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.

The show was known for finding new artists and launching their careers. Raghav, Jay Sean and M.I.A all appeared on the show before they hit the charts. This was in an era before facebook, myspace, youtube or SoundCloud. Without social media, it was harder for artists to get their work heard or fans to listen to it.

The most important thing the show did was to normalise Desi music and bring it to an international audience in a way that no other radio station managed to do. Bobby Friction and Nihal had many listeners from non-Asian backgrounds. The show smashed stereotypes and proved Asian music was much more than just Bollywood and Bhangra.

Thanks for the music Radio 1. I won't be awake at 2am, but I'll be listening back for the last time with a tissue at the ready.

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