When Jugpreet Bajwa was six months old, he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma eye cancer. He had to have both eyes removed and became totally blind.
But while growing up in Vancouver, it wasn’t long before he found his calling, and a true talent.
“I really started getting into music at three or four-years-old. Music became a huge part of me, it was an escape. Things have improved a lot, especially in Canada, but it wasn’t always easy getting used to being blind in society. Every time I sang it was a healing power in terms of how I look at the world, to see the world through music.”
On Saturday, Bajwa will return to BC Place to perform the national anthems during the club’s Vaisakhi Night.
It’s been an incredible journey for the versatile Indian classical trained vocalist, who can sing in 16 languages. He started training at the age of five, and by six-years-old he had his first performance in Squamish on Canada Day.
He would later win the nationwide RED FM Idol competition in 2010, and in 2016 he went global as one of three finalists in India’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa – translated as Do Re Mi Fa So – equivalent, if not larger than competitions such as American Idol. Bajwa made it through over 150,000 contestants, with the show broadcast in 165 countries.
“To be a finalist on the grand finale was amazing for me. I learned a lot, especially having 34 judges critically listening on not just notation, but tonal quality, and pronunciations. There was so much talent on that show, so to reach that milestone was huge for me.”
As a proud Punjabi and Sikh, Vaiskahi is a time to come together, but also a time to reflect. Vaisakhi is a day of celebration where different cultures celebrate this auspicious day for different reasons. Vaisakhi festival, also pronounced as Baisakhi, marks one of the most important dates in the Sikh history. It is celebrated as the beginning of the Punjabi new year as well as the formation of Khalsa by their 10th guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, in the year 1699 at Anandpur Sahib. Sikhism was born as a collective faith and a religion.
It is also celebrated to pay gratitude and thanks for the harvest of food and crops that year. This festival is celebrated annually on April 13 and sometimes on April 14.
"This was really the day where you could understand the significance. One of the ideals we strive for is humanity. No matter where you come from, we want to welcome everyone to our culture.”
With the importance of Vaisakhi, he’s honoured to be part of the celebrations with Whitecaps FC.
“A night like this put on by the Whitecaps is something very inclusionary and jives with the way we value people around us. To have that welcoming space and just to celebrate our traditions and our culture, that’s what it really means to me. I’m so glad to be a part of it.”
After performing at the Whitecaps FC Vaisakhi Night in 2022, Bajwa is looking forward to getting back in front of the ‘Caps crowd on Saturday.
“It was very surreal last year. Performing at BC Place was amazing, and that has been a feather in my cap. To be on that field, to perform in front of so many people, is something that as an artist you always like to do. It was a whole lot of fun and I expect nothing less tomorrow.”