SIKH STYLE: Diljit Dosanjh’s April 27 show at BC Place was the largest Punjabi event to take place outside of India, according to promoter Live Nation, with 48,000 in attendance. (Ripple Effect Studios)

Vancouver, British Columbia, in April became the site of a historic first when Indian artist Diljit Dosanjh played to 48,000 fans at BC Place for what is being called the largest Punjabi-language concert outside of India, and likely the largest production of its kind anywhere.

“It essentially took about two years of convincing them to do a stadium. I swear I annoyed them into doing it,” says Baldeep Randhawa, promoter at Live Nation Canada, who also promoted the Indian star’s 2022 “Born To Shine” North America arena tour.

“I took Diljit on a tour of BC Place, trying to convince him. He literally walked into the venue and he was dead silent, just looking around, sitting in the seats.” Initially unsure of being able to fill such a large venue, one suited for Major League Soccer matches, the 40-year old music and film star ultimately accepted the challenge. The April 27 gig became be the first of the 13-date “Dil-Luminati” tour of arenas in Canada and the U.S.

“He finally said yes and then, frankly, when the on-sale happened we really saw the community come together,” said Randhawa, a first-generation Canadian-Indian who speaks Punjabi and is Sikh. “It became kind of a historic moment where everybody was excited and proud to see the first Punjabi artist play a stadium. Even in India, Punjabi artists played outdoor venues but never a proper enclosed stadium (with modern production). So this was like the first real stadium show.”

Working closely with BC Place director of business development Anita Sodhi-Cavezza and Dosanjh’s management, led by Sonali Singh, Randhawa said the BC Place concert was a proud moment for the whole South Asian community, with fans traveling for the event and many in the audience sharing similar background and cultural experiences. He said it was a priority to make sure the production of the show and tour matched that of the artist’s worldwide stardom, especially when performing to fans who may not have attended concerts of this scale before.

DIL-UMINATI: Diljit Dosanjh has performed at the arena level in the U.S. UK and Australia. (Ripple Effect Studios)

“He’s a superstar and we want to make sure he’s treated like a superstar and the show looks like a superstar level,” Randhawa said. “We were kind of in the trenches to find the right team to bring the show alive and educate everyone around why this is such a big deal.”

Vancouver was a prime location for the occasion, with Dosanjh having success previously at Rogers Arena and the city being home to a prominent South Asian community. The venue was a good fit as well.

“We purposely wanted BC Place,” Randhawa said. “It has that stature, that kind of marquee status, and it just made sense for it to be the first one. We just had this feeling that the community would come and support, and they did. We saw people from everywhere wanting to be a part of this moment.”

That excitement has spread to other dates on the tour, which includes more firsts in Canada including sold-out arenas in Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton, with U.S. shows including major markets like Oakland Arena, Allstate Arena near Chicago, Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., and a final date being another Canadian stadium, at Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays on July 13.

As always, it begins with the artist. Dosanjh, at 40 years old is a multi-media star in music, film and TV that appeals to multiple generations and South Asian communities — not exclusively to those who practice the Sikh religion or speak Punjabi.

“When we saw Diljit, we saw the potential globally for him,” said Nidhish Varughese of Live Nation Global Touring, who’s involved with tours by artists including Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and The Weeknd. He’s also of Indian descent and said it’s been a goal to bring South Asian music to Live Nation. “We luckily are getting the opportunity to showcase what we can do on a global basis. We’ve always planned on pushing Diljit as a global superstar, which is what we’re in the process of doing now.” He said more than 200,000 tickets have been sold for the 13-date tour.

Live Nation Canada’s Randhawa, whose background includes as a talent agent, also works with Western artists and jokes that what started as a “side hustle” passion project to present South Asian music has become “a full-time hustle.”

For the Rogers Centre show, the promoters say they’re putting together another standalone production for the occasion, at a venue usually reserved for baseball games and difficult to get avails.

“We’re actually going to be the first concert in there after its renovation,” Randhawa said. “That is something the venue put its faith in us for. We’re building this show exclusively and making it a unique, special show. It does have challenges, but they’re all exciting challenges.”