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Music

Hard Kaur

by MATHURES PAUL

 

Taran Kaur Dhillon never understood what it was to be a twelve-year-old. Traumatic experiences took her to a cold U.K., where she was bullied around for her skin colour. Today, she is defining hip hop in India and the U.K.

"Nobody can bully me into singing what I hate. I eat, sleep, s*** hip hop and I want to keep it just that way", says the U.K.-based star popularly known as Hard Kaur, who is now defining hip hop music in India. Her frankness is the result of many nightmares she lived. You can't separate her bittersweet experiences from her lyrics.

In India to promote her solo album Supa Woman (Saregama), she doesn't mince words about her difficult past. "Musically, the album defines what I have grown up listening to. It's a collection of what I am about. Everything is original and sets new standards. Lyrically, Supa Woman is about life, about what to expect while growing up", says Hard Kaur.

While growing up, she never imagined she would perform hip hop. The image of a salwar-kameez clad girl with a flower in her hair ruled Hard Kaur's imagination. Life is not a bed of roses, she learnt quickly. Her mother, after being kicked out of her in-law's place, refused to take things lying down. She moved to a cold England after her husband's death in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms in India.

At school, Hard Kaur was referred to as a "freshie" from India. She proved more than a point when she began dancing. Today, she is one of Britain's foremost women rap artistes.

"It's the best way to express things close to one's heart. Tell people what you have been through. I don't accept anything lying down. Rap was my way out of the cage. It gave me a voice, power... an identity".

Saregama made a brilliant choice when they came across Hard Kaur. However, Kaur also has her own label.

"I have always done things independently and took care of my management. Striking a deal just for the sake of it never interested me. Unless I like what I see, how can take it up? Music is about enjoying creative freedom. On my label you do your kind of music. There are labels for bhangra artistes. But what if a desi living in the UK wants to record urban genres? Which label will sign him or her up? For them, there is my label. I develop artistes, turn them into hummingbirds".

She is the same person whose "Move Your Body" (Johnny Gaddar) is on air. Hard Kaur has worked on her music independently and featured on global club hits including "Ek Glassy", which is still the number-one club anthem of India.

Her songs are about a woman's place in a male-dominated world, with the urban desi experience thrown in. She is associated with Breakthrough, an organization working on HIV and domestic violence issues, and has written a song for women's empowerment. After singing on the Bollywood soundtrack for Johnny Gaddar, she is working on other projects with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. She even got the opportunity to share the stage with stars like Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams!

On her first solo record, Supa Woman, she works with promising international producers including 45 WAX, D-Boy, Urban, AC Burrell, Asif (Fusing Naked Beats) and Tigerstyle. The album is supported by three videos  -  Look For Me and Mumbai Deewana are directed by Sumit Dutt of Mise En Scene, while My Girls features Meera Sayal of Kumar's At 42 fame. Prior to the album, she released a four-track EP in the U.K.

"Everything changes you. Watching my mother work hard has been a gruesome experience. Since the age of thirteen, I have been working with her. I am happy that I was bullied. It made me a tough person. I still work with my mother and clean the floor. Always remember where you come from".

Hard Kaur is already touring the U.K. to promote her album. Soon, she will back in India to host a series of concerts. A U.S. tour is being planned for late November.

[Courtesy: The Statesman]

Conversation about this article

1: Gurteg Singh (U.S.A.), October 12, 2007, 12:39 AM.

Her lyrics and her life-style are offensive to Sikh values and ethics.

2: Balbir (Malaysia), October 12, 2007, 4:58 AM.

Guru Gobind Singh was also a hip-hop singer that fought to uphold justice, I guess. Grow up, babe. The word "Kaur" doesn't belong to you to get you on stage. You are obviously using it to attract attention.

3: Jazz Singh (Birmingham, England), October 12, 2007, 5:18 AM.

