Panjabi MC is a name that will forever be synonymous with one hit tack; Mundian tu bach ke. The song that finally sent Bhangra ‘mainstream’ all the way back in 2002. But Bhangra hasn’t done much since in terms of breaking through again and nor has Panjabi MC. Shackled by a Moviebox deal he finally left in 2005 after the acrimonious release of ‘Steel Bangle’ which still managed to deliver a typically Panjabi MC anthem.
Disregarding the dubious release of ‘Steel Bangle’, Panjabi MC is back with a proper new album since ‘Desi’ (2001). Aptly titled ‘Indian Timing’ the brand new 20 track album features up to 79 minutes of music on one cd! That must be a first for any Bhangra album surely?
Bhangra has changed since the 90’s; the time when Panjabi MC was at his peak. 2008 heralds a new beginning for the Coventry man, but will Indian Timing be able to live up to the previous hits albums?
A tumbi solo kicks off “Cant Stop Us” which has been sung by Jelly Manjeetpuri or Manjeet Jelhi depending on what you want to call him. He features heavily throughout this album. PMC was recently on radio and described his own style as ‘Dre with Dhol’, Cant Stop Us feels something like that. The thing that strikes me most about this is the simplicity in the production, not in a bad way though, PMC has let the vocalist and the dhol do all the work. A pretty good start to the album, the simplicity of the production can be seen as a let down by some but in my opinion it works perfectly. The dhol solo midway through the track really gears you up for the chorus.
Any one old enough to remember the A-Team will enjoy this track. Talk about bringing back memories! PMC has actually gained the official licence for this sample on “Panjabi Soldiers (A-Team)” which has once again been sung by Jelly Manjeetpuri. One thing I like most about this song (apart from the excellent sampling) is the choice of lyrics; they actually go with the theme of the song. Panjabi Soldiers or Soormeh as the song mentions does give a very ‘Panjabi A team’ feel. The percussion on this track by a whole host of artists is phenomenal and fits perfect with the raw guitar riffs overlapping the vocals by Jelly. When I first heard PMC was sampling the A-Team I thought it would be a cheesy track, but it actually works really well….Maybe a A-team themed video?
I first heard “Snake Charmer” around a year and half ago, I didn’t really like it. Albeit it was an early demo of the track, I just wasn’t feeling it. Now we’re treated to full finished version sung by Jelly again. PMC called this track ‘his baby’ and you can see why. It’s going to tear up dancefloors across the world. The bheen has been used perfectly and the addition of extra kicks, snares and beats working alongside the tumbi and dhol really in perfect cohesion. Oh and a special mention to the bassline… Do I like this track now? Hell yeah!
“Im Nin Alu (Shake It)” follows and totally changes the album direction with this Arabic themed track. Panjabi MC became fascinated with mixing east with west when he heard this songs sample on an old Rakim track all the way back in the 80’s. Having now gained official clearance he puts his own touch on it. Never really been too fond of Arabic tracks, but I have to say it is well made, maybe just not my cup of tea.
Manjeet Jelhi returns again on “Stop What Your Doing (Chan Varga)” which features the rapping of Stimuli. Remember Tigerstyle sampled Micheal Jackons Billy Jean, PMC has got the same vibe going on here, but the baseline of the traditional sample is cut short, quite smartly I think. The faint guitar flicks are an addictive addition and I’m feeling the rapping by stimuli, the vocals from Jelly come in 1 minute in and really suit the song. Another impressive and catchy song
I’m sure everyone was a little ‘what the fc&k?’ when they saw the words “I am a Disco Dancer” on a Panjabi MC album. Once again it really feels Panjabi MC has gone a long way in legitimizing Bhangra, he has been able to gain sample clearance with the original vocals from Bollywood veteran Bappi Lahiri. You know what? I really like this song, I know I’m not supposed to like cheesy Bollywood songs but Panjabi MC has added a funky 90’s dance beat over the original that works so well. I feel I’ve lost some self respect in enjoying this song, but if anyone could pull it off…
Do it again yeah do it again…..you all know what’s coming right? “Kee Lagh Da” is being touted by many as the next Panjabi MC ‘anthem’, one thing is for sure the catchy hook line, the impulsive tumbi and the thumping baseline will get dance floors packed. Panjabi MC has a knack of leaving a simple dhol beat alongside the vocals, he did in ‘cant stop us’ and it works so well on this track. I’m sure once you heard this song you’ll be singing; ohhh teraa ki lagda?!
Everything is slowed down on “Indian Timing (Jeona Mour)” which sees Panjabi MC sample of Jeona Mour sung by Gulshan Komal. It also sees Panjabi MC’s first serious attempt at MC-ing in this album and anyone who has followed PMC throughout his career would know he is probably one of the best ‘Bhangra’ rappers. This is one of the most controversial songs of the year, everyone wants to know just who or what is Panjabi MC talking about? He begins in 2000 and talks about the journey to present day. It’s quite obvious he is mentioning a number of people who have betrayed him along the way; be it artists/friends (Kray Twinz?) and record labels who have tried to screw him over. “2005, the industry tries, but we still don’t die” referring to his ongoing dispute with Moviebox records during 2005. To be honest this song can be analysed in so many ways, it’s a great record and the way Panjabi MC has used the sample alongside the additional production makes this one grimey song.
