Effect of Portrayal of Alcohol and Drugs in Punjabi Songs on Punjabi Youth: A study of the Youth of Phagwara


Songs have always been an integral part of the cultural mesh of every society, and the same goes for Punjab. Punjabi songs have always reflected the Diaspora, lifestyle and everyday issues that form a part of the everyday lives of Punjabis.  Although it has been a part of songs since long, of late there has been an increase in the mention of drugs and alcohol in Punjabi songs. ‘Patiala Peg’ and ‘Afeem’ have become common words often heard in many Punjabi songs. Since the major audiences of these songs are the youth, constant exposure to such lyrics has a subtle psychological impact on their minds and hence often leads them to tread this path. The purpose of the study is to analyze the mention of alcohol and drugs in Punjabi songs and the effect that it has on Punjabi youth.


Since times immemorial, songs have been an integral part of the cultural mesh of every community. Through their lyrics, songs have reflected the lifestyle of the people, their everyday issues and challenges. Unfortunately, the word alcohol has always been a part of the songs and has been a ‘status symbol’.

Punjab’s folk songs, be it the boliyan or tappe, have been providing unique information about village scandals, the enjoyment of alcohol and the expectation of rural folks. For example: Khaan Bakrete Peen Sharaba, Putt Sardara De (They eat goats and get drunk, the sons of the sardars) and Ucheya Tibeya ch daaru peke bottlan dabeya (In the high mounds, we drank liquor and buried the bottles)(Source: Singh and Gill: Folk Songs of Punjab: Nahar Singh (Punjab University, Chandigarh); R.S. Gill (U.C. Santa Barbara).

In an interview with a leading English Daily, Dr Gurbhajan Gill, former head of the Punjabi Sahit Akademi pointed out how in folk literature, songs and movies a drug addict was always a character in the plot that was the source of the jokes. (The Tribune, Drug Problem in Punjab: High on Demand; How use turned to abuse in Punjab. Jupinderjit Singh).

Over the years, the popularity of Punjabi songs has increased tremendously across geographical borders. Not only are they a hit in India and abroad, but have also now become a part of Bollywood movies as well. With this increase in popularity, unfortunately there has also been an increasing mention of alcohol and drugs in Punjabi songs.

However, this practice of mentioning alcohol and drugs has also increased overtime, and has almost become a rage. Words like ‘Patiala Peg’, ‘Vodka’, ‘Daaru’ and ‘Afeem’ have become common words in Punjabi songs. One can enlist a number of songs which glorify alcohol and drugs. Like:


  1. Patiala Peg la chaddi da: Dijit Dosanjh
  2. Apna Punjab hove, ghar di sharab hove: Gurdass Mann
  3. Tere lye main chitiye ne chitta chadta, Dekhi fer na chitte te laji put jatt da: Jaggi Sandhu
  4. Daaru- Duru Pinda hove chal jau, Par Chitte To Parhej Chahida, Oh Kade Kade pinda hove, Chal jau, Par Chitte To Parhej Chahida: Happy raikoti
  5. Muk gayi afeem dabbi cho yaaron, aj koi amli da dange saaro: Kuldeep Manak
  6. Peg peg karde ne botal mein chadi. Panj taara theke utte beh ke tareya main tera saara gussa: Diljit Dosanjh
  7. Afeem vaang tainu taliyan te rakh ke shak: Gippy Grewal and Neha Kakkar Pat lainge
  8. Ehna vi na dope shop mareya karo: Yo Yo Honey Singh
  9. Bebo diyan gallan pink pink, kali baithi kardi si drink: Yo Yo Honey Singh
  10. Jado hunda hai asar lal pari da, phone kale kale yaar nu hai kari da: Resham Singh Anmol
  11. Pauve jinne kad valiye, todh gayi hai desi sa drum ni: Amrit Mann
  12. Mitran da rang pakka afeem varga jehda haarh diyan dupan vich cho nahi sakda: Surjit Bhullar
  13. Weed pila de sajna: Yo Yo Honey Singh
  14. Break up party: Yo Yo Honey Singh

The influence can be measured from the fact that some singers have even used their songs to voice their concern against this abuse. Like:

  1. Aaja gym vich- Garry Sandhu: Yaaran Nasheya Ton Bach, Changi Hundi Nahio Att,
    Taahio Tyi hai desi sa drum nia Siyaane Bande Aakh Gaye Ne Sach, Parah Sutt Ke Glassi Door Karke Udaasi
    Ajja Gym Wich Saade Naal Dhaand Maar La, Sutt Ke Glassi Door Karke Udaasi
    Ajja Pind Vich Sade Naal Daand Marla
  2. Ranjit bawa: chitta
  3. Nasheya ne patt le Punjabi gabru, kharkan hadeya vajaun damru- Gurdas mann and Diljit Dosanjh

This increasing mention is a matter for concern since Punjab has become notorious for alcohol and drug consumption in the past few years. People across age groups, social status and financial backgrounds have fallen prey to this problem which has grown to elephantine proportions.

