The tragic death of hip-hop star Sidhu Moosewala has had reverberating effects in Canada after he was shot and killed in Punjab, India on Sunday. The 28-year-old made waves in his home country and in Brampton, Ont., where he was an international student and rose to international stardom.
Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, better known by his stage name of Sidhu Moosewala, was killed in a targeted shooting in his hometown of Mansa, a small village in Punjab, according to local police. Authorities said that his vehicle was fired at approximately 30 times. Moosewala died on the way to the hospital.
To fellow international students in Canada getting their start, like Hardeep Singh of Haryana, Moosewala’s way of carrying himself always stood on par with his hits.
“He was a really nice guy. He was being the face for the people and whatever he tried her did for the people,” he said.
“We are feeling pain … this is something that we cannot describe in our words,” Hardeep said. “This is a big loss.”
In speaking about Moosewala, Hardeep said that “what he has achieved, I haven’t seen anyone do,” and that he laid a blueprint that talent and hard work can succeed anywhere.
For Sandeep Kaur, Moosewala was more than just an artist, but an inspiration.
“What happened to him, I can’t express my sadness,” she said through tears.
When she learned about his death, Kaur noted that wished she could wake up from the “nightmare” saying that she couldn’t come to terms that he was gone.
“I saw the videos of him just laying in his jeep thinking he looked asleep and in some time his mother will come and wake him up,” she said. “I’m still shocked.”
Police in India say they are investigating a potential Canadian gang link to Moosewala’s killing. In a Punjabi-language press conference Sunday, Sh. Viresh Kumar Bhawra, director-general of Punjab Police, said police suspected “inter-gang rivalry,” involving India’s Lawrence Bishnoi gang, adding “his gang in Canada has taken responsibility for it.”
The word many have used to describe the late star was “humble” and Parminder Singh saw it on display every time they met at community events. Parminder, a Punjabi media personality, said that Moosewala’s character is seldom seen with people of his clout.
“He was such a down-to-earth guy, you know, he didn’t have the type of ego that an artist would walk around with,” Parminder said. “He always had the smile on his face – it was very welcoming.”
The Mansa, Punjab native immigrated to Brampton in 2016 and quickly became a massive figure in the music industry with his first chart-topping single So High.
“He was the one person who shook up the music industry, in four years his growth was from here to here – he was a legend,” said Mehak Kaur, an Indian international student at Sheridan College.
Moosewala’s songs became instant bangers and must-listen-to fixtures at parties and on Spotify lists for his soulful lyrics.
“His voice and his lyrics and his style captured a lot of like that current kind of Punjabi culture,” said Jaskaran Sandhu, founder of Baaz News, an outlet that focuses on Sikh issues in India and the diaspora.
Much like one of his idols Tupac Shakur, who was also infamously gunned down in his vehicle at a young age, Moosewala’s writing really differentiated him from the crowd of artists.
“There was also always a league apart because his lyrics were much deeper, much more poetic, much more layered than I think a lot of folks could compete with,” Sandhu said.
In fact, Sandhu said that a lot of Moosewala and what he represented is similar to that of Shakur, from his struggles to get going, to making it and rising to a level of stardom never before seen and then ultimately dying young. Moosewala’s second to last track The Last Ride, released on May 15, had the cover image of Shakur’s bullet-ridden BMW the night of his death.
“He would pull a lot from Tupac and it was obviously a very deep kind of connection there,” Sandhu said.
There are complications that surrounded Moosewala during his life including his use of guns and weaponry in his songs that people could use to chastise him. At shows, there would be violence, not dissimilar from many rock and roll and hip-hop concerts, and his foray into politics received criticism.
He joined the Congress Party, the official opposition in India and longtime governing party that is widely considered to be the establishment. The move to enter politics was a surprise to people like Sandhu who often thought that Moosewala was a Punjab separatist and that his connection to the everyman was anti-establishment. He ran in the 2022 Punjab Legislative Assembly elections but ultimately lost.
“He received critiques for some of it and he received praise for some of it. But in the end, I think when you’re seeing the outpouring of grief and mourning post death, the consensus is that he was an important character,” Sandhu said.
While his decisions relating to politics can be deemed controversial, one thing everyone can agree was Moosewala always stood up for his adopted home of Brampton.
“This is not a story of music in India, this is very much a local story, this is very much a Brampton story. He found his success here, he had a lot of roots here,” Sandhu said.
Whether it was the CN Tower in the background, or playing basketball with Brampton native Sim Bhullar and hopping on tracks with the likes of Sunny Malton, Byg Byrd or AR Paisley – the GTA was always ever-present in Moosewala’s work.
“He really took in the culture. He really did put Canada on, and that’s why people, especially Canadians, loved him so much because he kept it real,” Parminder said.
A saying of Moosewala’s was “Dil da Naya mara” translating to “I am not bad-hearted – and have good intentions”. Parminder and others hope that’s how he is remembered.
“He made it cool to be Punjabi and helped bridge the divide of generations.”