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.