Saturday, 29 November 2014

Strictly Come Bollywood Dancing

Strictly Come Dancing, BBC 1's Saturday night family show, is going round the world this week. The couples are dancing to music which reference different countries including Austria, America and Amsterdam. The pro dance is to be a big Bollywood number in collaboration with Bolly Flex. Two of the pros, Janette Manrara and Iveta Lukosiute have danced Bollywood before when they were contestants on So You Think You Can Dance. 

I'm curious as to what music will be used for the Bollywood number. Hopefully the BBC has learnt from Carmen and will stay away from old cliches like Jai Ho and Panjabi Mc's Mundiya To Bach Ke. Representing Bollywood on prime time television is a huge privilege and a good track could make all the difference.

No Bollywood songs, or music with a Desi touch are being used for the main couple dances. But if Trent, Pasha, Brendan or any other Strictly pros want to do a Latin or Ballroom routine to some South Asian music, here are some of my suggestions.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Tigerstyle - Kawan 2 Remix EP

Tigerstyle are getting ready to release the Kawan 2 Remix EP, which is out tomorrow. Bikram Singh and Gunjan's reinterpretation of their own modern classic has at last received the Digi-Bhang treatment.

The remix version of Kawan 2 is a great EDM track. It has depth, sparkle and three impressive drops. However, for me the original Kawan remix works better than the remix of Kawan 2. The vocals and lyrics are an important in both versions of Kawan. When Bikram and Gunjan sing together, it's gorgeous. But in this remix of Kawan 2, the vocals were cut substantially and I missed them.

The remix has a video. Its dark mood mirrors the track and the two work well together. It is impressive and simple, two things other Bhangra producers should be aiming for in their videos.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Looking Back At Desi Beats on BBC Radio 1

BBC Radio 1 will broadcast the final Desi Beats show early tomorrow morning. The show has been broadcasting for over 12 years. During that time, the show withstood changes in schedules, presenters and music trends.

Put together by the BBC, Bobby Friction and Nihal won a Sony Award a few months after the show launched. When it broadcast from 9pm on a Wednesday evening, the show had more listeners that the whole of Sunrise Radio or the BBC Asian Network. Bobby Friction and Nihal even launched their own compilation CD. Through the listen back feature the duo had fans all over the world.

Thanks to the brilliant Wayback Machine, track listings are available for many shows including the early ones. It's like opening a mini time capsule. Not only is it interesting to see what music was played at the time, but also which artists are still around and making music today. Tigerstyle, DJ Swami, and Tarli Digital all featured on the first show and are still in the industry.

Friday, 15 August 2014

David Starfire - Transformation

David Starfire, whose grandfather was a famous horn player in New Orleans, has released a new EP. Transformation was inspired by transformational events in David's life.

There are four tracks on the EP featuring 15 exotic instruments including the zurna, koto, sarangi and daburka. The theme is psychelic world music meets hip hop with a lot of bass. There is an exploratory vibe to Transformation. The first track on the EP, Darshana, is particularly interesting due to the structure and changed is pace. 

Transformation has been released on David's own label Amrita Recordings and is available to download free for three weeks here.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Rimshox - Ambersariya

Rimshox has put a new track on his SoundCloud page. The Newcastle based producer has remixed Ambersariya from the film Fukrey. Rimshox has kept Sona Mohapatra's vocals intact and added his own effects over the top. The remix works well. It has a light summery quality to it with a chilled out vibe.

Rimshox has promised a download, so hopefully it will be out soon.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Take Five: Unreleased Tracks

It's an ongoing joke that the release dates of Asian music albums, especially Bhangra ones, suffer from Indian timing. But some of them never even get properly released. Here are five tracks that have never been officially for sale.

DJ Vips - Udeekan

Udeekan was the title track to Party Time 2 by DJ Vips, a follow up to the successful Party Time. Like many Bhangra albums, the release date got pushed back until it just disappeared. The track got huge amounts of airplay back in 2006, but it's still a mystery as to why it was never officially released. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Lovely & Monty Show Support For Germany

Lovely and Monty, two brothers who make German Bhangra, are once again supporting German football. The two taxi drivers have release a song called Diesmal...!, which states that this time it's Germany's turn to win the World Cup.

Like their last football song, Oh Germany We Love You, Diesmal...! is in German but definitely has Punjabi roots. There is a huge novelty value hearing a German language Bhangra song. I like how the duo decorate themselves in the colours of the German flag, even incorporating it onto the turban.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Take Five: Goodness Gracious Me

Tonight the legenddary codeey show Goodness Gracious Me returns to our screens to celebrate BBC Two's 50th birthday. Along with great characters such as Smita Smitten and Mr Everything Comes From India, I always looked forward to the songs. Here are five that have stuck in my mind. 

