The Absolutely Sick Sikh Knowledge

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On his right forearm he has this tattoo. I didn’t recognize it at first – a four by four of solid black squares. “It’s the squares to my drum pad,” Sikh Knowledge said, pointing casually to his arm. It made sense – he was a reggae dancehall musician that loved to produce music. You may not know who he is but you will and I guarantee you’ve heard his beats. His tunes are the base music for many of the up and coming hip hop Desi artists of the day - Humble the Poet, Mandeep Sethi, and Hoodini have all used tracks produced by him.

Hailing from Montreal and well known on the Canuck Desi scene, Sikh Knowledge made his way to California for a mini-tour in December, hitting up cities all along the coast. I met him in Sacramento, where he was doing a show with his Sikh hip-hop posse at the Sol Collective. The show was live and it was intense to see a whole scene of brown underground hip hop heads. I sat down with Sikh Knowledge aka Kanwar Anit Singh Saini before he jumped on the mic at the Sacramento show. Here’s what he had to say.

Sikh Knowledge got his start young, singing at the temple when he was a child. But he got into hip-hop also at a young age. “I was one of those kids that would beat box going to school… I was the only grade 3 kid bringing mixed tapes to school. I lost Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step” on the playground and that’s when I cried at school.” It was when he heard the Sound Bwoy Burill track in 1994 that he knew he was going to make music his life.

But what really made an impression on me was Sikh Knowledge’s confidence in pursuing his life. At the age of 20, he decided to stop being what other people wanted him to be, dropped out of engineering school and re-started honestly. “I dropped out, came out, and rearranged my whole life,” he stated. “I reapplied and did my undergraduate degree in music with a minor in linguistics. It was the happiest time of my life. I felt good about the decisions that I made.” He’s currently pursuing his Master degree in speech language pathology while having the dual career of mixing some of the ill-est beats in North America.

You read right, Sikh Knowledge is an out and gay hip hop tattooed turban wearing artist. “I’ve definitely lost friends along the way,” he said. “Working relationships have gone sour. But at the end of the day, those artists that choose to work with me… not because of how I can brag, but because of what I do. They’re working with an underdog. That just proves to me that I’ve got something to offer.”

“As an out hip hop, dancehall artist,” he continued. “…people hear the music first and then they reach out to me and we make tracks. Subsequent to that if they find out if I’m gay, my philosophy is that’s their problem. It’s not something I wear on my sleeve but I don’t hide it either.”

Watch the video above for the full interview. And to listen to some Sikh Knowledge tracks, download Humble the Poet’s 00.03 album where Sikh Knowledge produced a large number of the songs, the most popular one right now being Baagi Music. Sikh Knowledge also just dropped a beat reel on his BandCamp at the first of this month titled From Realistan … My Front Yard. You can listen to that below.

Keep an eye on this one and if you are a music maker, contact him to collaborate. I know I’ll be waiting on my Tazzy Star Sikh Knowledge produced beat. I have a good feeling that he’s about to blow up big. You can follow him on his Myspace, his Realistan Tumblr, his twitter @SikhKnowledge and of course, his BandCamp.

One of my favorite interviews. Hope you loved it too. Peace.

34 thoughts on “The Absolutely Sick Sikh Knowledge

  1. Good for this guy.

    I know it cant be easy because Punjabis come from a big macho culture that leads to a lot of violence and crippling pride. You have to have a lot of confidence in your self to be who he is and it is amazing because he actually stays in the culture. Most gay Indians/punjabis would leave the culture and move to San Francisco and never look back because it is too difficult.

    He really is a ground breaker. Sunny Leone doing porn is a walk in the park compared to this.

  2. I thought this guy was cool until I just found out he is a fag according to your article. This guy is a disgrace to orthodox sikhs and should not ever wear a turban he is sending the wrong message. If he likes the alternative lifestyle then don’t pretend to be a sikh by day and a fairy by night. I do not respect sikh knowledge, but I do respect his work. I’ll use this analogy I still respected MJ’s work even though he was a child molester.

  3. GOD he is hot! I need to check out that Canuck desi scene if this honey and Vivek Shraya are any indication.

    Also, is Taz the only Mutiny leader left? Excellent contributions and all, but the rest need to step up…

  4. Aryan Singh Arora:

    If you feel that you are in a position where you can judge who is and who isn’t a Sikh, you should already be well aware that a “real Sikh” would not speak the way that you do. Maybe you don’t approve of homosexuality – quite ignorant in my opinion, but it is your opinion and you have every right to it. However, would any of our Gurus or their disciples call someone the names you called Sikh Knowledge? How dare you judge someone’s Sikhi when you clearly don’t live a Sikh lifestyle yourself? Following your logic, you’re clearly pretending to be a Sikh by day and actually being an ignoramus by night.