Manjeet Jelhi returns on “Panjaban” and for me this is one of the weaker Bhangra tracks on the album, it just doesn’t grab my attention like the rest. Although the lyrics are witty it and does have a message for you girls out there. Decent enough track.
Following on from the chilled out theme I feel as though I’ve been taken back in time to ‘Grass Roots’, were PMC brought out a song called ‘Sweeter’. “Holiday” in my humble opinion is one of the best songs on the album. It’s just pure chill out. The tumbi solo over the tabla and simple keys. Take me on a jet-set holiday…
“Bhet Ke Roh Leh De” continues the theme of songs being a little more laid back, it seems as though the first half of the album was reserved for the full blown Bhangra tracks and the second part being those you just zone out to (in a legal way of course). This track is an interesting concept; PMC mentioned in an interview that the Punjabi vocalist (Gulshan Meer) was actually the tea man at a Punjab studio who had persuaded PMC that he could sing. The rapper (Sharpp) was someone who handed PMC a demo outside a studio in New York. I guess the beauty of this track is, we are never going to hear from any of these guys again, which is a shame because the Punjabi vocals are sick! Sometimes it’s the small details that make a song.
“Boliyan” is next and can be seen as the follow up to the now infamous Kori. It’s not really a patch on Kori or for that not an effective Boliyan. The lyrics for me aren’t original enough, and we’ve heard them before. The beat and general flow of the song is a little off. Maybe it’s just me but this song is surprisingly one of the weaker efforts.
PMC dusts off his mic for “So Can We” which features a sample of the Kuldip Manak classic ‘GT Road’. I guess this song won’t appeal to most Punjabi purists, some people might consider this to be slaughtering a classic. I can see were they’re coming from, but the beat laid down by PMC is gritty and for me the song works well.
Panjabi MC deals with another legendary vocalist this time with the late Amar Singh Chamkilla who was gunned down in the late 80’s. “Kaadha Soorma” features a very old (as you would expect) vocal over a grimy guitar. Not really hitting the right notes for me though.
“Chips” is next and is an all out rap single featuring Panjabi MC and soul vocalist V12. I know what your thinking..oh no rap song! But this song has really grown on me, to the point I’m skipping the whole album just for this single. The beat is smooth; you just have to vibe to this. The rapping and lyrics by PMC is very interesting, he talks about his experience from the beginning to when he found fame through Mundian tu Bach ke. ‘who do you think chased those skinheads from foleshill’, sees PMC refer to the forgotten race riots that occurred in his hometown of Coventry in the 80’s. It’s hard to explain what is so good to about this song, but It makes a change hearing some honest rapping coming from a asian rapper, rather than the bullshit wannabe act we’re all subjected to.
“Pyar” is next and is track number eighteen. It’s another Bollywood track but doesn’t really get me going like disco dancer (cant believe I’ve said that). A decent number, but it’s not the first time PMC has done Bollywood, with his ‘chori chori’ featuring Labh Janjua becoming popular a few years back.
“Night Time” is the penultimate track and somewhat follows on from Holiday, with female vocalist Emelza on the vocals again. It’s a decent track but Holiday any day for me.
The final song is “Aaja Sohniya (Part One)” which has been sung by Kamaljeet Kaur, who also sung the boliyan prior. First thing that hits me is the keys, it’s a throwback to Mirza Part 2, not a identikit copy though. It also is a very good way to finish this album off…following on from much of the second part of this album, its just a song you sit back to. The flute by dev raj jassal really adds a special touch, in a way it also reminds me of Ghalla Gurian. Top tune.
A mammoth 20 tracks, I guess those who doubted Panjabi MC (you know who you are) should really be taking back their words. This is one hell of an ‘album’. I’m sure some songs were cut down in order to fit into the 80minute limit, it just shows how much material Panjabi MC had lined up for this album.
Much of the album is a throwback to the pre-legalized era; were Punjabi MC enjoyed so much success with Grass Roots, 100% proof and souled out. A lot of the production can be classed as simple, but none of the songs seem out of the place, everything fits like a big jigsaw puzzle.
The numerous hit singles; Can’t Stop Us, Panjabi Soldiers, Snake Charmer, Ke Laghda, Makhna, Chan Varga, Jagga. And those are only the full blown Punjabi tracks. I have a number of personal favourites such as Chips, Holiday that go to show that if anyone is able to push together east and west it’s Panjabi MC.
The album cover states that the album was ‘produced on tour’ and you can tell. It’s made to wreak havoc on the dancefloors, not only in the UK but across the world. Panjabi MC is a global brand, but it’s quite heartening that in a way he did not sell short Bhangra by bringing out a commercialized album to fit with the mainstream, he brought out an album and made music that he has been doing for years, and that’s why this album is so good. Even the rapping by Panjabi MC is great, Indian Timing (Jeona Mour), So Can We & Chips all feature strong lyrical content.
Indian Timing is a great great great album and for those who are still wondering whether to buy it, or maybe you have already downloaded it. Go out and support Panjabi MC, because it will be along time before you get to see another Bhangra album filled with 20 tracks that each tell their own unique story.
I don’t think I’ve used the word filler once in this review, I really haven’t felt the need to.
Album summed up in three words: PMC Is Back!
Panjabi MC – Indian Timing gets a 8.5/10