Wow, the level of misogyny is incredible. The amount of Sikh singers who get on stage with the name 'Singh' doesn't attract any comment. As soon as an independent woman expresses herself she gets abuse from insecure sexists. I listened to an interview with her on the radio. She escaped from mobs of Hindus in Uttar Pradesh (India) in 1984. Her father was killed. She came to England and her mother was physically abused by her step father. They escaped and decided to stand up for themselves. She has been through and seen more oppression and horror than most of us ever will, certainly more than the pathetic and petty misogynists who want to try and throw hate at her. She's a stronger person than we'll ever be.

4: Jag Singh (Birmingham, England), October 12, 2007, 5:24 AM.

Not entirely sure if Hard Kaur represents Sikhs in any way. [Editor: She has never claimed or sought to "represent" Sikhs. She is doing what many other male singers, who also happen to be Sikh, do: sing and perform in a style and in the manner she deems fit.]

5: Harinder (Pune, India), October 12, 2007, 5:32 AM.

She is good. So full of life, inspite of losing her father in the 1984 pogroms. This is called "Zest for Life" or, in Punjabi, "Chardi Kalaa"! I like her.

6: Ruby Kaur (Oxford, England), October 12, 2007, 8:40 AM.

It is so sad to see that whenever a Sikh woman achieves something, or does something different from the norm, she should receive such distasteful and chauvinist comments from some Sikh men, as we have seen on this thread. Having escaped from a mob of murderous fascists as a child, she is faced with a mob of misogynists at a later time in her life. I think she is great, even though I'm not a fan of rap music, her story is inspirational and shows how the spirit can triumph in the face of so much adversity. More power to her, and I hope more and more Sikh women fight back against the injustices they experience and dare to be different and follow their individual talents and voices.

7: Tejwant (U.S.A.), October 12, 2007, 9:26 AM.

Those who claim that Hard Kaur lacks Sikh values have exposed theirs in the above posts. Art is art and normally art sprouts from the struggles of life. And we have read the struggles Taran Kaur and her mom went through. If coming out victorious against all odds that life had presented is not based on Sikh values, then what is? Being judgemental of others in this shallow manner is not a Sikhi way, for sure.

8: Harbinder Singh (U.K.), October 13, 2007, 2:21 PM.

It serves no purpose to categorise Hard Kaur as a "Sikh" artist. It is alarming how many like her use their Sikh background as a "badge of honour" when it suits their cultural schizophrenia. Her work does nothing to promote Sikhi and nor should we give her the dignity that exposure on this web site confers.

9: Sonu (U.S.A.), October 13, 2007, 6:27 PM.

I say good for Hard Kaur. She is a Sikh woman who has suffered tremendously in her life, and has surmounted the challenges placed before her in her own unique way. We should embrace the diverse personalities within the Sikh community, so long as they remain true to Sikhi in spirit.

10: Pally (London, England), October 13, 2007, 8:54 PM.

What a poor role model for our Sikh sisters out there!

11: Jagdeep Singh (London, England), October 14, 2007, 6:05 AM.

This thread has convinced me of one thing, that if you are a Sikh woman, the wrath of misogynistic Sikh men will fall on your head should you ever do anything that offends their backward sensibilities. People can be a Singh in the music industry and nobody comments. When a Kaur does something different, these misogynists come out in force. As Ruby Kaur from Oxford said, Taran ("Hard Kaur") faced a mob of Hindu fascists as a child, now she faces a mob of misogynist Sikh men who have not been through what she has been through, passing judgment like the vicious patriarchs they wish they were.

12: Amrik Singh (New Delhi, India), October 14, 2007, 7:40 AM.

We need to learn to stop being judgemental: there is no room for Sikhs to be passing judgement on others. I too do not like what Taran ("Hard") Kaur does, and I wouldn't want my children to emulate her lifestyle. But I love the fact that she has overcome life's obstacles to excel in her chosen field of endeavour. Let's celebrate this wholeheartedly. We don't have to agree with everyone else's choices, nor does the world have to agree with mine. I am not only comfortable with this arrangement, but I actually think it constitutes the very spice of life!

