It is difficult to over-estimate the popularity of Punjabi singer Gurdas Maan. the global star has a dedicated following worldwide, attracting sell-out audiences for his concerts and playing a major role in promoting asian culture internationally.
It was no surprise, therefore, that the award of an honorary degree by the University of Wolverhampton attracted attention all over the world.
Dozens of international journalists gathered at the Royal Albert Hall in London for a press conference where Gurdas talked about receiving the honorary award and announced details of a forthcoming UK tour.
The following day, fans jostled for position outside the University and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre to catch a glimpse of the icon, who took the time to sign autographs and have his picture taken with them.
The interest in his award is testament to Gurdas’ appeal and the way his music captures the imagination of listeners. The Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music was presented by the University’s School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure. Dean of School, John Pymm read the citation for Gurdas Maan’s award at the ceremony, celebrating the many achievements of the star’s 25-year career.
But, as John is careful to point out, it was Gurdas’ connection to Wolverhampton - where he has played numerous sell-out concerts and has a loyal fan base - that led to his nomination for an honorary degree.
John says: “Each year we consider awarding an honorary degree to an eminent figure in the fields of sport, performing arts or leisure who has a strong connection to Wolverhampton and the Black Country. It was a real delight for us that a musician of such eminence and international renown feels such an affinity with the city of Wolverhampton. Every time he gives concerts here it is to capacity audiences. It is also wonderful that he is at the Albert Hall one day and Wolverhampton the next!”
This was also recognised by Gurdas himself, who was clearly moved by the warm welcome from his fans in the city.
During his speech at the graduation ceremony, he said: “This is an emotional moment for me. I accept this honour on behalf of the millions of fans and listeners of my music across the world. I would like to thank everybody here today and especially the people of Wolverhampton, who have shown me so much love and respect over the years.”
Gurdas Maan is the most recognisable and prolific Punjabi singer in the world today. His song “Dil Da Mamla Hai” brought him to national attention in India in 1980 and he is credited with taking Punjabi music from a regional level to international renown. He has produced over 30 albums and written more than 200 songs.
He has toured the globe, performing in the UK, USA, Canada, the Middle East, New Zealand, Hong Kong, France and Australia, to name but a few. He has also found time to make a name for himself as a Bollywood actor, starring in blockbuster films and receiving numerous awards including the Jury’s Award which was presented by the President of India in 2005.
So what is it about Gurdas Maan’s music that appeals to people?
His lively stage performances are packed with energy, and his music, whilst infused with eastern and western flavours, remains quintessentially Punjabi.
But perhaps it is the fact that his songs also have the ability to connect with people’s own lives, portraying real issues.
As John Pymm says: “His music has an appeal across the generations, from children to grandparents. They are captivated by the mesmeric quality of Gurdas Maan’s performances: he is truly an artist for our time.”