For Jugpreet Bajwa, a rare concert in Surrey this month will showcase a voice Canucks fans will recognize for singing “O Canada” before games.
Bajwa has been a frequent guest anthem singer at Rogers Arena over the past couple of seasons, including a nationally-televised Canucks-Leafs matchup March 4, on Hockey Night in Canada.
Turns out, that game was a dream come true for the Delta-raised Bajwa, who’d always wanted to sing during a prime-time NHL game.
The 28-year-old musician has become a fan favourite for his clear, high voice, judging by the adulation on social media.
Here is a clip of my anthem tonight! Thank you all for the love and support ♥️ pic.twitter.com/V3OuWZGQjr
— Jugpreet Bajwa (@JuggyJag) March 5, 2023
“I’m a huge hockey fan, and you’ve seen my Twitter – I talk a lot of hockey,” Bajwa told the Now-Leader in a phone call. “I was into it during the Bertuzzi-Nasland era, but I’d say that the 2011 Cup run is when I really started getting into the Canucks, and just hockey in general, ever since. So yeah, I enjoy those experiences.”
Bajwa can’t watch the games, though, because he lost his eyesight at just six months of age due to a type of eye cancer, retinoblastoma.
Still, he enjoys being in a seat at Rogers Arena.
“I listen to a lot of the crowd and the audible playing sounds on the ice, that’s how I enjoy the game,” he explained. “My seats are really close to the ice, so it’s amazing. It’s a lot of fun, the unpredictability. Sometimes you might hear things that you think are there, but aren’t, but that’s just part of the whole experience.”
Coming up in Surrey, Bajwa will be in the spotlight during a “Shaam-e-Mehfil” concert Friday, March 31 at Riverside Signature Banquet Hall starting at 6:30 p.m. The show promises “an unforgettable night of geet, ghazal, sufi and filmy,” and tickets are sold for $60 each (call 778-552-2009, e-transfer firstname.lastname@example.org).
Bajwa has performed in concert in Surrey before, but not very often, and not typically in his own production. The last, he said, was in 2014 when he released an album.
That was a couple of years before he rose to prominence on the Indian television show/contest “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa,” where he placed third and was seen by a global audience.
“That was a huge opportunity for me to really learn and gain a lot of experience, working with the best engineers and music producers,” recalled Bajwa. “It was amazing being a runner-up on that show and being the first Canadian non-resident Indian to reach that milestone, it was huge and meant so much to me.”
Accolades followed, and even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote to congratulate Bajwa for his “hard work and immense talent. Perhaps your greatest contribution, however,” the PM added, “is your dedication to shaping a better world around you through charity and teaching. This generosity truly embodies what it means to be Canadian.”
Proudly, that September 2016 letter is still pinned to the top of Bajwa’s Twitter account.
Years earlier, Bajwa began singing around the house when he was just two or three years old.
“Growing up,” he remembered, “we’d have a lot of musical evenings where we invited people over and would all be singing karaoke, and I was just so drawn to holding the mic and singing, and sitting by the stereo and listening to music that my mom or dad had playing.”
He was “lucky” because his older brother listened to a lot of Eminem, Usher, Backstreet Boys, Sum 41 and other popular music of the day.
“We had music from everywhere in the house, and Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, because I started listening to a lot more of them as I grew older.”
His first public performance was singing “O Canada” in Squamish at age six, and he’s since been featured at Surrey Fusion Festival and many other events across B.C.
“I feel like we all come into the world having some sort of purpose, whether it’s gardening or doing your own business, helping people,” said Bajwa, who is classically trained and sings in several languages.
“For me, I feel like music is my purpose and I have a message through my music that I can communicate to those around me, to maybe motivate others and encourage them that, hey, anything is possible.”
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