13: Suzy Kaur (London, U.K.), October 14, 2007, 9:51 AM.

It's an irony, isn't it, that some Sikhs are so intolerant of other people, when we as Sikhs face intolerance and discrimination ourselves. This is a very big form of hypocrisy. If others had this same intolerance of different lifestyles, they'd be commenting on our turbans and identity. And we'd rightly call them bigots for it. I can never work out how Sikhs living in the West can be so intolerant themselves.

14: Sukhtinder (Los Angeles, U.S.A.), October 15, 2007, 3:48 PM.

Wow, when the hell did we become so judgemental? Sikhs have always been known to be open-minded and innovative, so why so much ill will towards a cool lady who's been through so much? I am a Sikh male and proud of Hard Kaur. I hope she does well!

15: Jasmine Kaur (Victoria, Canada), October 30, 2007, 1:35 PM.

I'm not a huge fan of Hard Kaur's music; I just don't think she's that talented. I love, love, love M.I.A., though, and she's going to be superstar for sure. But why the hate for Hard Kaur? Its not against Sikhi to be sexy! I want everyone who is taking this holier-than-thou attitude about her to quote, chapter and verse, from the Guru Granth Sahib showing how she is betraying Sikhism. Next thing you know, you'll all be wanting her to wear a chador!

16: Harry Ford (Manchester, England), November 10, 2007, 9:46 AM.

Wow! Guys, calm down! This girl's been through a lot and the debate centres on her music? From a (lapsed) Christian point of view, I see the point some people are making about Hard K not showing Sikhs in a good light, and she is of Sikh origin because otherwise, why would she be on Sikhchic. So how is that judgmental or misogynistic? It shows the level of feeling some Sikhs feel about their religion and the content they want on this site. For the record, I work with three amritdhari Sikhs. They don't support Hard K's choice of career but would have the same feeling towards a Sikh male with the name Singh, but indulging in a career where sex, alcohol and violence is glorified - contrary to Sikh beliefs. This strand of comments has been taken over by people with good intentions but they have the wrong end of the stick. Criticism isn't always bad - it may protect your religion in the coming time. Rab rakha!

17: Prabhu Singh Khalsa (Española, New Mexico, U.S.A.), December 02, 2007, 10:30 AM.

I agree with Harry. Simply saying she doesn't represent "Sikh" values, is not misogynistic. I would also rather see those Sikhs who honor Sikh values as the people promoted by this site. There are plenty of Punjabi pride websites out there for people like 'Hard Kaur' to be highlighted.

18: Jesse (U.S.A.), December 17, 2007, 3:36 PM.

Enough feminist propaganda already. Just because her father was killed doesn't make her virtuous. There are actually tons of articles speaking out against so called Sikh men who make music against Sikh values. So the people saying otherwise need to stop being so sensitive. Neither male nor female pop singers need to abandon our lofty values while practicing their chosen profession.

19: Amarbir (Amritsar, Punjab), January 18, 2008, 9:31 AM.

Hats off to you, Taran. Being a deadly fan of hers, I appreciate the position which she had attained in so little time.

20: Narender Preet Kaur (Malaysia), March 09, 2008, 8:19 AM.

From my point of view, Hard Kaur is a woman who should be respected and not be criticized. Just because she uses the name "Kaur", all the narrow-minded Sikhs are pointing fingers at her and portraying a 'holier than thou' attitude. There are many rappers out there from different ethnic backgrounds, so what if our Hard Kaur happens to be one of them? I simply think her music is great, and HardCore! Keep up the good work, gal! People have different opinions about things and we can't please everyone. You go ahead and do what you do best ... Sing and dance!

21: Samreet Singh Khalsa (Malaysia), March 16, 2008, 1:44 AM.

I back Narender Kaur 100%! Rock on, Hard Kaur. I love your song ... (heard only one so far). Punjabi bros, we have got to quit being sexist and back our women.

22: Amarpreet Sethi (U.S.A.), May 19, 2008, 5:10 PM.

