 1 lakh followers. Ready with a new Sufi track on Bulleh Shah and busy with another on Guru Nanak Dev, which she hopes to release in a couple of months, her songs mainly celebrate the lives of Sant Ravidass — founder of the sect to which she belongs — and Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, and talk about her community.

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She is also expanding her repertoire, bringing up issues such as female foeticide and drugs that ail Punjab. Though she has been singing for over a decade, it’s her two albums in the past year, Guruan Di Diwani and Gurpurab Hai Kanshi Wale Da, and her singles, including Fan Baba Saheb Ki and Danger Chamar, that have catapulted her to success.

Women empowerment is another subject she addresses in her songs. One of her singles, “Ki hoya je main dhee han”, highlights female foeticide. “I don’t like the current crop of Punjabi singers who degrade girls in their songs. I feel girls should come forward and oppose it, and assert their rights and change with the times,” she says.

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At the same time, she is troubled by the casteism and discrimination being enforced through Punjabi pop culture and films. “For instance, the Jat identity, promoting only one segment of society, is wrong but unfortunately the audience buys it,” says Mahi.

As Mahi’s songs of assertion spread across the country, she takes a moment to ponder over art, caste and identity. “You know, a kalakaar (artiste) has no jaat (caste). All this jaat-paat is made by man.”