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Coachella invitations to Diljit Dosanjh, Blackpink, Rosalía, and Ali Sethi reveal how borders are blurring in music world

Diljit Dosanjh from his Twitter feed
Punjabi music and movie star Diljit Dosanjh's upcoming show at Coachella reflects the growing internationalization of the music industry. Photo by @DiljitDosanjh.

The Punjabi music world is buzzing about a breakthrough for one of its biggest stars.

That’s because singer, producer, and actor Diljit Dosanjh has been invited to perform at this year’s giant Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California.

This has also generated a great deal of media attention in India, where Dosanjh is a household name. His hit films include Jatt & Juliet 2, Punjab 1984, and Sajjan Singh Rangroot.

He also starred as a divorced dad in the Punjabi rom-com Honsla Rakh. It included scenes filmed in Happy Singh Street Eats in the Kennedy Heights Shopping Centre in North Delta.

In addition, Dosanjh has 14.3 million followers on Instagram and 5.6 million followers on Twitter. He’s from the same village as former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh: Dosanjh Kalam in Jalandhar District in Central Punjab,

At Coachella, Diljit Dosanjh will play on the same days—April 15 and 22—as the South Korean girl group Blackpink, Spanish singer Rosalía, and Swedish DJ and music producer Eric Prydz. Moreover, Blackpink will make music history by becoming the first East Asian band to headline Coachella.

Meanwhile, Pakistani singer and composer Ali Sethi will perform on April 16 and 23 in a lineup headlined by American Frank Ocean and Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk.

Spotify and YouTube spread the music

The internationalization of Coachella comes as many Western-born pop stars of Asian ancestry are enjoying tremendous success abroad.

A December article on Chartmetric.com cited several examples. It mentioned Japanese Americans Hikaru Utada and Joji, African and Filipino American Steve Lacy, Indian American Daya, Vietnamese American Keshi, Japanese Briton Rina Sawayama, and Pakistani Briton Zayn.

“While the diasporic Asian artists who topped the U.S. charts in the past usually did so with songs that had relatively standard Pop structure and high energy electronic production, today’s artists are able to gain inroads with ‘Pop songs’ that survey multiple genres—sometimes within the same song,” wrote music journalist Michelle Hyun Kim “This shift signals that the kind of music that is seen as ‘acceptable’ for Asian artists in the West to make is broadening.”

Kim’s article included plenty of statistics to back up this assertion. In addition, she noted that global platforms such as TikTok and Spotify are helping Western artists reach international audiences.

Clarence Au, Ginalina, Amy Xe, Charlie Wu
Hip-hop producer Clarence Au, family folk musician Ginalina, TD executive Amy Xe, and The Society of We Are Canadians Too’s Charlie Wu were at the Jade Music Festival’s November 28 news conference.

Pancouver covers internationalization

However, it’s not just Americans and British artists of Asian ancestry who are making international breakthroughs.

In November and December, Pancouver devoted a great deal of attention to the inaugural Jade Music Festival. Presented by TD, it aims to make Vancouver an international hub for Chinese-language music production.

This festival featured international promoters who’ve staged large music festivals or conferences in Hong Kong, and other cities in China, Japan, India, and Southeast Asia. One speaker, Singaporean record-label owner David Siow, offered a 10-point roadmap to Canadian artists to succeed in his part of the world.

Meanwhile, U.S.-born Grammy-winning producer and keyboardist Jeff Bova shared a story at the festival about how he co-wrote a monstrously successful single for Taiwanese superstar Jolin Tsai.

Other speakers and performers included Metro Vancouver musicians Ginalina, Clarence Au, and Duck Lau. They’ve each enjoyed great success in Asia.

They’re not alone in this regard. Last year, the UBC Alumni Association magazine highlighted six graduates who’ve also achieved their musical dreams on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. The featured artists were Kevin Moon, Bernice Liu, Daniel Kim, Gerphil Geraldine Flores, Phil Lam, and Emily Liang.

“As K-pop (Korean pop) has been shattering linguistic and racial glass ceilings on U.S. Billboard and world charts, could it be merely a matter of time before music acts from other Asian countries also break through?” writer Craig Takeuchi prophetically stated in the piece.

At a November 28 news conference launching the Jade Music Festival, organizer Charlie Wu highlighted many other Canadian artists who lost their connection to the country after going abroad to pursue music careers.

“We’ve been losing talents like this. And we are hoping that they will reconnect with Canada one day,” he said.

Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia. Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.