Presenting alarming figures, The National Survey Report, 2004 reported that in India about 73.2 million persons were alcohol, and drugs abusers. States like Manipur and Punjab due to their proximity to porous international drug trafficking zones called ‘Golden Triangle’ and ‘Golden Crescent,’ respectively are at an advanced stage of the problem. They have become destinations of drug traffickers, abusers, alcoholism and home to the problems of injecting drugs and related HIV, insurgency, terrorism and political unrest.

Surveys and researches in Punjab revealed that 67 per cent of the rural households have one drug or alcohol addict; 70 per cent of young men were hooked on drugs or alcohol; every third male and every tenth female student has taken drugs on one pretext or the other and seven out of ten college-going students, abuse one or other form of drug. (Source: Press Information Bureau website http://www.pib.nic.in, Article: Awareness and Education for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Alcoholism)

A recent study, conducted by Dheeraj Sharma from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmadabad and his team to verify the influence of popular songs on the behavior of youth in the country, revealed that around 60 per cent of the 200 youth interviewed across the universities of Punjab listen to Punjabi music having reference to drugs, violence and demean women. Their songs selection is directly reflected in their personality, as psychometric test revealed that the youths are highly inclined to become drug addicts and indulge in violence. Interestingly, the propensity towards drug use was the same in boys and girls, the study said. (Source: Hindustan Times, Chandigarh, “Punjabi songs driving youth towards drugs: Study”, Tanbir Dhaliwal, June 7, 2016)

Media effect on audience

The effect of media content on audiences cannot be ruled out. Over the years various researchers and theorists have pointed out the effect that media content has on the thinking, perceptions and attitudes of the audience.

The ‘magic bullet theory’ of the press stated that media have a direct, immediate and powerful influence on the audience that pays attention to their content. George Gerbner, in his Cultivation Theory, states that mass media have subtle effects on audiences who, unknowingly, absorb the dominant symbols, images and messages of the media.

The Uses and Gratification Theory (Katz, 1959) states that mass media audiences make active use of what the media have to offer arising from a complex set of needs which the media in one form or the other gratify.

On similar lines, songs which talk about drugs and alcohol add fuel to fire. Hence, the demand for checking songs which glorify alcohol and drugs has been getting louder. As the Social Responsibility Theory points out, in third world countries the media can be free but has to be responsible towards the audiences. They need to be cautious about the messages that they give out and the events they project.

While talking to a leading English daily, Dr JPS Bhatia of Bhatia Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Amritsar, who successfully treated hundreds of youth for drug abuse, said listening to such songs increased anticipation and craving for drugs. Dr Bhatia said, “I have come across a number of addicts, who used to listen to a particular genre of songs and watch some channels repeatedly as it created an impact which increased the cravings, brought psychological changes and triggered various feelings in the brain.”

However, singers and song writers don’t seem to see this as a problem and even feel that such songs are necessary. In an interview with a national English daily, rapper Raftaar when asked about the lyrics of songs said, “There are some things you do for your stomach and others that you do for your brain. I have written songs like Mother Nature, which was actually for Al Gore (American environmentalist). It was for a climate summit. Now that song didn’t catch on, because who wants to listen to a track about nature in a club? So, sexism is necessary. We make music that sells. Having colloquial words like ‘daaru’ (alcohol) is important. People are busy working, and after a long day, who wants to pay attention to serious lyrics?” (‘I’m famous; I don’t need to fight with Honey Singh anymore’: Raftaar. Kaushani Banerjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai, Mar 4, 2016)


The objective of this paper is to ponder over the increasing mention of alcohol and drugs in Punjabi songs and its psychological effect on the young listeners. The paper tries to present the views of the young Punjabis who are ultimately the target listeners of these songs.