  5. I’ve met many closed-minded and xenophobic (read: anti-darker skinned Indians) Sikhs. If “Aryan Singh Arora” is also quite a hypocrite: Sikhs are supposed to use the name “Singh” as their last name, and not their middle name.

  6. ShallowThinker | January 3, 2011 5:23 PM | Reply Good for this guy. I know it cant be easy because Punjabis come from a big macho culture that leads to a lot of violence and crippling pride. You have to have a lot of confidence in your self to be who he is and it is amazing because he actually stays in the culture. Most gay Indians/punjabis would leave the culture and move to San Francisco and never look back because it is too difficult. He really is a ground breaker. Sunny Leone doing p0 rn is a walk in the park compared to this.

    However, even walking through the park could be a challenge for Sunny Leone sometimes.

  7. I’ve met many closed-minded and xenophobic (read: anti-darker skinned Indians) Sikhs


    Well, I’ve met lots of open-minded Sikhs. Also, most Sikhs derive from shudra castes (Jatts) or lower (the Ravidasi–mostly dalits, I’m told) ones so they are not particularly apt to be jerks on the skin-color thing–they are not lighter than most Brahmins (though they do tend to be lighter than me, a lower-caste Tamil).

  8. @Seema What’s the basis for your casteist remarks alleging that anti dark skin behavior is the preserve of the non so-called-lower castes? Stop wallowing in this victim mentality. If anything ask your own MK gang why they seek to marry fair skinned girls.

    • Thousands of years of history equals casteism?? Check yourself. I am ok with my dark skin and “low caste.” I am just allergic to bullsh!t about it that tries to put me down. I don’t find Sikhs to be a problem on this front–other north Indians–more of a mixed bag. Some good, some bad.

      • @Seema “I am just allergic to bullsh!t about it that tries to put me down” That bull comes from “lower” castes like yourself who keep crying others discriminate against us, others think we’re not good looking etc. It’s your own problem, borne out of a casteist attitude of blaming “upper” castes for all your complexes. And FYI it’s you who brought caste into this debate.

  9. You are more than a bit off, Sam. Low-caste people are not to blame for casteism, in a way that lets high-castes off the hook–that is absurd. Who came up with the idea of not letting us into the temples? The Shudras? I think not! And, yes, it’s not an economic thing, I agree–my family has a lot more money than our Brahmin cooks. That doesn’t mean we don’t respect them. Sikhs are interesting b/c they tried to shun off caste but are still stuck with it (just go to a rural village in Punjab). I am not so opposed to caste per se, just casteism.

  10. Seema said: Well, I’ve met lots of open-minded Sikhs. Also, most Sikhs derive from shudra castes (Jatts) or lower (the Ravidasi–mostly dalits, I’m told) ones so they are not particularly apt to be jerks on the skin-color thing–they are not lighter than most Brahmins (though they do tend to be lighter than me, a lower-caste Tamil).

    I’ve met many excellent Sikh people. They are many who are so not-racist and inclusive and big-hearted. BTW, even thought Jatts are considered Shudras, so are 80% of all Hindu masses. But that won’t stop a Jatt Sikh from claiming superiority over Pappay Sikhs (merchant/warrior caste sikhs from cities, typically). Jatts are ~55% of all Sikhs and are numerically superior and culturally domineering (i.e. more bullying).

    What is MK, by the way?

    Finally, Sam, you should be polite to Seema. Let’s stay on topic and not hurt or get racist.

  11. @Seema What the heck does your caste proselytization have anything to do with boston_mahesh’s comment about “closed-minded and xenophobic (read: anti-darker skinned Indians) Sikhs”? Caste/Casteism has absolute diddly squat to do with this. What kind of respect do you accord your cooks by institutionally discriminating against them in jobs and education with your quotas, which as a “low” caste elite you no doubt corner and derive your pride from. Anyway the children of these cooks will be glad to be kept on-the-hook because 50 years back some guy couldn’t get into a temple!

