Jugni is an age-old narrative device used in Punjabi folk music and sung at Punjabi weddings in India, Pakistan, US, Canada, Australia and UK. The word literally means ‘Female Firefly’, in folk music it stands in for the poet-writer who uses Jugni as an innocent observer to make incisive, often humorous, sometimes sad but always touching observations. In spiritual poetry Jugni means the spirit of life, or essence of life. The late Legendary Alam Lohar (Punjab, Pakistan) and late Singer & Humorist Asa Singh Mastana (Punjab, India) are credited with popularizing this poetry from early sufi spiritual writings and then subsequently later on it was transformed by other singers as a female girl just like prefixes like Preeto.
Much of early Jugni writing is spiritual in nature and relates to one’s understanding of the world and one’s relationship with God. Many poet philosophers have used the Jugni device, which is in the public domain, to make social, political or philosophical, often mildly subversive, commentary. Jugni is cross religious and depending on the writer, invokes the name of God (often using the word “Saeen”, the vernacular word for Lord), Ali or the Gurus. A kernel of truth is an essential and integral part of every Jugni composition.
Noting, Jugni is also an old Muslim worship tool, majorly named as TASBIH, a series of 21, 31, 51 or 101 pearls, which is used by SUFI SAINTS for practicing the holy words. Mainly it is made my white pearls and white thread and is known to be holy. Afterwords JUGNI has become an ornament for Punjabi Women.
The narrative style relies on Jugni landing up unexpectedly in diverse places and, wide-eyed, learning something new. Jugni makes her comments in three or four well wrought verses which may or may not rhyme but can always be sung in a rudimentary Punjabi folk style. The object could be a city, a state, a market place, a school, a religious place or a saloon, Jugni’s non-malicious commentary catches the essence of the place and produces in the listener a chuckle and sometimes a lump in the throat. Alam Lohar is the writer or introducer of this term from reading Baba Bulleh Shahs writing, in a spiritual sufi theme.
The Indian artist to make a mark was Asa Singh Mastana. More recently[when?], Kuldeep Manak, born Latif Mohammad, has made notable Jugni contributions. Apart from that every other pop or folk singer from Harbhajan Mann, Arif Lohar, Gurdas Maan, Gurmeet Bawa to Rabbi Shergill has had his Jugni moment. Bollywood movie Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye has at least three songs that use the word Jugni. The song was sung by Des Raj Lachkani (basically a dadi singer), Lachkani is a village near Patiala, India.
In Pakistan, Jugni was popularized by the late folk music singer Alam Lohar. He received a gold disc LP for his Jugni in 1965. After that Saleem Javed and Arif Lohar, Alam Lohar’s son, among others, have kept the tradition alive. Arif has brought in a more contemporary touch by incorporating modern vibes and rock influence in his versions of Jugni with Mukhtar Sahota (notably in his album “21st century Jugni”). In popular Pakistani culture Alamgir’s Jugni is often the most-commonly recognized, which, in the mid-80’s, encouraged young college students, most notably Saad Zahur, an architecture student at Lahore’s NCA, who popularized the song with their own renditions. Arif Lohar has currently sang it for Coke Studio in Pakistan along with Meesha Shafi, a popular Pakistani youth, a version that will help this iconic song to further live on and on. This version of Jugni has crossed eleven million views and is most popular Punjabi video on YouTube.