In my inaugural blog for SimplyBhangra.com, I will be explaining why I think 2013 could be an exciting year for Bhangra.
If you’re thinking hold on what’s he on about, the year has just started? Does he think he can look into the future? Read on as, if what follows comes true, the next few years will be a defining era for future generations to reminisce on as most of us do about the 90’s.
To understand where I am coming from, rewind back to the 80’s and remember the bands that came through. Bands like Heera, Premi, Apna Sangeet, Alaap, Azaad took the foundations set by legends like A.S Kang, Bhujangy and Anari Sangeet Party, added a fresh contemporary sound and built what became the start of UK Bhangra.
Into the 90’s bands went from strength to strength pushing the boundaries further, taking Bhangra from weddings into the club scene. Experiencing the performances of Pardesi, Achanak, The Sahotas, Malkit Singh, Jazzy B & The Boys, The Safri Boys, Anakhi, Anamika, Saqi, Geet and others was truly inspiring for a generation.
The 90’s also gave birth to the phenomenon of the Bhangra DJ, for me personally it was a chance to apply the skills learnt by watching great Hip Hop DJ’s but to our own music. This also helped Bhangra go international. Playing across the world, Bhangra was filling venues. Whether it was 500 in a club in Japan, 5000 in an arena in Canada or the regular 2000 young Asians in Ritzy, Krystals, Le Palais, Maestros, Foxes or the legendary Dome, Bhangra was taking it’s place in youth culture.
Now Bhangra was evolving, DJ’s were taking the club sound and putting it on wax, Bally Sagoo, Panjabi MC, X-ecutive defining a new style in Bhangra, the remix.
What else was new in the 90’s? Oh Yeah, the boy band. Born out of a trend in UK Pop & American R’n’B, bands like D/I/P, C.I.C and 4x4 took their dance troupe roots and added a vocal element to give a audio visual edge to stage performances. But did you really need the intricate choreography to be a boy band? Not if you were B21 you didn’t. They simply brought the sound of the bands courtesy of Bhota, swagger from the streets (of Burminham seen) courtesy of Bally and a young Singh who could sing, enter Jassi Sidhu. Boy did they tear up the scene and rewrite the script.
How could the 2000’s compete with such an era?
Easy, the age of the Bhangra producer…
Club culture was growing, DJ’s began to be as important as the bands. Roadshows were getting booked at family functions, labels saw the benefit of having more than 1 singer on an album held together with the sound of a producer. Zeus, RDB, Surinder Rattan, DJ Sanj, DJ Chino started to make their names on the scene with regular projects coming thick and fast. The faze of Bhangarage was in full swing.
A producer who was dropping Bollywood remixes in the 90’s now came in and started to up the ante in production levels, Rishi Rich was bringing in a new era of Panjabi Pop music.
Throughout all of this though, one man still showed that he was King of the producer game, Panjabi MC getting played in nearly every club in the country on an ordinary non-Asian Saturday night was a cue to bust Bhangra moves for many a Asian without looking fresh… actually, they probably still looked fresh but didn’t care as Labh Janjua now had a sing a long factor for non-Asians.
Of course there are may other artists that played a major part in the history of Bhangra to here and no doubt will get a mention in future blogs. But for now, back to the point of this blog.
With all that has happened so far, why do I feel that there is something big on the horizon? What is going to happen that brings something new to the table of the Bhangra feast?
As I am sure many of you have probably noticed, there seems to be an emergence of new, young vocalists breaking through. Since Bhangra first experienced the vocals of a young man by the name of Jaz Dhami, on Groundshaker 2  you could kind of sense that there would be a tide of change coming.
What? he’s a UK born & bred Panjabi singer who is classically trained? Wow, a young artist who would have the respect of even the most serious muso but also have a female fan base being a looker and blokes because he is a proper geezer.
Hot on his heels with the folk sound comes JK , raw Desi folk through his vocal chords but a Hip Hop swag (still want to rob his Ice Cream jacket even though it probably won’t fit).
Then, that boy Garry Sandhu . Again, a poster boy who could back it up with his music. Elders love the syani gallan he can do, Fauji’s love him as one of their own, a guy who could write the Panjabi lyrics that connected with the kid on the street.
Can you see where this is going? No? I will continue…
Another classically trained young man by the name of D-Sarb, quite at home singing a dukhi geet, romantic ballad or a Bhangra banger. His charisma coupled with his dedication will prove to be the formula of him to continue his rise in the hearts of Bhangra fans this year.
Enter Mehi, again classically trained and versatile. He has cut through just as well on Hip Hop track with The Truth as he did on Do Some Bhangra, from what I’ve personally heard from his work in progress, there is something special to come.
If you share the same Ustaad as Sukshinder Shinda, Shin DCS & Jaz Dhami, your future will be bright and grounded. The latest student from Matlashi Ji, T-Minder is another artist who is taking his craft seriously. No doubt he will be another young UK artist to watch.
He oozes the mehak of Panjab and no I don’t mean he smells of tordka. Banger has always been a charismatic personality, he has now brought that to the stage,. His debut was introduced by the late great Kuldeep Manak Ji, a stamp of approval if there ever was one. Then he got even my father in law singing along to Patandra every time it plays, I think he will bring some good old Panjabi family friendly fun to the game.
Although not a UK born artist, Bilal Saeed is someone who will be an exciting proposition to Panjabi music. Melody is key to what he does. An artist who can write, compose, produce and sing is rare and I hope that he will continue to contribute to Desi music in each one of those areas.
On my album The Cover Up, I had faith in going with a young 18 year old artist called Sukhwinder Singh, I lost touch with him soon after and saw him pop up again with Desi Dark Child as Sukhi. Now known as Jay Status & under the wing of DJ Sanj, he is still as an exciting prospect as he was in the first session we recorded together. Again, a classically trained vocalist, I’m more than certain that he will continue to grow as an artist in his own right in 2013.
When a legend of the Bhangra game introduces a protégé, you respect the endorsement as something special. Kumar Heera is bringing through in 2013. Going by the name of TJ, he is again a (seems to be a theme, give yourself a Scooby snack if you guess the next couple of words…) classically trained vocalist but wants to bring his versatility through in his music this year.
There will be no doubt other great, both male, and I hope female vocalists that emerge this year. If all of them take the game as seriously as the pioneers of each era, we will be in for a vibrant treat.
The age of the vocalist seems to be here, and that is why I think that 2013 could be a land mark year for Bhangra.
DJ Stin has been involved in Asian music for over 21 years through DJing, Producing, BBC Asian Network & now developing and marketing new artists through Ma2 Media