  12. Sam I am not sue why you are so angry. I am willing to have food with anyone. Just don’t try to ban me from the temple. As far as color goes, I am proud of my dark-skin–but I have met a lot of people in America who favour the light skinned types–I don’t dislike them, I dislike the prejudice.

  13. @Seema I would spit in your food for your support of the institutionalized apartheid policy, particularly in Tamil Nadu, against the Brahmins (who are also among the poorest). Don’t try to play the victim here, no amount of temple going will save you from Karma. ps: Dark skin is nothing to take pride in.

  14. I like my dark skin, and I like eating meat–and I am a Hindu–so, I like you too, but, if you want to hate on me, fine. You are the same ones that lost the country to the the Muslims and Britishers anyway.

  15. Honestly though, it is not a very big deal that Sikh Knowledge is gay, homosexuality in rural Punjab is an unspoken way of life. Sikh truck drivers have been practicing buggery on each other ever since trucks were invented. The difference is that they also maintain traditional masculine roles in their pinds i.e they beat their wives and honorably kill their sisters if they sexy time someone who they don’t want them to sexy time, or like when a daughter is born, get all antsy pantsy. But it’s all good in the end, the dancing is fun, hopping around on one leg with silly grins on their faces, eating tandoori, drinking whiskey, twirling mustaches. So much win. But seriously though, Sikh Knowledge your music is awesome, keep doing it. Although don’t understand how you trying to appeal to a wider South Asian audience when Humbles rhymes are borderline anti-Indian?

  16. My father was a secular Sikh from Punjab via Canada, he married my mother who happened to be black American.

    • Lol not hating man but u are the literal meaning of the word “sandni**er”, so what side do you claim to be brown or black just curious ? I am half Punjabi and half Israeli btw. I love my fathers side of the family, Punjabi’s are a very proud people! -one love-

  17. The only people who can “do” reggae and dancehall right are Jamaicans. Without the authentic accent/patois, it sounds ridiculous.

  18. this dude can take a rest he’s not amazing. His 5 mins will soon be up before they start. He’ll be a flash in the pan like that jewish reggae guy, its a great novelty but noone will take him seriously enough to buy records. He’ll be praised on blogs for a bit before the blog-people find another dude to latch on to…maybe a vegetarian swami hiphopper.

    Apache Indian did it better and sold 5 million records worldwide and he did in the early 90s when no other desi prominent in the urban scene.

    The dude appears to trim is beard anyways, i don’t where he is going with that pure sikh angle. Might as well cut his hair as ther rest of them and he’ll be piled with every other desi rhyming in Canada.

  19. “Jewish Reggae guy?” You mean Matisyahu? This one? He may not be as popular as Kanye West, but you’d have to be on crack or completely oblivious to non-top 40 music to think he’s just a flash in a pan.

  20. Who cares if you are straight or gay, it is all about the Music. The Sikh Religion teaches us about acceptance and respect to all.

    It is 2011, being gay should not be such a big deal.

    Much love to Sikh Knowledge from Detroit Sukhbir

  21. I’ve just come across this blog, and I’m excited to see such intriguing articles. I often say to my friends, in order to stay young, we need to always have some youth in our group, to make us drink too much, do daring things, and get us out of our comfort zones, which inevitably develop over the course of one’s life. I feel the same way about cultures. Cultures need the wisdom of the older generation, but also need the drive and energy of youth, even though the directions that younger generation will at first feel very uncomfortable. There are languages dieing out in India because they have not adapted to new ways of communicating. Cultures need to adapt to survive. His music appears to symoblize this. Good luck to him, he’s got a tough road ahead – but an important one!

  22. Some of you homophobic desis really need a hug.

    Now stop spreading hate and go dance.

    I’m talking to you ‘aryan’

  23. “There are languages dieing out in India because they have not adapted to new ways of communicating. “

    Languages are dieing out precisely BECAUSE they have adapted to new ways of communicating.

  24. May I suggest that if the Sepia bloggers don’t want to post they might open up a means for posters to start their own threat topics. Razib and others seem to post quite a bit and would likely start interesting topics of their own. Sepiamutiny seems to be slipping heavily.

    Step it up!

  25. SIKH KNOWLEDGE AND HUMBLE THE POET ARE OPENLY GAY… VERY GOOD THEY BOTH CAME OUT… BUT ARE THEY DATING???

  26. I thought you would be interested in an exclusive “BTR Live Studio” session & interview “Humble the Poet and Sikh knowledge” – their song “Security Shuffle” (http://bit.ly/ruv3Gg)