She's awesome. If anything, we shoud be proud she is Sikh. Good luck, girl, I think you're gonna go really big. You make me proud.

23: Navjot Kaur (New York, U.S.A.), May 24, 2008, 6:16 PM.

In my opinion, Hard Kaur is doing great. She has given Sikh women their confidence to do something in their lives. I am really surprised at some people who are so egotistic that they can't accept a girl do what any guy can. Its perfectly normal if a Sikh man with a last name "Singh" raps and does hip hop but because her last name is "Kaur" (being a Sikh woman), she is being discriminated against. That is really sad to hear that even today people feel this way. I think Hard Kaur has opened doors for all Sikhs, not only women, in the music industry. I don't personally enjoy rap music but her music makes everyone get up and dance. Good luck, and keep on doing what you do best.

24: Kay Kay (Delhi, India), June 09, 2008, 5:17 PM.

I read all the comments here and every one is talking about her religion. Nobody talks about her zest for life or her competency. She is talented and full of energy. She has her own life, so let her explore ... we shouldn't bind her in one corner.

25: R.B. (St.Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.), July 22, 2008, 6:53 PM.

I think if you don't like Rap or Hip Hop or you are old, you wouldn't like her. Her music is for the young generation who enjoy Hip Hop. I love her music and she sure does have a lot of talent. People who don't like her can go fly a kite and take their narrow minds somewhere else. She is already a star!

26: Chaanan Kaur (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates), August 12, 2008, 4:34 AM.

What's wrong with you people? She is an awesome Sikh woman who's been through a lot and, from my point of view, there is one thing I'd like to say to her: keep up your singing attitude, gal; you are a great role model for many girls. Just because she is a Sikh woman, the sexist men are after her. I mean, wake up, you sexists, it's a new generation. So, this is how its gonna be! Once again, hats off to you, Taran Kaur!

27: Ajay (Thane, India), August 24, 2008, 6:29 AM.

Hard Kaur's voice and style of singing is mind-blowing, man !

28: Gurvinder Singh Bindra (Sterling, Virginia, U.S.A.), September 17, 2008, 11:50 PM.

We Say in our ardaas everyday: "Raj Karega Khalsa, aaki rahe na koye!" Are those mere words that we say with no meaning? Here we have a girl who has shown the true grit that every Sikh is supposed to possess. Instead of recognising her abilities, I am ashamed to see some of my brothers who don't even know how to recognize the true inner qualities being displayed by a person. I suggest you rise above your pettiness and start recognising souls for what they are. Otherwise, you're merely abusing our own religion !

29: Soniya Preet (New Zealand), October 22, 2008, 9:07 PM.

How selfishly hypocritical it is to point a finger at this woman for doing something with her life, and attempting to derogate her success and passion for what she does ... simply because she chooses to use part of her name as her stage name and it is considered by some to be shameful. Does she HAVE to be promoting outright Sikhi values straight from the Granth Sahib to be considered any good by some of you or to be allowed only then to use her name proudly? She's strong, outspoken and opinionated and she's bloody good at it. She's sexy and classy. I bet she intimidates half of the men she meets (including the narrow-minded clowns who have commented). She has done very very well for herself and I think she is a good role model for younger women who want to stand up and take charge in what is a society littered with some chauvinistic, sexist, egotistically driven males ... sorry to say this, but it is true! The total opposite is expected from us women since we are Punjabi. I grew up with all 6 of my maasis, including my mother, warning me never to marry a Punjabi man and although I'm 100% certain there are some true gems out there, I'm so glad I took their advice. I expected all the bashing comments from the males. Respect to the men who stood up for her.

30: Pritpal Kaur (Altrincham, England), December 20, 2008, 10:02 AM.