Research Methodology

For the purpose of this paper, a survey was conducted in the city of Phagwara. Since youth are the main consumers of Punjabi songs, the residents of Phagwara in the age group of 15 to 40 were chosen for this study. They were asked to fill questionnaires prepared by the researcher for the purpose of this study. Simple Random Sampling was conducted and the sample size of 100 respondents was chosen.

Analysis and Conclusion

Of those who filled the questionnaire 98 per cent respondents listen to Punjabi songs while 2 per cent were non listeners.

Choice Percentage
Listeners of Punjabi songs 98
Non Listeners of Punjabi songs 2
  1. Do you listen to Punjabi songs?

63 per cent were regular listeners, 35 per cent heard Punjabi songs sometimes while 2 per cent rarely heard Punjabi songs.

  1. How often do you listen to Punjabi songs?
Frequency of listening Percentage
Regularly 63
Sometimes 35
Rarely 02
  1. Do you feel that alcohol and drugs are regularly mentioned in Punjabi songs?
Choice Percentage
Yes 67
No 33

67 per cent agreed that drugs and alcohol are regularly mentioned in Punjabi songs while 33 per cent disagreed. On the same lines, 66 per cent agreed that such songs motivate the listeners to consume drugs and alcohol while 34 per cent disagreed.

  1. Do you feel that listening to such songs motivates the listeners to drink alcohol and consume drugs?
Choice Percentage
Yes 66
No 34

37 per cent could recall 1 to 5 such songs which talk about drugs and alcohol, 21 per cent could recall 5 to 10 such songs, 18 per cent could recall 10 to 15 such songs, 17 per cent could recall 15 to 20 such songs while 7 per cent could recall 20 to 25 such songs which mention drugs and alcohol.

  1. How many songs can you recall which talk about drugs and alcohol?
Option Percentage
1-5 37
5-10 21
10-15 18
15-20 17
20-25 07

As one can expect Punjabi Rapper YoYo Honey Singh is the undisputed king of such songs as 45 per cent of the respondents felt that his songs have the most frequent mention of drugs and alcohol. Resham Singh Anmol was the second on the list with 14 per cent and Diljit Dosanjh was third with 11 per cent. Other singers like Anmol Preet Singh, Dilpreet Dhillon, Babbu Mann and others got 10, 7,7 and 6 per cent respectively.

  1. The songs of which singer have the maximum mention of drugs and alcohol?
Name of Singers Percentage
Honey Singh 45
Resham Singh Anmol 14
Diljit Dosanjh 11
Anmol Preet Singh 10
Dilpreet Dhillon 07
Babbu Mann 07
Others 06

69 per cent respondents felt that there was a need to change the content of Punjabi songs and orient them more towards Punjabi culture and issues related to Punjab, while 31 per cent saw no need to change the content of Punjabi songs. The respondents also felt for need for government intervention to ban such songs while some also added that along with the content the videos of songs also need to be scrutinized.

  1. Do you feel that there is a need to change the content of Punjabi songs?
Choice Percentage
Yes 69
No 31

From the above data, it can be concluded that the majority of youth, who are the target audience for such songs, do agree that there is need to check the content of such songs give to the youth. While the entertainment quotient of songs cannot be eliminated, the psychological effect that they have on the audiences is a matter which needs to be closely analysed.

Unfortunately, when you have singers advising the listeners ‘Niri sukki Vodka na mareya karo, thoda bahut Limca vi pa leya karo’, and urging ‘Veed pila de sajna’, it goes without saying which way our youth will go.


  1. Singh and Gill: Folk Songs of Punjab: Nahar Singh (Punjab University, Chandigarh); R.S. Gill (U.C. Sana Barbara
  2. The Tribune, Chandigarh; http://www.tribuneindia.com
  3. Hindustan Times, Mumbai; http://www.hindustantimes.com
  4. Press Information Bureau website; http://www.pib.nic.in
  5. Kumar J. Kewal, Mass Communication in India, Jaico Publishing house
  6. McQuail Denis: Audience Analysis, London: Sage, 1997
  7. Aggarwal Veer Bala and Gupta VS, Handbook of Journalism and Mass Communication, Concept Publishing Company.
  8. Yadav JS, Mathur Pradeep, Issues in Mass Communication-The Basic Concepts, Vol-I, Kanishka Publishers in association with IIMC, New Delhi.
Archna Walia
Assistant Professor,
Department of Journalism and Mass Communication,
Kamla Nehru College for Women,

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