| Gurpreet Singh Sarin on American Idol
His long beard, colourful turbans and smooth voice have been the talking points on the show. He’s the judges’ favourite, having impressed Mariah Carey and charmed Nicki Minaj. He’s the Turbanator of American Idol (Friday-Saturday, 9pm on Big CBS Love). t2 caught up with the 22-year-old Maryland resident, Gurpreet Singh Sarin
What would you tell our readers about yourself?
Well, I was born in the US but my family is from Punjab. Though I have lived in America all my life, I am as Sikh as it can get — I have a long beard and I wear a turban. I spent my first three years of college majoring in computer and information science and then American Idol happened. But I plan to continue my studies. I started my public singing career only about a year ago.
How did American Idol happen?
I had been watching American Idol for a couple of years now. I recently started singing seriously and as I practised more and listened more and more to music, I really got interested in participating. I sent in my entry thinking that I had nothing to lose, but if chosen, I stood to gain so much. I went in knowing that I am pretty unique in terms of my background and my style of dressing and felt that would set me apart from the others.
How supportive has your family been of your American Idol stint?
My family’s been very supportive of my journey on the show and even otherwise. My family has always been interested in music, especially Indian classical music and that’s where my roots lie.
Your favourite moments on the show have been...
My most favourite moment was the Hollywood Week where I performed Ray Charles’s Georgia On My Mind. I am a huge Ray Charles fan and this was the first time that I performed with a live band and that too on national television in front of the whole country, with the judges looking on, which was unnerving and exciting at the same time. All the judges had a smile on their faces when I finished and that was such a high for me.
Another exciting moment was the audition round when there was a small argument and discussion among the judges as to whether I should go to the next round and I was praying fervently…. I also loved the round where I performed James Morrison’s Nothing Ever Hurt Like You because it was in front of a live audience and though it didn’t turn out the way I really wanted it to, I am very grateful for the experience.
The name ‘Turbanator’ seems to have stuck, what with it trending on Twitter and now even tribute videos to your name on YouTube!
When they asked me what nicknames I had, I gave them a list and I said that Turbanator was one of them. The producers liked it and started using it on the show. And I can’t complain because it was trending on Twitter in the US for a couple of days and everyone came to know who the Turbanator was. And there were so many Sikhs who called me and thanked me for that because when they went out in public, people started calling them Turbanators and that’s so much better than being called terrorists!
What does your time on American Idol mean for the Sikh community there and all Indians living in the US?
I believe that America is a melting pot and I knew that my unique identity and the way I look would never be a hindrance on the show. I have never thought of the way I look or how I carry myself as an obstacle to living in the US... rather it has helped me establish an identity different from others. I am grateful that god gave me an opportunity to be on American Idol because that has given strength and courage to so many from my community.
Are you familiar with Indian music?
Yes. My family watches a good amount of Bollywood and though I have some interest in Bollywood music, I lean more towards Indian classical music.
Who have been your influences in Indian classical music?
Definitely Zakir Hussain… one of my biggest influences. I also consider Pandit Ravi Shankar, Amjad Ali Khan and Nikhil Banerjee my idols.
After American Idol, what’s the way forward?
I am finishing my bachelor’s degree and once I am done with that, I plan to take some time off to reflect on what I want to do with my music and the recognition that American Idol has given me. I want to practise more and improve my singing so that I can go back (if eliminated) to the show next year.
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