Popularly known as ‘Surran Da Sikander’ of the Punjabi music industry, veteran singer Sardool Sikander (60) died of post-Covid complications at a private hospital in Mohali Wednesday.
In 2016, Sikander had undergone a renal transplant after his wife Amar Noorie, also an accomplished artiste, had donated a kidney to him. He was also suffering from a heart ailment for many years.
Last year in December, Sikander had tested positive for Covid-19, but had recovered. After some days, in January this year, he had developed post-Covid complications and had to be admitted at Fortis Hospital in Mohali where he breathed his last on Wednesday.
A statement from Fortis Hospital, Mohali, read, “Noted Punjabi singer, Mr Sardool Sikander, passed away at Fortis Hospital, Mohali, on February 24 at 11:55 am. He was 60. He was admitted on January 19 in a very serious condition with complaints of low oxygen levels. Sikander, who was diabetic, was recently treated for Covid-19. He had undergone renal transplant in 2016 and percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) in 2003. In spite of the best efforts of the doctors and other caregivers at Fortis Mohali, his condition improved only marginally over the next 3-4 weeks. Due to his severely compromised state of health, his condition deteriorated again and had to be put on life support. Unfortunately, the patient breathed his last…”
While his wife, Amar Noori, was not in condition to speak, a close family friend, Preeto Sahni, told The Indian Express, “Sikander ji had recovered from Covid but later developed a chest and liver infection. Also his transplanted kidney’s functioning had also started getting affected. After being admitted to Fortis Mohali, he did not recover and condition only deteriorated…”
Born in village Kheri Naudh Singh of Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab, Sikander was raised in Khanna town of district Ludhiana. His father late Sagar Mastana was an eminent tabla player. Besides recording at least 30 music albums throughout his career spanning over three decades, he had also acted in some films such as ‘Jagga Daaku’.
Of late, Sikander, along with his wife, had also started singing in religious jagrans and spearheaded social works such as marriage of poor girls, sewing and skill training for girls to make them self-employed and sponsoring education of poor children in Khanna city.
Known for his upbeat numbers in Punjabi music industry, Sikander had shot to fame with songs such as ‘Ikk charkha gali de vich daa leya..’, ‘Saanu Ishq brandy chadh gayi..’, ‘Akkh naal akkh jo mila gai..ikk kudi dil uttey chaa gayi’… among others. Among his most popular songs was “Khat tukde tukde kar dene, main phook dena tasveeran nu… jadd tu hi nahi taan ki karna ehna kaagaz diyan jaagiran nu…”
He belonged to the Patiala gharana of music and his superhit albums included ‘Husna De Malko, ‘O ho’, ‘Doli meere mashooq di’ among others. However, it was his debut album ‘Roadways Di Laari’ in 1987 that had become an instant hit after which he did not look back.
Harjit Singh (71), a Jalandhar-based veteran Punjabi film director, however said that before Sikander shot to fame with his Punjabi songs, it was a television version of his album ‘Roadways Di Laari’ which they had together recorded for Doordarshan, that had laid the foundation of his popularity among the masses and he became a household name in Punjab.
“I had a very old association with Sikander, much before his songs such as ‘Ikk charkha’ became popular in Punjab. We had together recorded a TV-show ‘Raunak Mela’ in the studios of DD Jalandhar and he sang his song ‘Roadways Di Laari’ for television. It was live and he was perfect on screen while mimicking legends such as Surinder Shinda, Ghulam Ali, Gurdas Maan, Yamla Jatt etc. He not only sang but performed his own song while mimicking these legends. Audiences loved him and that’s when he never looked back. He belonged to a family of singers and his brother, Gamdoor Singh Aman, was his singing companion for long… He was such a decent person that he never publicised his personal problems. Most in the industry do not know if he was under any financial crisis.”
In May last year when Covid was at its peak, Sikander in a video message on his Facebook page to Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh, had appealed to the Punjab government to save small artistes and other workers of Punjabi music industry whose ‘livelihoods were snatched due to Covid lockdown’. Voicing his concern for his music industry colleagues during the pandemic, Sikander in his appeal to CM, had posted, “A Message to Government of Punjab, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ji and Cultural Affairs Minister and my dear friend Charanjit Singh Channi. Requesting you to bring your attention to the lives of those citizens of Punjab who make a living out of the music industry. This message to you is about the survival of all those singers, musicians, sound engineers and entertainment teams during this Covid-19 pandemic who are associated with live shows & performances as there is no hope yet for their daily work routine to be initiated anytime soon… We all understand and respect the safety of our community so we have accepted the fate of our industry not being returning to work till the next year. However, we all humbly request the government of Punjab and all authorities to please help the ones who are in desperate need from this industry…. it may sadly collapse if these dignitaries of the music industry do not survive.”
A strong voice for the farmers too, he had recorded a song ‘Pagdi Sambhaal Jatta’ for the film ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh’.
Recently, Sikander despite his poor ill-health had also reached Delhi border to support protesting farmers. In his last speech from the stage, he had said, “Sarkaaran ne socheya ki Punjab de bande hai do din reh ke waapis chale jaange…sarkaaran bhul gaiyaan ki Udham Singh Shaheed varge.. 21 saal baad jaake dushman nu khundeya.. oh vi England jaake… assi uss khoon nu belong karde hain… (The government thought that people from Punjab will go back after a few days. But the government forgot that the likes of Shaheed Udham Singh went to England in search of the enemy. We belong to that race).”
In a tribute to the legend, veteran Punjabi singer Gurdas Mann wrote, “Sardool matlab ‘Surran da Badshah’ — Punjab diyan paak fizaawan de vich ek geet banke hamesha goonjda rahega…(Sardool means the king of musical notes. He will always echo like a song in Punjab’s pious ambience).”
Punjabi writer Ninder Ghugianvi said, “Sardool Sikander was a shining star in the skies of Punjab’s folk and music industry. He never faltered even when Punjabi music industry would pass through tough phases. He would stick to his principles of clean, decent Punjabi singing and would not leave them in greed of earning more money. He preserved the purity of classical music and ragas in his works…”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Charanjit Singh Channi, Punjab’s Cultural Affairs Minister, said, “The family was unable to clear the entire hospital bill so the government has decided to help… With the death of Sardool Sikander, Punjabi folk and music industry has suffered an irreparable loss.”
A statement from the Punjab government said, “The Punjab Cabinet on Wednesday condoled the sad and untimely demise of legendary Punjabi folk singer Sardool Sikandar, with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh announcing that his government will clear the deceased’s hospital dues of Rs 10 lakh. Captain Amarinder announced the decision after Cabinet minister Charanjit Singh Channi informed him that the deceased’s family had no money to pay the same. The CM also directed the health department to ensure that the private hospital creates no hassles in releasing Sardool’s body to his family due to non-payment of dues. In a condolence resolution, the Cabinet noted that with the demise of Sardool Sikander, the nation had lost one of its best-known Punjabi singers and the void left behind by him will be impossible to fill…”
The singer is survived by his wife Amar Noori, and two sons — Alaap and Sarang. His last rites would be performed at his native village Kheri Naudh Singh on Thursday.