Highlights

  • Born in the Mansa district of Punjab
  • Shot to fame with 'So High', charted in Canada and the UK
  • Gunned down on May 29 while driving his car

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Decoded | The life and death of Sidhu Moose Wala

Sidhu Moose Wala lived life at at breakneck pace, moving fast, breaking rules, courting controversy and endearing himself to fans across the globe. We take a look at his life and death.

A brother, a son, a world famous musician, and a politician - Sidhu Moose Wala wore many hats. He was beloved to many, as evident by the thousands of people who came to mourn him at his funeral. Before he tragically lost his life to bullets on May 29, Punjabi Rap’s rising star lived life at breaking pace, already achieving many accolades by the age of 28.

Born Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu in the village of Moosa in the Mansa district of Punjab, Moose Wala chose his stage name to honour his place of birth. He reportedly started listening to hip hop music from Grade 6, and admired the music of Tupac Shakur, widely considered one of the most influential rappers of all time.

In 2016, after completing an engineering degree, Moose Wala moved to Brampton in the Ontario province of Canada, where he shot to fame with his 2017 song ‘So High’. Moose Wala’s success on the global stage came fast. In 2018, he released his debut album ‘PBX 1’, which charted in Canada, and won awards. He had 6 singles chart in the Billboard Hot 100 in Canada, and one in the UK. In 2020, the Guardian included him in their 50 best new artists’ list, noting that South Asian music rarely crosses over to the UK.

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In India, his popularity knew no bounds, with songs regularly topping Hot 100 charts. Along with music, he also starred in Punjabi films. He started his own music label, in his own name, under which he released two of his own albums, along with works by other artists. The label later came to be called 5911 records, in reference to a popular tractor. It was on a 5911 tractor that his body was carried for last rites at his funeral.

In his lyrics, Moose Wala often evoked imagery of rural life from Punjab, even when writing from Canada. Along with references to farms and tractors were lyrics about bravado, self-belief, and rebellion. They included aggressive lines about firing guns, pot shots at rivals, and lines referencing rebellion against religious norms. These lyrics, which spoke deeply to fans and endeared him to many, also landed him in controversy. Moose Wala was criticised for promoting gun culture, a problem many see as endemic to the Punjabi film and music industries. In 2019, police barred him from performing in Surrey in the UK, citing a risk of violence. In India, he was booked under two sections of the Arms Act in 2020 for a video where police officers were showing him how to fire guns.

Moose Wala was also active in Indian politics. He supported the farmers’ protests against the government’s three proposed farm laws, now repealed. He later joined the Indian National Congress ahead of the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections, which he contested from his home constituency of Mansa. Despite massive crowds at his political rallies, much like his concerts, he lost to the Aam Aadmi Party’s Vijay Singla by a margin of over 63,000 votes. He released his song ’Scapegoat’ in April, lamenting his failure in the elections.

On May 29, Sidhu Moose Wala was driving his car in Mansa when he was shot at by assailants, and perished as a result. Reports indicate he was shot over two dozen times. It was in Canada that Sidhu Moose Wala made his name as a global star, and it’s those ties that seem to have come back to haunt him.

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Punjab police linked the murder to a gang run by Lawrence Bishnoi, a criminal who is linked with over two dozen murder and extortion cases, and is presently incarcerated in Tihar jail. A Facebook profile claiming to be Goldy Brar, a Canada-based gangster linked with the gang, has taken responsibility for the killing, saying that Moose Wala was killed to avenge the murders of his cousin, and a fellow gang member. Moose Wala’s manager, Shaganpreet, was reportedly linked with the murders.

Parts of Canada have long suffered from organised crime by Indo-Canadian gangs, many of whom are staffed by second-generation immigrants from Punjab. According to a report, between 2006 to 2014, South Asians accounted for 21.3% of gang-related deaths in the British Columbia region. In April 2021, police busted an Indo-Canadian drug trafficking network in the city of Brampton, where Moose Wala made his name, and seized over $2.3 million in drugs, and 48 fire arms.

Moose Wala’s family has denied all links to gang-related crimes, and demanded an independent probe into the shooting, presided over by a sitting High Court judge.

Sidhu Moose Wala’s life eerily resembles that of his icon, Tupac Shakur. On May 15, a fortnight before his eventual death, Moose Wala released a song titled ‘The Last Ride’. In it, he talks about how the glow on the young man’s face expresses, that he knows he will die young. The cover art for the single is an image of Tupac Shakur’s car, in which he was shot and killed in 1996. He was only 25, and the controversial murder was purported to have ties to organised crime.

Like Tupac, Sidhu Moose Wala had a short career, in which he moved fast, broke rules, courted controversy, and endeared himself to many. Like Tupac, Moose Wala’s legacy will likely outlive him, and reach far and wide.

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