Amrit Saggu is saddened by what he has seen occurring in his west Abbotsford neighbourhood.
Young men with whom he went to school have turned to criminal activity to attain a lifestyle they believe brings them prestige and respect, but which is harming the community around them.
Saggu saw the police cars lining his street – Sandpiper Drive – last August after a car was shot up in a driveway as part of the Townline Hill conflict, which involves two groups of young men in a violent battle for drug turf in west Abbotsford.
But nothing hit Saggu harder than the needless death on Sept. 2 of Ping Shun Ao, 74, who was killed by a stray bullet intended for his neighbour on Promontory Court.
“When that happened, my heart went out to the family. It’s everybody’s grandfather. It’s so sad to hear.”
So Saggu, a hip-hop artist who performs under the name Saint Soldier, wanted to spread a message of hope and inspiration the best way he knows how – by making music.
Saggu has written a song titled “A Stray” with an accompanying music video that were released Jan. 8 on his YouTube channel.
The tune was inspired by the Townline Hill conflict and tells the story of a young man who is lured into gang life and faces tragic consequences.
Saggu said the title refers both to “a stray” bullet and “a stray” child. He said he hopes that young men who are tittering on the edge of such activity will think about the potential consequences before making the wrong decision.
He also hopes that those already immersed in the lifestyle will reflect on their actions and are able to forgive themselves and change their ways.
Saggu, who was born in India but has lived in Canada since he was a baby, said most of his music is spiritual in nature and tackles tough social and cultural issues such as gendercide.
He said he was driven to write about the Townline Hill conflict as a means of “trying to understand what drives the madness in others.”
“In this video, we try to portray what might lead one into this lifestyle, and what devastation could result from it.”
Saggu wrote the song just three days after Ao’s death and teamed up with music producer Dj Hark, also of Abbotsford, to put together the video.
The importance of their work was emphasized one evening when they were at Hark’s home working on the storyline.
They ventured outside for a walk and saw several police cars in the area.
“We’re looking around at our neighbourhood and said, ‘What is going on here?’ ” he said.
Saggu said he is fortunate to have been raised by parents who encouraged open dialogue and urged him toward a “spiritual path” in order to find happiness within himself.
But he believes the young men caught up in the Townline Hill issues don’t have that same support.
“I think a lot of families are being blinded by the money their kids are bringing in … I think their parents are being pretty ignorant about (the criminal activity).”
A Stray also features cinematography by Rav Gill and video editing by Paul Alamwala.
(Below: A Stray, a new music video by Abbotsford hip hop artist Saint Soldier (Amrit Saggu), addresses gang violence.)