Kiss My Chuddies 

From the Bhangra Muffins  Kiss My Chuddies was an original song from the very first television episode. It summed up everything about the Asian rude boy of the time. Shot outdoors it was visually funny and contains the unforgettable image of a teletubbie kissing Kulvinder Ghir.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Circle of Sound Release Anti Hero

Circle of Sound, made up of sarod player Soumik Datta and drummer Bernhard Schimpelsberger, have released their second album. Anti Hero features special guests Nitin Sawhney and Anoushka Shankar.

The release is five tracks long. It's a mix of Indian music melded with contemporary vocals and electronics. In an interview with the Independent Soumik said "I don't think there's been another album out there like it. This is not chilled-out lounge music. It is an anti-chill-out album with edge."

Included with the tracks are lyrics and some impressive artwork done by Soumik himself. According to the Circle of Sound Facebook page "The artwork carries the idea of the album. It shows the anti hero in his world, in free fall. A world with nothing to hold onto. We wanted to move away from the conventional approach of doing artwork with instruments but to offer the listener a visual gate into our music."

Download Anti Hero from It is free to download, but you will need to share on Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Talal Qureshi - Tough Love

Talal Qureshi, whose music was called the sound of the future by Bobby Friction, has unveiled the first track from his upcoming EP. Tough Love is from Sound Booth Time Machine and is up on Sound Cloud as a free download.

Tough Love is a funky track with broken vocals. It's groovy, catchy and doesn't try too hard. There's a laid back, retro feel to Tough Love but it still has a modern edge.

Talal says: "Download this, share the love, put it everywhere and if you're an artist or a rapper, feel free to use it on any non profit projects. Just remember to give me credit hope you enjoy it!"

Karsh Kale Remixes Aiyo Ji

Karsh Kale, who was invited to perform at the White House for President Barack Obama, has released a remix of Salim Sulaiman's Aiyo Ji on his Sound Cloud page. The original is from the film Satyagraha and features the vocals of Shradha Pandit.

There is something uplifting and old school Asian Underground about the track. The remix doesn't drown out the original track and Karsh knows when to let the vocals shine through. There was another remix on the Satyagraha soundtrack, but it was bad house track. I rarely like a remix as as much as the original, but this track is as good as or even better than the original version.

Salim Sulaiman and Karsh Kale are scheduled to perform together at this year's WOMAD festival. This track should go down well with the crowd.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Sakina - Shartaan

I'm always complaining about the number of female artists in the Desi music industry compared to the amount of male ones. So when Tigerstyle announced they were producing Sakina's debut single, I was was eager to hear the result.

Out tomorrow, Shartaan is big and bold. It's got enough tumbi in there to keep bhangra fans happy and has a summery feel to it. Sakina has some powerful vocals which work well with the signature Tigerstyle bass. It's catchy and perfect for the dancefloor.

In the press release Pops said "new female artists contributing to the UK bhangra scene is definitely what's needed." Couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Another Listen of Bikram Singh's Kawan

Bikram Singh and Tigerstyle are getting ready to release Kawan 2. Featuring the vocals of Gunjan, it's a revamp of the song that first appeared on American Jugni in 2005.

It's been nine years since the original Kawan, or "Kaone" as I now think of it, which is almost a lifetime in the bhangra world. This was in the time of myspace, before twitter and youtube had taken off. There is a whole generation of music fans who were probably too young to remember the impact the song had. Bikram wrote the lyrics to Kawan himself and his career took off with it.

Why was the song such a huge hit? Bikram told me in an email: "It had to do with a lot of factors. The melody, the lyrics and Gunjan's voice all contributed to a great song that people continue to enjoy. The concept of two separated lovers thinking about each other and providing reassurance to each other is really universal. We can all relate to it one way or the other."

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Asifa Lahore Covers Tum Hi Ho

Asifa Lahore, a DJ and British Asian drag artist, has released her LGBT cover version of Tum Hi Ho. It is her response to those who asked her to do a serious topic, and focuses on the visibility of ethnic minorities in the LGBT community.

Tum Hi Ho is suited to the subject and is sensitively covered. The video tells the story in a simple way that is easy to follow. The project was crowdfunded and some of the people starring in the video had never acted before. Subtitles translating the song make sure the point really gets across.

This cover version of Tum Hi Ho is up on Asifa's SoundCloud page as a free download.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Dipps Bhamrah - Sachi Muchi

Dipps Bhamrah has released Sachi Muchi. It is the second of 12 songs that the BBC Asian Network presenter is releasing as part of a year long project. 
Featuring the vocals of Surinder Laddi, the track is traditional Bhangra love song. Sachi Muchi  is inspired by Punjabi Hai Ni Mera Balam by Shamshad Begam. Sachi Muchi has a different feel to Twerking Jugni, which was the last month's release under #EmbraceTheMadness. It is easy on the ear, works well off the dance floor and will appeal to those who like their Bhangra a little more sedate.

Disappointingly there is no video for the track, but I am impressed that it has been released on time!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Valentine's Day Downloads

Like many other industries, the Desi music scene has learnt the power of a special Valentine's day tie in. Here's a round up of some of the songs released to celebrate the patron saint of bee keepers.

