A Bus Driver’s Ode to His Job Is a Surprise Music Video Hit

A grandfather in Britain has attracted fans from as far away as Punjab, the state in northern India that he left more than two decades ago, with a jaunty music video about his life as a bus driver in the West Midlands.

The video, simply titled “Bus Driver,” features Ranjit Singh Veer, with his flowing white beard, wearing a turban and a fluorescent yellow vest bearing the logo of his employer, the British bus operator National Express, and the title “Master Driver.”

The video, which shows Mr. Singh, 59, navigating the streets of West Bromwich in a double-decker bus and dancing in a bus depot, did not cause much of a stir when it was posted on YouTube last fall. But viewership skyrocketed after the BBC aired a segment about Mr. Singh and his song last week.

“I’m very surprised by the response and never really expected it to go viral,” Mr. Singh said this week, speaking in his native Punjabi through a translator, his son, Hardeep Singh. “I think people enjoy the upbeat nature of the song as well as the messages portrayed,” he added.

The lyrics, which Mr. Singh sings in Punjabi with English subtitles, celebrate the camaraderie of drivers of different religious backgrounds — an employment attribute that National Express has echoed in publicity materials about its broader corporate culture.

“With our honest working hands,” Mr. Singh sings with his arms outstretched, “we drive the buses. With god’s grace, we all drive the buses from our different faiths.”

The video shows Mr. Singh leading a bhangra, a traditional Punjabi dance, with other bus drivers at a bus depot. One driver strums a Punjabi stringed instrument called a tumbi while another keeps a beat with a dhol drum.

Many of the dancing bus drivers are in turbans — a reflection of the West Midlands’ large Sikh population, the largest in Britain.

Mr. Singh asked his fellow bus driver friends to appear in the video, and hired a local wedding videographer to shoot and produce it. His employer quickly greenlighted the project, and arranged security cordons around the city and in a bus depot.

The video also shows a red double-decker bus cruising around the city center of West Bromwich, the town in the West Midlands about six miles northwest of Birmingham where Mr. Singh settled after emigrating from India in 2000.

“It’s a challenging job, carrying people’s safety and people’s families,” said Jeet Sanghara, a regional operations manager for National Express, who helped orchestrate the music video shoot.

“We are all proud that Ranjit could share his passion and his values, and that viewers will see bus drivers in a different light,” he said, adding that Mr. Singh, who has worked at the company for 13 years, was the front-runner for a values-based prize the company awards at its annual conference.

The company promoted the video, and the values it espouses, in a news release which also proclaimed the recognition it had received for its employee wellness program, its planned fare reductions and an ongoing recruitment drive.

The video’s sudden popularity has come at a good time for National Express. The bus drivers’ union is contemplating going on strike for higher pay, potentially joining drivers at other bus companies and railway workers across Britain who have for months pushed for higher wages to keep up with the rising cost of living. (Mr. Singh said he would not support a strike.)

Mr. Singh said that writing and releasing a song had been a lifelong dream. He added that the video has made him a bit of a celebrity among his neighbors in West Bromwich, and had fostered “an even better atmosphere around the bus garage.”

He said that he also wanted to create a memento of his bus driving career before he retires, and to give his family in Ludhiana, the district in Punjab where he is from, a glimpse of his life on Britain’s roads.

“They loved the song and were happy to see how much I enjoyed my job, as well as how inclusive the community here is,” Mr. Singh said of his family in Punjab, adding that he has no immediate plans to retire.

He said he had come to West Bromwich from Punjab seeking better economic opportunities,  and to serve as a priest at a local Sikh temple, called a gurudwara. He left that job to take up bus driving, but remained active in the gurudwara singing kirtan, the sacred music that is part of a Sikh prayer meeting.

His first move in secular music was a song about Covid-19 that he released as a music video two years ago.

Encouraged by the several thousand views it received, Mr. Singh began work on the bus driver tune, which as of this week had been viewed more than 100,000 times on YouTube and attracted hundreds of comments from people praising the song and its positive message.

Karamjit Singh Minian, a friend of Mr. Singh’s who has also made music videos, and posted “Bus Driver” on his YouTube channel, Tez Records, said that at first viewership was largely limited to the Punjabi community. The viewership numbers, and the geographic scope of the audience, soared after the BBC report.

“Songwriting, that’s his passion. So it’s nice to see him fulfill his dream,” Mr. Singh’s son, Hardeep, said.

The runaway success of “Bus Driver” could well encourage Mr. Singh to continue writing his songs.

“I have already fulfilled my dream of making a music video,” he said, “but if there’s anything else I want to share with the world, then I’ll be sure to make it as impactful.”

The younger Mr. Singh said the world could see a new music video out soon — another collaboration between his father and the wedding videographer — on the subject of his sister’s wedding this April.

Related Articles

Back to top button