Band of doctors: Fronted by a British Indian NHS doc, Gulz is touring the United Kingdom

A 25-year-old British Indian doctor, whose passion for music resulted in a band with some of his medical colleagues, has embarked on his first UK-wide tour, with the launch show (February 10, 2024) in London recently proving a sell-out.

Gulz band
British Indian doctor and musician Gulzar Singh Dhanoya (second from right) with three of his bandmates. Photo courtesy: Instagram/gulzband

Gulzar (Gulz) Singh Dhanoya started the indie-rock band named ‘Gulz’ during his university days as a medical student. It was during the COVID pandemic that the singer-songwriter plucked up the courage to put out some of his musical creations onto the audio streaming service SoundCloud. Soon, this one-man bedroom project struck a chord with an ever-expanding fan base.

The lead singer and songwriter is now busy rehearsing with his four bandmates for their next live gig in Birmingham on March 16.

“How it usually works is that at the moment, I go away and think of an idea for a song, and it’s very bare bones. Then we go into a studio rehearsal room and all of us together kind of think about our parts, and we just keep playing it over and over. It’s a great way to kind of balance our creative ideas,” Gulz told the Press Trust of India.

While two of his bandmates are also National Health Service (NHS) doctors like him, two are professionals in other fields — this, he feels, brings some flexibility to striking a balance with late-night hospital shifts.

Talking to PTI, Gulz admitted to sometimes wondering how they were all able to commit to their music with stressful full-time jobs.

“It’s a huge commitment. Obviously, the working day is long, and then it’s fitting in shows and rehearsals and social media stuff. It’s like a second job and one that doesn’t realistically pay compared to a ‘normal’ job. It’s very cliché, but it’s just because we love it,” he said.

Themes of life in Gulz music

Born in Newcastle, in the northeastern part of England, to a Punjabi father born in India and mother born in Southall, west London, Gulz had music in his life from a very young age.

Doctor and singer Gulzar Singh Dhanoya
NHS junior doctor Gulzar Singh Dhanoya has visited India a number of times, but never as a musician, and hopes that someday he would perform in the country of his origin, along with his band. Photo courtesy: Instagram/gulzband

From the great Indian playback singer and classical music virtuoso Mohammed Rafi to the American R&B and soul music legend Stevie Wonder, his musical influences were an eclectic mix — something that chimes with the kind of songs he is now creating lyrically and musically.

“I began by sort of writing music that sounds like the music I like, and have tried to retain that in some ways. I just try to weave certain themes of my life at the time into the stuff that I’m writing, be it relationships and breakups or just having some fun,” he said.

Currently based in Brighton and completing his second foundation year as a junior doctor in the National Health Service, Gulz plans to take some time off later this year to focus entirely on music.

Solidarity with NHS colleagues

Asked about the ongoing strikes by NHS junior doctors, demanding better pay and working conditions, the young doctor said that the Gulz band fully supported their medical colleagues in this industrial action.

“We always hope the next set of strikes will be the last one, because junior doctors don’t want to have to strike. But sadly, there’s no other way to be heard by the government. The working conditions and pay right now are really not acceptable,” he said, pointing out that in real terms, all his colleagues were fighting for was an extra GBP 5 an hour.

“There’s so much responsibility that doctors have, with people’s lives at stake literally, and the working conditions and pay do not reflect that at all,” he added.

Hopeful of an India tour

Juggling their work shifts and rehearsals, the band is all set to perform at the Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham. Then its tour is slotted for the lead singer’s home crowd in Newcastle, followed by Manchester towards the end of next month.

Beyond March, Gulz is open to bookings. Asked if a tour to India may be in the offing, the doctor-musician sounded very excited at the prospect of playing a gig in the country that he had so far only visited with family, to spend time with cousins in Punjab.

“After August, I’m out of contract, which sounds dramatic, but it’s actually a really good thing, because it means that I’ve got a lot more flexibility in my time and work. So, I would love to go to India and perform, in case any promoters out there want to reach out,” he said.