One of the pioneers of Bhangra music industry in the UK making the Dhol drum popular Internationally, Chair/Artistic Director for Punjabi Music Dance Academy , key member of : - Apna Sangeet, Nachda Sansaar, Dhol Blasters, Bhangra Blasters, music maestro Gurcharan Mall still going even stronger at 53 has now been in Punjabi Music & Dance for almost forty years. His DHOL MASTERCLASS is where he teaches all up and coming dhol players, this is something you have to watch and experience, it is mind blowing. Within all this he has also done so much work with various Charities, has 2 books on ‘Intro to Bhangra/Dhol’ and educational DVDs to go along with these books. He has recorded and produced more then 44 albums and the last album he worked on was UB40’s - Reasons.
A true world wide performer having done so in, Australia ,Austria , Belgium ,Canada, Denmark ,France, Germany ,Holland, India, Italy , Kenya , Malaysia , New Zealand , Portugal , Singapore ,Sweden , Spain , Tanzania , The Azores Islands , United States of America .
Ish managed to catch up with the dhol maestro himself, to bring you this EXCLUSIVE interivew!
How did you get involved in playing the Dhol? –
At a very early age I was always fascinated by the sound of the Dholak & Tumbi . So my very first Instrument was a Dholak which I started with my very first singing band called The Nadaans and then going on to the Dhol when I joined Trangha Bhangra dancers.
Were there any Dhol players that have been your main influences?
Yes – I saw this gentleman called Master Dholi Harbans Lal ji playing the Dhol with Jagmohan Kaur/ K.deep ji from The Punjab who came to do shows here in the U K, Had the chance to play the Dholak with them and He was just amazing Dhol player, he was the best I seen, and Now I call him my ustad ji
Indian classical music is deeply spiritual and you have played with many different stars/artists. There is need to control the ego, how do you manage the ego in this context?
It is very hard to control your ego when you are growing up especially if you are making a bit of a name, BUT in my case my Mother always put me right, She used to tell me that if you start to spit upwards in the air that spit is going to land on your face. So I have an aim & ambition in life to be somebody.
Gurcharan Mall greeting the audience
Tell us about some of the great singers that you’ve played with in your time?
SINGERS FROM INDIA : -
Yamla Jatt ji, Kuldip Manak ji, Gurdas Maan ji, Jagmohan Kaur/ K.Deep ji, Hans Raj Hans ji, Surinder Shinda ji, Jagga Jatt ji, Sarbjit Cheema, Harbhajan Maan, Jay Shree Mumbai .
TEAMS FROM U K : -
Singing groups – Nadaans, A S Kang, Sarwan Patter / Jassi Bassi, Apna Sangeet, Sathies, Alaap, Heera, Premi, Malkit Singh, Safri Boys, DCS, Bhanjhey group, Geet group, Daljit Matthu, Parmjit Pammi, Kamiljit Neru, Baba bakthora, Mangel singh & many more.
Bhangra Group – Trangha Group, Punjab Group, Asian Arts, Nachdey Hasdey, Jugnu group, Nachda Sansaar, Hasda Punjab, Divana Group, Nachde Sitaria, Gubroo Punjab de. & Bhangra Blasters.
Giddha Groups – Apna Punjab, Giddha Saliadya da, Satrang Giddha, Nachdi Jawani, Devia dancers.
Dhol Groups - Dhol Blasters, Dhol Academy, Ministry of Dhol, Ambassadors of Dhol, Surtal Arts, Dhol Foundation
What was your most memorable performance and why?
To me all performances are memorable because you meet different people and make friends, But there was one daddy of them all which is worth talking about, which was THE LIVE 8. There was so many Super Stars at one show & we The Dhol Blasters walking about with our Bhangra costumes & Dhols on our shoulders . With the blessings of the almighty God , that day we put The Dhol on the World map & making all our Brothers & Sisters feeling proud to be Punjabi’s and Indian’s around the World. (It was the biggest show with over 200,000 Audience & over 4 Billion people watched it on T V).
