Over the last couple of years, Canadians like Drake, the Weeknd and Justin Bieber topping the Billboard charts have made headlines around the world. But in 2004, two years before Drake even released his debut mixtape, Calgary singer-songwriter Raghav and Montreal band JoSH had each already sold millions of copies of their albums.
Come 2014, Oakville, Ontario’s Anjulie would have spent the past few years bringing multi-platinum plaques back to the South Asian–Canadian community for her own music, while also writing for artists like Nicki Minaj. And Mississauga’s Alysha Brilla picked up a Juno nomination for her debut album that same year, going head-to-head with Celine Dion in the adult contemporary album of the year category.
It should be no surprise, then, that in 2017, Canadian artists of South-Asian heritage are currently some of the most successful independent artists in the country, representing a wide variety of genres reminiscent of America’s “Latin explosion” in the late 1990s.
Saini, a Calgary folk singer-songwriter, had the rare opportunity to record her demos with Tragically Hip drummer Johnny Fay. Known for her soothing, inspirational ballads over a strummed guitar, Saini took her life on the road after two tours of Europe, after which she toured across Canada, singing as part of a live music initiative by VIA Rail in 2013.
From Montreal, this Punjabi singer and producer went from dancing in Brampton’s Sonay Gabroo Punjab De bhangra team to recording with famed bhangra singer Miss Pooja in India. A frequent collaborator with Toronto MC Gangis Khan, Deep Jandu recently produced a hit single for Canada’s own Punjabi music legend Jazzy B.
Canada’s pre-eminent live bhangra band hails from Vancouver, consisting of Nick Chowlia on keys, Pip Dhaliwal on drums, Ricky Thinda on bass guitar, Karm on dhol and vocals by Inder Kooner. En Karma has worked with many of the biggest names in Punjabi music, including K.S. Makhan and H Dhami.
This multilingual Brampton singer has gone from performing English and Hindi cover songs on YouTube to singing on hit Bollywood soundtracks like Chennai Express and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Winner of best female vocalist at India’s 2017 Mirchi Music Awards, Jonita Gandhi was a core performer in AR Rahman’s 2015 Intimate tour, and has recorded numerous collaborations with the Mozart of Madras since.
This Montreal singer and producer rose to fame as one-third of the Bilz & Kashif, a band that helped define South-Asian fusion music in the 2000s. Now setting his sights on breaking barriers in his own community, Master-D is enjoying a successful solo career after creating a genre he calls “Bangla urban.”
This Brampton MC is considered one of Canada’s lyrically blessed, catching the attention of the highly regarded hip-hop site TeamBackpack. Taking hip-hop back to its boom-bap days, Noyz has performed everywhere from Canadian Music Week to South by Southwest.
This Scarborough MC/singer was named heir to the music throne of South Asian and reggae fusion by its innovator, Apache Indian. A gruelling tour schedule and constant collaborations with established and new artists has catapulted Roach Killa to become one of England’s biggest names in music, regularly surpassing millions of YouTube views for each of his releases.
This Kingston pop artist is also considered one of Canada’s most vocal vegan activists, even venturing into darker rock territory for her sci-fi-inspired vegan activism single and video, “Chains of Silence,” which received support from Bif Naked, Tony Kanal and PETA. A Toronto Independent Music Award winner for best live act, Braganza even counts George W. Bush as one of her fans after the former president enjoyed a performance of Braganza’s at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The Punjabi vocalist/producer from Calgary is a frequent collaborator with Toronto MC Fateh Doe, and even scored a cameo from YouTuber Jus Reign for a recent single. Known for mixing his melodious vocals over everything from trap to EDM beats, PropheC has taken Punjabi music to entirely new realms.
From Mississauga, this pop artist rose to fame when his song "Win or Defeat" was licensed by the 2010 Paralympic Games. Zameer has also collaborated with the likes of Mia Martina — and just released his latest single featuring Canadian rap legend Choclair.
Filmi music at its best. The soundtrack to a thousand evenings of star-crossed lovers, plotting villans, hilarious coincidences, and strange twists of fate. Featuring iconic voices from over 6 decades of Bollywood magic. Hear: Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle!