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An Asian journalist's Riddims & Views
Monday, 28 June 2004
An exclusive look into top chart artiste Jay Sean's persona.
By Ashanti OMkar

One of UK's major talents, the inimitable and immensely talented Jay Sean, speaks to Ashanti OMkar, in an exclusive look into his persona. Known for his top 20 hit (Dance with me), with super producer, Rishi Rich and Juggy D, Jay Sean, the young, very good looking, not to mention overall nice guy, has his long awaited single, `Eyes on you', for release on 21st June - support home grown talent, especially from the Asian community, by buying this wicked dance floor track... For more on the man himself, go to www.jaysean.com

Tell us about your background, heritage and culture

I'm a British born Asian, brought up in a Punjabi Sikh household. My parents came over to UK in the 60's and I've grown up in an extended family, living with my parents and grandparents.

What languages do you speak, rap and sing in?

At home, I speak Punjabi with my grandparents, but I rap and sing in English. I also speak a little French and German... and now I feel like I'm writing a CV....

What is the music you grew up on and how has it had an impact on where you are now? How did you get into the 'beat-box' thing - and so wonderfully too?

Beat box was something I never tried to actually learn... I just starting emulating the hip-hop beats that I heard on radio ever since I was 12 years old. When I was in Compulsive Disorder, my rap group, when my cousin used to rap, I'd beat box, and it was just one of those things where no matter where we were we just couldn't keep our mouths shut! Since then I've tried to hone my beat box, studying other techniques, learning new vocal scratches and recently I've learnt to sing AND beat box at the same time.

Tell us about 'Compulsive Disorder' - the rap group you were in.

When I was 12 years old, my cousin and I started getting into hip-hop. It became a way of life for us and within a year or so were heavily into hip hop culture. We wrote our first rap for my uncle who was leaving to go to Canada as it goes! We've still got it on film somewhere, and admittedly it was really, really, really bad. Over the next 4 years we wrote and produced our own music and performed at local community gigs where we tried to establish a name for ourselves and got a taste for live performance. Our high point came when we got on the front cover of a music magazine in Canada!

How have your family reacted to you giving up a career in Medicine, for music?

They've been really supportive. My Mum & Dad always knew my heart was in music & when I came to them & told them I had an opportunity to sign a major recording contract with a major label they have been right behind me. I can't thank them enough for the encouragement they've given me.

What sort of difficulties have you experienced in the industry so far?

Well I've learnt an incredible amount in a short space of time about the industry & people. As far as difficulties are concerned, I've been too lucky so far to complain about things. There's an un-believable amount of hard work which goes into being an artist which I didn't see a couple of years ago. You've got to be very determined & keep focused to be successful which is quite difficult when things go well.

Tell us about your association with 2point9 and Rishi Rich, Juggy D e.t.c.

Well 2Point9 are my Management & Production Company. They are an intrinsic part of all our careers & properly criticise me if I have stepped out of line or am slacking in any way... They really keep me on my toes but praise me when I've delivered a great performance. They have a lot of experience & between us we have proper discussions about how we should move things forward, left or right creatively. Juggy is a great friend & its been wicked going through all of this with him. We've been writing his album & mine and Rishi's album, together for the last 10 months so we're vital part of each other's careers. Rishi is someone who I totally look up to & aspire to have the longevity he's had. I really admire how hard he works & how much passion he still has for music. He's very focused & he's a role model for me.

The new single, 'Eyes on you' - what's it all about and when is it releasing?

"Eyes On You" is released on 21st June & it's basically a dance-floor friendly tune. It's a good link with "Dance With You" & I've also had the chance to show my other side with my rapping etc on the b-side. Hopefully its got a good shot of making the national Top 20 again & if everyone supports then hopefully we'll have another hit which has been broken via our own community.

Tell us about the B Side - 'Me against myself' - it's sounding very Eminem like, in the rapping bits. Are you a fan?

Yeah, I'm a fan of Eminem. I'm also a fan of Naughty By Nature, Fushnickens, Big L etc. I've been rapping since before I was a teenager & it's a massive part of me. I've got a few other bits on their way, which will drop just after the single for the specialist DJ's which showcase what else to come on my album. Look out for a tune called "Who Is Kamaljit?"

What's it like working with Rishi Rich?

Wicked. Although we haven't been in the studio together for quite a while now. He's finishing off production on my album tracks & I finished recording a coupla months ago. Hopefully I'll be back in with him again soon as he's an inspiring guy to be around. He's got such creativity. I've seen him literally writing two tracks at the same time before. It's like as he has one idea, another one comes into his head & he stops & puts it down. He's a phenomenally talented guy.

