Amar Singh Chamkila: A Punjabi folk singer who was unusually honest

A child who started singing at the age of 6 turned out to be one of the most celebrated folk singers in the Punjabi music industry. We shed light on the life of Amar Singh Chamkila and his career as a Punjabi folk singer. 

Hitanshu Bhatt
New Update
Amar Sing Chamkila

Amar Singh Chamkila movie starring Punjabi singer Diljeet Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra is currently airing in the theatres. This story features eminent Punjabi songwriter and singer Dhanni Ram aka Amar Singh Chamkila. Coming from a Dailt family from a small town named Dugri near Ludhiana, Punjab Dhaani Ram had dreamed of becoming a singer in his childhood only when he started singing at the age of 6. But this dream of his started to perish as he had to earn a livelihood to run the family. So he aspired to be an electrician but that did not turn out well for him and he had to join a clothing mill to earn money. 

He did not enjoy his work much so he began writing songs and even learned to play harmonium and dholak. His curiosity for music grew when he met many local Punjabi artists like K Deep and Mohommad Sadiq from Sangrur. On this quest, his interest in folk music developed and he started learning it from a folk artist Surinder Shinde. In the process, he wrote songs for him.

Gradually, he started to sing songs of his own and released his first album ‘Takue Te Takua Khadke’ with singer Surinder Sonia. The album became instantly hit and you could say Dhanni Ram turned Amar Singh Chamkila rose to fame overnight. He worked with singers like Usha Kiran and Amarjot Kaur who later became his second wife and they made many songs together later. 

Amar Singh Chamkila & his wife Amarjot Kaur

An Offbeat Singer

Chamikla was a very offbeat kind of a singer. He was unusual from the rest of them and his songs were mostly based on commentary on village life, drug abuse, guns, extramarital affairs, dowry, alcoholism and matters of Punjabi masculinity among others. His songs like ‘Pehle Lalkare Naal’, ‘Talwar Main Kalgidhar Di’ and albums like ‘Jija Lak Minle’ and ‘Hikk Utte So Ja Ve’ are a few to name from the long list of his hits. This came after the Sikh riots of 1984. The extreme movement and a call for Khalisthan gave fuel to Singh’s songwriting. He was a singer who was true to what was happening around him and kept things simple but effective. Due to this reason, people could resonate with his thoughts and admire him so much. This immense popularity made people crazy. It is said that he once had 366 shows in 365 days and you can imagine his fan following by these numbers. 


However, as every popular personality receive retaliation, Amar Singh had too. Many who backed and participated in the terrorist organizations of the time saw Chamkila's poetic content as filthy and gave him a tough time. He would receive death threats and even stopped writing his suggestive songs due to constant pressure. But this calm was only for a while and he resumed penning down his honest thoughts again and started receiving threats thereafter. 

Ignoring all this, he was going to perform in Mehsampur in Punjab with his wife but little did he know he would not be able to perform after this day. As soon as the singer-couple got out of their car, they were shot dead by gunmen on a bike. There are many theories pertaining to their murder. Some say that the terrorists killed Chamkila and Amarjot who did not support his idealogy, while others say that the local artists who did not get work due to him killed them. The actual reason was never out as no FIR was filed against this incident and that is why it is sad to know that no action has been taken against such a celebrated folk artist of the country. 

Chamkila Amar Singh Dhanni Ram Amar Singh Chamkila movie Punjabi folk singer