"whatever Punjabi music you're listening to is mostly recorded by him"
When it comes to early Punjabi music in the 1950s onwards and the era of HMV records, then only one music director’s name stands out, Kesar Singh Narula, popularly known as K.S. Narula.
News of Kesar Singh Narula’s demise on Friday, October 9, 2020, has shocked the Punjabi music fraternity. Especially those who had the fortunate chance to work with the maestro.
He was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai, from where he sadly did not return.
As the father of popular Bollywood singer Dr Jaspinder Narula, he was married to Mohini Narula.
Jaspinder took to Instagram to unveil the sad news about the loss of her father.
With a photo of her father, she captioned it:
“Lost our beloved father this morning!”
She has subsequently added posts in memory of her beloved father. One says:
“Pls keep guiding me from above as always! Nothing without you! Love you Papa!”
In another, she posted a video in Punjabi saying:
“Daddy, I love you immensely daddy. You are such a wonderful daddy. You gave us so much love. You worked so hard with us.
“I wish that He the creator gives me a daddy like you in every birth of mine. This is what I wish for and pray for from the Lord.
“Love you dad.”
K.S. Narula can be classed as one of the most significant names to have produced music for Punjabi artists who are and went on to be major names in the industry.
The list is endless when it comes to the numerous artists whom he worked with.
These include Lal Chand Yamla Jatt, Asa Singh Mastana, Kuldeep Manak, A.S. Kang, Surinder Shinda, Surinder Kaur, Prakash Kaur, Malkit Singh, Hans Raj Hans, Karamjit Singh Dhuri, Didar Sandhu, Jagmohan Kaur & K Deep, Gurcharan Pholli, Narinder Biba, Mohd Siddiq and Ranjit Kaur, Harcharan Garewal and many many more.
Lal Chand Yamla Yatt is known as the ‘Godfather’ of Punjabi folk music and many of his recordings were musically produced by K.S. Narula.
The simplicity of the style of music and the use of live musicians to record songs, frequently done in one take was the norm in those days, with the HMV label being a prominent record label for Punjabi songs.
Minimal use of multi-track recording and absolutely no use of samples was the norm for this immensely very talented music director, who was known to help anyone who came seeking his services throughout his career.
Listening to his huge catalogue of Punjabi songs, you can easily determine the use of popular instruments such as mandolin, acoustic guitar, bugchoo, dholak, tabla, harmonium and tumbi.
Directing the singer(s), playing instruments himself and guiding the rest of the musicians was all down to the ingenuity of K.S. Narula to produce evergreen songs loved by so many Punjabi music fans.
Working on duets which were a very popular format for Punjabi songs in the 60s and 70s, K.S. Narula got the best out of singers like Mohd. Siddiq and Ranjit Kaur, K Deep and Jagmohan Kaur and numerous others.
He produced so many hits that it is impossible to list them each and every one.
Songs were produced as records which were played on record players. They were 78 rpm initially and then 45 rpm for singles and 33 rpm for albums.
Lal Chand Yamla Jatt’s songs like Har Cheej Banaoti, Chitta Ho Giya Lahoo, Raje Di Beti, Jeena Lai Paap Karna, Do Tara Wazda Ve, Jind Pea Gayi Gaman Wich and many more, are examples of songs which became immensely popular.
Asa Singh Mastana’s songs Kali Teri Gut and Balle Ni Punjab Diyeh Sher Bachiye were incredible hits.
One of the most popular songs known in the UK with the music of K.S. Narula is Gidhian Di Rani sung by Birmingham-based singer A.S. Kang.
This song when it was released became literally an overnight sensation and was played at nearly every wedding party and function through the 70s 80s and 90s.
Listen to Gidhian Di Rani sung by A.S. Kang and written by Harbans Singh Jandu Littranwala.
Following his work for composing music in the folk and entertainment side of Punjabi music, K.S. Naurla began making contributions to Sikh faith music. His work and renditions include work with Bhai Gopal Singh Ragi, Sant Anoop Singh, Bhai Tarlochan Singh, Bhai Harjinder Singh, Bhai Chaman Lal, Bhai Darshan Singh and Sant Singh Maskeen.
Bollywood playback singer Jazim Sharma, known for songs like Manmarziyaan and Dedh Ishqiya, responded to Jaspinder’s post and said:
“Devastated with the demise of uncle Ji. Mam, you pls take care of yourself.”
Popular Punjabi singer Harshdeep Kaur responded to the loss of Kesar Singh Narula and replied saying:
“Extremely sad news… He was such a great soul. May Babaji give you strength. Please take care of yourself.”
In an interview prior to her loss, Jaspinder raved about her father K.S. Narula saying:
“Dad started giving music when I was not even born and he’s been giving to he’s given like Punjabi music like no one’s business so he’s done a lot in Punjabi music.
“More than I think 50 years now and God bless he’s a fantastic composer and a very saintly human being who has helped left right centre. Everybody like you know.
“Whoever came to him, I think never went without you know. His help being granted to you know so he’s always been very helpful.
“Of course whatever Punjabi music you’re listening to is mostly recorded by him.
“You know initially recorded by him and has been reused in different ways in the industry.”
Whilst her father had a huge impact on her life, Jaspinder also said that her mother, K.S Narula’s wife, was a huge musical inspiration as well, saying:
“My mother is a very famous singer she sang in many languages and known as one of the best singers of that time – Mohini Narula.
“She used to sing haryanvi and punjabi and known as one of the best ragini singers. So that those were sung actually in haryanvi language. She was one of the best female singers of Haryana.”
The loss of Kesar Singh Narula is huge to the heritage of Punjabi music and its origins.
K.S. Narula will be dearly missed and to this day, he will still be known as a pioneer of Punjabi music for his immense contributions not to just for the songs he recorded but for launching the careers of some of the biggest singers who became household names for this genre of music, and of course supporting the career of his beloved daughter.