Parichay - Tu Hi Zindagi   

Parichay has been dropping hints about a Valentine's day surprise and this one doesn't disappoint. An acoustic version of Tu Hi Zindagi, which appeared on All New Everything, this song is slushy and romantic. Parichay can produce powerful gorgeous vocals and acoustic tracks like this really show them off. The original version was one of my favourites from All New Everything, but I think I like this one better. Download here.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Sharaab - Deva Review

Sharaab, a recording and mix engineer who has worked with Karsh Kale and the Midival Punditz, has released an EP called Deva. 

Deva is five tracks long and is the follow up to Asura. There are three original tracks and two remixes by Spectik and Jamal Rusk. The EP is typical of Sharaab's unique style. Lush deep chords, sympathetic bass, hints of darkness and beats in all the right places.

The EP opens with Yantra Force. It's a strong, powerful piece with tribal elements and a slightly sinister edge.

Fake Love is my favourite track on the EP. Featuring a Lata Mangeshkar vocal sample from Mughal-e-Azam, Fake Love is hauntingly beautiful. Right from the very first note the track draws the listener into its melancholic boudoir. I like the way the vocals have been edited and they mix seamlessly into the modern backing. The production is so clean, it's hard to believe they were sung and recorded over 50 years ago. The Spectik remix of Fake Love is good, but it somehow lacks the raw emotion of the original mix.

There is a middle-eastern feel to Wasteland. It starts off as a simple groove based track then evolves into something completely different. The contrasts in the track work well and I love the bass that comes in towards the end. The Jamal Rusk remix is an energetic take on the track.

Verdict: Sharaab is highly talented at what he does. Although Deva is short it is well produced and engaging. Perfect for the last of the dark winter nights.

Friday, 7 February 2014

One Man and His Dhol: Interview with TDF's Johnny Kalsi

Image courtesy of Asian Arts Agency
The Dhol Foundation are a group of drummers known for their very loud music. Their beats have a wide appeal and always get everyone on their feet dancing. I was lucky enough to get the TDF experience when the Asian Arts Agency got them to play in Bristol. An old Greek Revival style church seemed an unusual venue for a TDF gig, but no more unusual than other places they have played at including the Olympic Stadium, WOMAD and the Singapore Grand Prix.

After the concert, I caught up with the band's main man Johnny Kalsi.

Why is the dhol so appealing, both as an instrument to play and to watch?
I think it's the dominance, the loudness and the sheer power of the instrument that makes it appealing. I think kids love to make noise, like with a wooden spoon on a patila (pan), that's quite appealing to kids. That didn't go away from my head. I wanted to bang things, so I knew I was going to be a percussionist. My parents were Gurdwara goers where the tabla came first. I then went the obvious route of kirtan. I then took it down another path altogether. The dance element was in my blood for some years and I never let that go.

Out of all the people on stage with you, just one was a woman and she was playing the violin. Why do you think that dhol playing is such a dominant male dominated thing?
I did try and change this. I did try and get lots and lots of girls involved in playing dhol. I don't have any issues of girls playing dhol, I don't discriminate in any way shape or form. If any of them wants to pursue it and maintain it, it would be great. But the problem is their parents won't allow them to play on stage unless it's with a big ensemble. Unfortunately that's probably the only reason that there are no lady dhol players in the band. Plus we tour abroad, there are not many girls that would be allowed to come away with us.

Surely the issue isn’t about touring abroad, it’s just the men she's hanging out with?!

No! It's the parents! They wouldn't allow it. If my daughter was planning on going away for a couple of weeks with a band to play the dhol I would be unsure about it. There would be an element of I'm coming with you!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Sharaab Releases His Back Catalogue

Sharaab, a recording and mix engineer who has worked with Karsh Kale and the Midival Punditz, has put some of his back catalogue up on bandcamp as a "name your price" download. It's to celebrate the release of his EP Deva on the 10th February.

Up for download are Sharaab's first solo albums Infusion and Evolution along with two albums made with The Fabric. It's a great opportunity to get your hands on this talented producer's music. I guarantee it is unlike anything you have ever heard before. Poison, Nosering and Indian Rain are my favourites on Evolution. On Infusion, Bidrohi and Earth and Sky are worth a listen.

You can download the four albums here.  Check back for Sari-Clad Speakers review of the Deva EP soon.


Friday, 31 January 2014

Dipps Bhamrah - Twerking Jugni

Dipps Bhamrah has released Twerking Jugni. It is the first of 12 songs that the BBC Asian Network presenter is releasing as part of a year long project. 

The track features vocals from Dipps' dad K.S. Bhamrah from Apna Sangeet. It's a reworking of Jugni, which was a huge hit and still gets played at weddings. This modern version is catchy, but because the original track is so well know it sounds like a remix rather than a reworking. The video is simple and I liked the glimpse into Dipps' old school record collection.

Dipps will release another 11 tracks this year in different styles on the last Thursday of each month as part of a project called #EmbraceTheMadness.  Many artists go months or even years without releasing new material, so I'm interested to see how this project goes and if all the singles are released on time!