Gurcharan Mall & his Dhol Blasters alongside UB40
What have you got to say to young players who want to part of the fast growing ‘Dhol Players’ maybe for the money, free gigs, play on a professional level?
It is very good that the young one’s are picking up the Dhol. The 3 things that you put down, they can be Achieved i.e – First thing they need to do is to learn to play & Respect the dhol and others. Secondly doing free gigs is not bad thing especially charity shows. I still do the biggest amount of charities shows then any artist in the country. Thirdly when you have learnt the Dhol & doing free shows to get the experience of the stage also being know to other artists then you will become professional. Once you done that then the money would follow you. You can make money & a name for yourself if you keep your feet firmly on the ground.
You have taught many students? Are there any differences in the way that Dhol playing is taught today compared to when you learnt?
Unfortunately in the past days when we started there was no one to Teach us, we all learnt Instruments or Bhangra the very hard way, if you wanted to become a musician or a singer, you would listen to Records & if you wanted to become a Dancer, you would watch black & white films. If you did find a Teacher to learn from you would be a very lucky person, then you would give him lots of respect by touching his feet also to remember him for ever. BUT The students of today when they start to learn they remember you, But as soon as they learnt it then they think they are better then you are then they forget who they learnt from.
From your personal experience what key points would you tell Dhol Students to do, not do and watch?
Key points for all the Students – 1) Respect your parents, your teacher, your Dhol & Learn to respect all the other Musicians. 2) Not to have attitude towards others. 3) Watch other good Dholi’s perform, best way to learn by watching others.
What is your view on, and are you interested in fusion being mixed in Bhangra Music?
I am into promoting Bhangra music desi style, But I have no problem people mixing Bhangra music with other none Asian instruments. It is good thing to fusion our music with others as long as they know what they are doing and they are putting our instruments in the front line. We did one track with UB40 that was fusion. People liked it.
Bhangra Music over the 40 years you have in the business has changed tremendously. What is your view on the current state of modern Bhangra music?
At the moment our music which is being produced these days majority of it is not good because lots of it is sample work & the videos they make has got nothing to do with the song there aim is to show girls in as little clothes as possible, Some of the lyrics don’t even make sense.
Is there any other work that you look back at with a sense of achievement and pride? What is it?
Playing Dhols on stage in front of her majesty the Queen and she came backstage to greet us - Community Excellence Award (BCABA), ITV - Arts Leadership Midlander of the year award and House of Commons - Panjabi Cultural award.
Queen Elizabeth II greeting Gurcharan Mall
What are your current top 5 artists ?
My U K Top 5 Artists – 1) Shin DCS. 2) A S Kang. 3) S S Gill. Apna group. 4) Daljit Matthu. 5) Balvinder Safri
If you could choose the line up for the best gig in the world who would be on it and where would you stage it?
The line up would be – FROM INDIA - Ustad Kuldip Manak ji, Ustad Gurdass Mann ji, Ustad Lata Mangashkar ji. FROM UK – D C S, Jazzy B/Sukshinder Shinda, S S Gill & Dhol Blasters/Nachda Sansaar. FROM USA – Snoop Dog, Madonna.
Stage all this in the heart of Punjab for the rest of the World to watch and see.
What can we expect of you in the near future?
I am doing lots of work in Education to give our Bhangra such a big uplift I already wrote 2 Educational books - 1) Introduction to Dhol book - 2) Introduction to Bhangra book.
Also made 2 Educational DVD's – How to learn Dhol step by step, 2) How to learn Bhangra step by step.
AND NOW - I am writing a book simply titled – G.Mall’s eye view on Milestones of bhangra & A to Z Artists in the UK. ALSO – Bhangra aerobics Video for people to keep fit.
Any final words for the readers of SimplyBhangra.com?
Dear readers of SimplyBhangra.com – We all need to be very proud of what & who we are also we need to promote & support everybody who is promoting our art & culture people like SimplyBhangra.com. I'd LIKE TO THANK SimplyBhangra.com FOR THE INTERVIEW & BIGGEST THANKS TO YOU ALL FOR READING IT. Thanks folks.