Meet Jahan Geet Singh, India’s youngest female Dhol player. The 21 year old Chandigarh resident is currently pursuing law from Punjab University. Being a girl, she always wanted to do something unique and inspiring. When she was young she saw some men playing Dhol and was so fascinated by it, that she decided to play the instrument herself. She was trailblazing a path never taken by any girl around her. The journey was tough, but her passion paved the way for her success. Within few years, she has accumulated name, fame and love from all over the world. So far she has already given more than 300 live performances, has given TED talk at TEDxChandigarh 2018 conference. She got state award by Chandigarh Administration. She also appeared on reality TV show “Entertainment ke liye kuch bhi karega” on Sony, and other talk shows on various regional channels and radio telecasts. She was also noticed by Bollywood stars and has been appraised by various Bollywood celebrities like Farah Khan, Anu Malik, Bobby Deol and Punjabi singers like Mika Singh, Gippy Grewal, Lakhwinder Wadali, Jasbir Jassi, others like Kiran Bedi and more.
In an exclusive interview with Desi Today, Jahan shares her journey of becoming India’s Youngest Female Dhol player and hurdles she saw along her way.
DT) How and when did you develop interest to play an instrument that has always been attached to masculinity?
JGS) Born in a Punjabi family, right from my childhood, I was taught to be having trust in my abilities. I was quite active in speaking up in debates etc. I was very curious about the outside world and often questioned why things were a certain way and not the other way round. No one in my family ever had any connection with music but I was really attracted towards the beats and rhythms. I had tried my hands on various instruments but my curiosity was never satisfied I put my hands on Dhol. I had always been fascinated with its loudness and beauty. I never thought about the stigmas attached to it. I made sure that I proved that a girl playing Dhol should not be questioned and should be accepted equally as men.
DT) Was it difficult to get support of your family?
JGS) My parents have always been very supportive of what I do. But it was difficult for people around me to accept the whole idea of a girl carrying a Dhol. It was new to my parents too, but they never doubted my potential and were always there to boost and support me. When the idea first irrupted in the family from my question “Why can’t I play Dhol”, they were all supportive from that very moment and have been with me till date. I am always accompanied by my mother to every rehearsal and performance. She has always been my backbone and makes me complete. In every high or low, she has been a constant support.
DT) How playing Dhol has changed you as a person?
JGS) With great recognition comes great responsibility. Playing Dhol has brought a lot of appreciation and recognition to my work. When I started playing the instrument 8 years back, being the one and only, there was lot of criticism and people used to question me. But I am happy that my hard work has paid off. I have been able to change the mindset. I made sure that playing Dhol, which was something I started as my passion, could be used as symbol to bring a change in the society. I always make it a point to add a few interactive words after my performances. Many parents and girls have admitted during their conversations with me about dropping their passions due to social pressures. So I take it as my responsibility to be a role model best to the girls and help them live their dreams.
DT) Do you feel difficult to carry it because its heavy?
JGS) Playing Dhol was quite a challenge for me as a 12 year old young girl. Dhol weighs around 7-8 kgs and was difficult to be carried around the shoulders during initial training. My coach made me get used to it by slowly making me habitual of it. Initially we started my sitting on the floor and the learning the beats. Slowly, with practice I used to play by standing and keeping the drum on the chair, with increased rehearsals I started carrying it around my neck and then walking around the open fields and playing it continuously for hours. Dhol being a heavy instrument, it used to drain whole of my energy. Playing dhol used to be like upper body gym for me. A lot of strength was needed in the arms and shoulders to carry the drum and to beat it powerfully to make it sound good. My practice sessions were really hard and my coach used to boost me by pushing me out of my limits which used to leave my hands with bruises and severe cramps in the arms.
DT) What is the significance of Dhol in Punjabi culture?
JGS) Dhol is an integral part of Punjabi Culture. Sages and Saints got connected to spirituality by playing Dhol. Without Dhol every Punjabi music incomplete and every festivity is incomplete.
6) What’s the message you would like to give to young girls who want to follow their dreams.
I always think that a woman gives birth to man but why is she considered weaker? Why in the society, do we even have to prove at every step that we are equal to men or even better? Why can’t we be seen as our own kind of brave yet beautiful? That’s the message I want to give to all the young girls with all their dreams. Just embrace yourself and be proud. It is time that we stand up for ourselves without getting any approvals from others. Let us give wings to our dreams now, today, tomorrow and always.