Article from Darpan Magazine :
Bali Deol is a dynamic entrepreneur, radio host and producer and is adding television host to the list.
One of the hottest exports from Britain since tea, Lady B has become a household name over the last decade. Listeners of all ages tune in to Swaraj Radio 96.1FM for their daily dose of entertainment, news and more importantly, Lady B. Bali Deol is the woman behind the voice, and she puts on many different hats in her career as an entrepreneur, radio host and producer and soon enough, her fans will get to know the fun, humorous side of Deol as she starts her next venture as a television host.
Sitting down with Deol aka Lady B over a cup of tea, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was a down-to-earth, intelligent, driven and passionate woman, who is not afraid of hard work or standing behind causes or issues, from women's rights to the survival of Punjab, which she strongly believes in.
Deol immigrated to Canada from England in 1998, and as she started her new journey here, her passion and knowledge for all things Punjabi grew."Punjabi is the love of my life. Everything Punjabi; especially the poetry, literature and language," says Deol. "I would always get passionate about something, but slowly it would leave and I would realize it's a phase. But when I started to get interested in Punjabi, I increased my vocabulary and started to read and write poetry, I waited for the phase to pass but it never did – I realized, I've come home."
Deol started to work in the medium of radio in 1999 "purely by accident" and she discovered that out of all the programs on 96.1FM she was working on, she enjoyed taking care of the Punjabi show the most. Growing up in England, she was immersed in the Punjabi religion and culture, but was not a fan of the music. What transpired in Canada was a love and greater understanding for music, artists and their lyrics.
In 2001, Deol started her own radio program called Swaraj Radio, a self-run business, in which she is the host and producer of all aspects, including programming and advertising. This year, Swaraj Radio grew from a 1-hour slot to 2-hours Monday to Friday from 1-3 pm. Swaraj Radio is one of the featured programs on Fairchild Radio (AM1470/FM96.1), the largest ethnic broadcaster in North America, says Deol.
She chose the name Swaraj for her station, as it represents a number of things: she liked the way it sounded, the word rolls off the tongue naturally; it's an old Sanskrit word for 'self-rule;' and it also refers to India's independence movement (India's National Congress adopted a declaration of Purna Swaraj – complete self-rule independent of the British Empire – and January 26, 1930 was observed as the Purna Swaraj (independence) Day).
Listeners have heard her evolve over the radio, including the grasp and fluency of the Punjabi language. When she first started, it would take her some time to figure out how to say something in formal Punjabi. However, as her love for Punjabi grew, so did her grasp of the verbal and written language. As a result, she began to write poetry, which discussed the human state, relationships, loss and being at war with yourself.
She laughs when remembering the early days of Swaraj Radio, and tells me that she receives calls from listeners today, who say "Beta, we are so proud of you!" while others say "We've been listening to you since you've started, we are so impressed with how you've improved your Punjabi." Listeners have even asked Deol for tips on how to teach their children.
"Punjabi is very soulful, and has become a huge part of me." Deol adds if she hadn't fallen in love with Punjabi language and literature, the show wouldn't be where it was today. Lady B conducts the show in Punjabi and English with the goal to pay homage to Punjab and celebrate the Punjabi heritage. She discusses poetry, music and local and international issues. Besides playing songs from the best of the Punjabi music industry, she also conducts interviews with artists, politicians, writers and Bollywood actors.
According to Deol, she's always wanted to give back in different ways, and one of her ideas was to create Udaan, a special show that takes place once a month. "People seem to not believe in humanity or each other anymore. They have become jaded and overly cynical, especially in the Western world," says Deol. "There is still a lot of good in us, I want to inspire people to see that. Listeners need to know that their life is not that bad. Udaan will feature and celebrate the lives of people who have faced hardships or challenges, and is a show about struggle and survival to inspire my audience."
Furthermore, Deol is passionate about the well-being and growth of Punjab, in terms of its economy, politics and language preservation to name a few. She is involved with local community events and works with various organizations, including the Canadian Sikh Coalition and its 'Save Punjab' campaign. This campaign primarily focuses on the dwindling water supply in the state, as about 77 per cent of its water is sent to other states, which will create a drought in Punjab within a decade according to independent studies, says Deol. The campaign aims to raise awareness about this economic/political issue and to educate farmers on how to effectively use and maintain water resources.
Three years ago, Deol and a few friends founded Revolution Records, which differs from traditional labels, as it's a not-for-profit, political label. Revolution produces one album a year – each of their 3 releases has gone Platinum in Canada within the first week of release. The proceeds raised from record sales goes to the Canadian Sikh Coalition and its projects. She says the music created by Revolution celebrates Sikh history and focuses on issues in Punjab that need to be raised, such as drugs, water and political issues.
"In my wildest dreams, I didn't have aspirations to be radio host, but it was a natural progression for me and I love it with a passion," says Lady B aka Deol. "I connect with my listeners through voice, it's a direct connection." She credits her listeners for evolving her music taste and says "a lot of what I've learned is from my listeners over the last decade – I love it when they call and correct me, it's like a message from a parent to a child with love."
Lady B's down-to-earth nature is an effective tool to get to the heart of the story during her interviews, and her longevity on the radio is a testament of her innate ability to connect with her audience.