Perhaps my fellow contributors, especially those living outside the U.K., need to do a little research on Taran Dhillon/Hard Kaur's music and lifestyle. If anyone else were to adopt the name Singh or Kaur and live her life as we see on TV and the UK Asian media, Sikhs would be up in arms. But because she is of Sikh origin, it's OK to do use Kaur as a clever play on words. Her style of music is of no concern to me but her use of Sikh symbols and her Sikh heritage in a depraved style is my concern and I don't like it. I appreciate the hardship Taran and her family went through and my sympathies lie with them. But as a Kaur myself, I would rather she didn't denigrate my name, the meaning of which I am rather proud of. I too am proud of the independence my parents have allowed me to have in my life. I am the equal of my brothers in all that we do. But that does not give me or any Sikh woman the right to tarnish our good name, given to us by our Guru Sahib. Respect it, or don't use it! [Editor: So, we as Sikhs have the right to demand others who we consider 'bad' to change their names? How about all the non-Sikhs in India who use the name 'Singh' and also live lives far short of OUR ideals? You may need to think this one out a bit.]

31: Jaz Dhaliwal (London, England), December 23, 2008, 12:34 AM.

I think a lot of the commentators above from outside the U.K. would change their minds about Hard Kaur if they had witnessed what many of us in the U.K. have witnessed on 'nights out'; Hard Kaur half drunk, half naked, cigarette in hand, dirty-dancing with every Tom, Dick and Haresh. And then, to top it all off, you can read several interviews with her where she reveals her love for smoking drugs. Now tell me, how exactly is she a role model for sikh women or indeed any woman? You see, we need to admire women who went through hardship and came out the other side, good and strong. We don't need to admire women who say, 'Hey, my dad was killed, my stepdad abused us....now I'm gonna show what a strong woman I am by smoking a fag, getting blind drunk, showing my breasts and grinding with the yardies ... after smoking some weed'. You want a role model, people ? Then visit the local gurdwara or charity, and witness the Sikh women there who have also gone through hard times but have come out of it with dignity and respect. Those are your real role models.

32: Sanjeev Singh (Bangalore, India), January 04, 2009, 9:37 PM.

Hard Kaur rocks! I was at the New Year party in Elevates, Noida last week. Amazing show! Thanks a lot. Way to go, Hard Kaur!

33: Tanu (Toronto, Canada), February 22, 2009, 10:35 AM.

I never felt lucky to be a girl. However today, I am proud to be a woman. Thanks, Hard Kaur, for standing up for every girl child, daughter, sister, wife and mother. It is nice to see and easy to set examples for my daughters. Again, thanks for making life living worth while.

34: Nirmal (Jammu, India), April 20, 2009, 6:57 PM.

Hard kaur may not be the typical salwar kameez clad Sikh kurri, or even the idealistic but very fake vision some fake and flakes have brought - appearing in dastaars, spouting some kind of spiritual crap, pretending to be pure, when in fact it's a bull*** act. Hard kaur is brash, in your face, but she's REAL. She's not afraid to show you that she's not perfect. And we can learn from both her good and bad actions. And besides, I normally hate hip hop, but I like her. For me, 'Glassi' was a song about how disgusting it is to drink. I'm one Sardarni who doesn't need a bar, thanks to Hard Kaur, but I'm also not afraid to speak up for what is right. Leave her alone. Get real. There are far too many who call themselves Khalsa who are far more fake these days, but we don't address that issue!

35: Shivoham (Amritsar, Punjab), May 09, 2009, 3:28 AM.

It's right. I think you give respect and love, then you take away happiness and love.

36: Sean (San Francisco, California, U.S.A.), February 11, 2010, 10:03 AM.

Wow. Go find any article on Hard Kaur and read the comments. There are more losers with their negative comments than anything else. These are the same people that think Bhindrawale was a Saint. I'm a Sikh, but definitely an open minded one. I would encourage my daughter if she wants to do the same thing that Hard Kaur does. She is good at what she does. It doesn't matter what she went through. There is an attitude in her that pushes back each time someone pushed her around. If that's not being a real Sikh, then I don't know what is. All these old school male chavunist pigs can screw themselves. Go Hard Kaur, wish you the best, and hope you keep rolling with the punches.

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