Q&A with Sardhara Singh

We had many performers at Drishti’s first anniversary; we had artists, musicians, dancers and models. But there was one young man in particular that really caught our eye. His name is Gurpreet Singh Mangat, a man proud of his culture, and not afraid to show it. From his colorful turban, to the tumbi in his hand, he looks as if he was straight out of a music video. Not only did he model in traditional Indian attire, but he also performed, played his tumbi, and got the crowd riled up. His flare and flamboyance have even earned him the name of Sardhara Singh, and we had a chance to sit down with him and ask him some questions.

Drishti: So Gurpreet, tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and your education.

Gurpreet: Well, what is there to tell, I’m just an average guy born and raised in Canada really. I mean, yeah, I grew up with about 20 people living in one little house but I guess that’s why I’m so attached to my Punjabi roots. I went to John Oliver, and then graduated from BCIT. You say you are attached to your Punjabi roots, can you elaborate on that for us?

Of course. When I was young, anyone who came over to Canada from India lived with us. Over time there were about 20 of us living under one roof, interacting and talking (in Punjabi) every day. So even though I was born in Canada, I was raised in my very own slice of Punjab, and I loved it!

Wow, many kids try and keep their Punjabi side and Canadian side separate, but you seem to have embraced them both. Tell us, how did you end up with the name Sardhara Singh?
It’s a funny story. Over the years I’ve been called many things by my friends, Singh Sahib, Sardhar Ji, things like that. One day at work someone was trying to get my attention and yelled out, “Oi! Sardhara Singh!” and the name just stuck. Well Sardhara Singh, what are your hobbies…what are your likes and dislikes?

Hobbies, hmm, I’d have to think about that. I go to the gym every morning, and I love to sketch, but I don’t know if those would be considered hobbies. Now likes and dislikes, well, I love Punjabi and Indian culture. From the colorful clothes to the music, I love it all. Dislikes, I’d have to say Chinese food (I’m sorry, that’s all I can think of right now). After eating the kind of food my mom makes, there’s no way you would like anything else in general!

Who do you consider to be your role models in life and why?
My number one role model would have to be my Dad. I’ve grown up watching him do things, handle situations, and most importantly, do it all with a smile on his face. The man I am today is a reflection of the things he’s taught me. But other than him, I would have to say there’s one other person that I look up to in life, and as funny as it sounds, that man is Malkit Singh. He’s just so cool! All the different colored turbans, the outfits, the music…he’s a legend! You seem to be a big music fan.

What kind of music do you enjoy?
I’d have to say Bhangra music. I enjoy Punjabi music in general but Bhangra music is definitely my favorite. That’s why I started playing the tumbi in the first place, I just love the sound of it. It’s like they say, you know you’re Punjabi if you can’t control yourself when you hear the dhol and tumbi play.

The tumbi is a very difficult instrument to play, how did you learn?
Form listening to songs and following the beat. I would just sit there and try to follow the beat for hours and play until my hands cramped, its true what they say, practice makes perfect.

So why do you do all this, all the dressing up, all the colors, the tumbi…
My culture is something I’m proud of and it’s something I want to share. People often come up to me saying, “Aren’t you the guy from so and so…”, and it makes me feel good that people are recognizing me for the effort that I put into all this.

How can people not recognize you, especially after the Canucks playoff run. You’ve been in the Vancouver Sun, the Province, the National and your picture is now in the Canucks’ 40th Anniversary book! How did you manage to get on all these places?

All it took was some color coordination and some face paint! Every game day I would wear the Canucks colors to show my support for the team I love, whether it was my white turban with the green, or the vintage colors with the black turban and the red. But apparently what people really loved was my face paint and my colored beard. I have to admit, I was really loving the attention.

So what now. What are your future goals and where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully I’ll still be doing what I love. I’ll continue to do shows and make sure the kids of today know what it means to be Punjabi. Their culture is something they should know and something that they should share with others, I’m just here to remind them of that.

Well, thank you Gurpreet, or should I say Sardhara Singh, for your time.
No problem, the pleasure was all mine!