The Bhangra industry outside of Punjab in recent years has been very limited, with the majority of all albums coming out of the UK. North America over the past years has emerged as a new source of Bhangra stars, most notably Jazzy B and more recently Sanj. Although calling Big Suga Kane a bhangra star is something of a travesty! North America has recently delivered one of the most promising singers in recent years in Soni Pabla, and here we have another star in waiting, Bikram Singh. Hailing from New York Bikram has been described as the next Jazzy B! Tigerstyle and Ravi Bal must have seen something in Bikram if they offered their services in producing this, his first proper album labelled – American Jugni.
This album is the Fourth album out this year on the VIPS label; the first three have mean enormous successes with the debut Northern Lights album being the pick of the lot!
Can American Jugni emulate the previous releases from the VIPS camp? Or possibly exceed them? Read on to find out!
Track number 1 and the title track, ‘American Jugni’ or it should be Amreekan Jugni!
Album kicks off with a funky beat accompanied by a low bass line, as the chorus kicks in the flutes tumbi and dhols kick in, giving it a instant Tigerstyle production feel. This track is sure to be a hit on the dance floor. Bikrams vocals are top notch powerful throughout the song, a solid start to the album.
You may have heard this track on the radio a few hundred times over the past few months; it has become a classic tune over the past year through the odd radio play, featuring the fantastic Gunjan, ‘Kawan’. The track kicks off the sultry tabla beats accompanied by a soothing melody. This track sees the harmonious Gunjan going verse to verse with the raw powerful vocals of Bikram. This tune can only be classed as a masterpiece, something which is quite hard to find in bhangra these days. Kawan is a timeless classic; a track which every time you listen to it gets better and better. Prepare to hammer the repeat button.
After you have managed to find yourself past Kawan, on comes the next track ‘Akh Nagni’, with a blend of vaja snake charmers intertwined to make a upbeat bhangra song. This tune leaves you disappointed as it feels flat, giving nothing to grab your attention, although some may like it, it fails to live up to standards set by the previous tracks
‘Bhabi Munda Lambaran Da’ begins with a flue and dhol intro slowly building up to Bikrams powerful voice entering the song. This song has your ‘VIPS’ feel, this song is familiar to Tarak Tarhi which was on Pure Desi Vol 1, and that certainty is not a bad thing! The song has a basic composition allowing Bikram to fully flow on the track, you can see this track doing well at weddings!
Speaking of Pure Desi Vol 1, this track was on the compilation album ‘Chaklo Gandasay’, starting off with a vibrant dhol beat, almost militant style! Vocally Bikram does well on this album, but the powerful does seems to overpower his voice, the track itself is fairly average.
‘Kei Katal Hongay’ is the next track, you may have noticed this one on the medley video, it has a traditional vibe to it, but overall this track does nothing for me.
Moving hastily onto track six ‘SadaDil’, this tune has a vibrant upbeat feel to it, with a vaja tumbi and a guitar going on throughout the song. Bikram excels on this song, which has lyrics which you can instantly recognise and sing along to. This is defiantly a song which requires you to put your feet up, kick back and enjoy!
‘Kushian De Dhol’ erm, not much to say about this, doesn’t really do anything for me, it’s a flat track.
Now earlier in the review I talked about ‘Chaklo Gandasay’ this is the remix, featuring the highly rated Canadian rapper – Blitzkrieg. Now when I first had this track the chorus of ‘you want beef bring it on bring it on’ I thought; now that’s funny! As you get more into the tune you see how lyrically skilled Blitzkrieg is, this remix outshines the original, it adds more anger, venom and aggression into the song. Blitzkrieg has a hook on “Operation Bluestar 84” (those who don’t know google it), in the Bhangra industry many artists have tended to shy away from tackling political issues, some may say they should be kept separate, Blitzkrieg on this track has tackled it head on. Its refreshing to hear such potent lyrics by a rapper. As I said on the e=mc review, UK rappers/mc’s have NOTHING on their NA counterparts. I look forward to hearing more from Blitzkrieg!
Onto the last track on the album ‘Luggian’, this track reflects the dark side on the album with the sarangi/vaja combo giving it a real murky and moody sound. Bikram is brilliant on this track, an unusual type of track which you would not expect from Bikram + Tigerstyle, but very effective.
So, there it is, the real first album from Bikram Singh, for a debut album this is impressive. Its hard to find vocalists out there outside of the Punjab these days but bikram has the rawness and venom about his voice to give you the full blown impact. VIPs records have really found a goldmine here, there are continuing to show up labels such as Untouchables with their quality releases. The album overall has one of the tracks of the year ‘Kawan’, ok so it isn’t about sharab and you cant jump about to it, but it still as effective as any other track out this year! There are a few tracks on this album that were lifeless and flat and some which we have heard before. Value for money? YES, bar Kawan, the other tracks can be described as ‘Solid’ without ever really excelling. A good debut album from Bikram, it’s been refreshing to hear Tigerstyle back into some real production. VIPS records have been a breath of fresh air in the current stagnant bhangra market and I think we all look forward to some more quality releases!