Tell us about your lifestyle.

Work, work, work nowadays. It's basically studio, recordings, Kiss 100 radio show, studio, interview, studio, media showcase, studio, studio. Its pretty damn hectic but I wouldn't have it any other way. There ain't much time you have for yourself but its all good, this is how committed you have to be if you want to succeed in this game.

Since 'Dance with you', how has your profile within the music world improved?

Totally. I had no profile before "Dance With You". It's mad how big that tune has gone within Asian communities all over the world. 2point9 are getting calls like every hour from places like Australia, Africa, Canada, U.S., Singapore, Malaysia... We've even had an offer to gig in places as far afield as Quatar. Its gone mad in India, I mean absolutely MAD. We've just been asked to go on a 6-date tour playing to over 20,000 people per gig. It's crazy.

Any tours, gigs planned to promote the single?

Yeah, I'm gonna be on the road w/c commencing 21st June with a full live band. I've got a gig at Glee Club in Birmingham on Tuesday 22nd June so look out for that.

What's it like to be in an industry in which you are a tiny minority, it seems like your talents as an Asian, though comparable with many Black artistes are shunned aside?

Not at all... It's funny but there has definitely been a benefit for me being Asian in the last year because the mainstream has focused on our culture for the first time properly. They've taken a look into our community to see what talent is there & its provided opportunity for us. We can't spend time wondering why its taken so long, we've just got to grab these opportunities with both hands & show other cultures what we're capable of. 5 years ago it was a bit different when I was trying to get into the music industry because there was a mind-set from record companies that my colour stood in my way from performing music of black origin. People like Eminem & Justin Timberlake have shown that "colour does not own art."

Virgin Records/EMI- they are releasing your album - tell us about that deal? What's the album going to be called and when is it to be released?

The album is called "Me Against Myself" & is released Mid-September. The album title pretty much reflects what I'm about. I've got the singing & the rapping & sometimes I cant explain to you how I may be able to write a ballad or a rap track which are two styles, which are a long way apart, its just me & what I like. These 2 genres (R&B/Hip Hop) are a big part my inspiration & I don't know which genre is gonna come out each time I step into the studio.

How would you say you differ in your views and music, the messages you are to give to fans, alongside the huge realm of competition out there?

I'm talking about my life, which only I have experienced. This may be related to the relationships I've had with girlfriends, the nights out I've had with my mates or the thoughts which are on my mind when I write tunes like "U Don't know Me" or "Me Against Myself". Hopefully people will be interested enough to check out the album & I can get another opportunity to write a follow up. I've already got some ideas floating around for a follow up album...

Any favourites amongst the new artistes out there now?

I think the Streets are wicked. Lyrical content is heavy. I'm feeling acts like Coldplay & Keane, some of their tunes are bad but on a hip hop level, I'm still up in the Jay-Z, & Emimen just keeps the ideas fresh man. Basically all those artists who are trying to push things forward creatively. That's why I'd say Rishi as well for his production. Some of his stuff in the next few months you guys ain't gonna believe.

Who would you most like to work with?

Adnan Sami. Rishi just got back from working with him in Mumbai last weeks so hopefully I can gate-crash a studio session sometime if Adnan makes his way over to Rishi's West London studio soon. That's really heavy!

Legendary producer, Timbaland - you hung out with him in Southall - spill the beans on the experience.

He came in on an interview I was having with Bobby & Nihal at Radio 1 last month a saw me rapping. He was like "who the f**k" is this kid??" & Bobby & Nihal just let rip on who I was. It was pretty amazing actually I felt really proud to see Nihal & Bobby biggin' me up like that but I had a chat with Timbaland & we exchanged numbers. He then called me the next day & told me to meet him at his hotel & I took him down to Southall to buy some CD's. He spent ?3000 in 60 mins, which wasn't bad going. He's taken a CD of all my demos & asked if id finished my album yet. My mgmt are talking with his at the moment so hopefully there may be something in the pipeline. It was a wicked experience tough, hanging with Rishi & Timbaland & Juggy in Southall, it turned a few heads.

Who inspires you?

Stevie Wonder, Musiq Soulchild, Original Flava, Fushnickens.

What are your musical goals for the future?

Longevity.

What is it like to be a heartthrob - I bet you get mobbed wherever you go!

Nah man, its not like that bad. A lot of the time, people are quite embarrassed to approach us when we're with Rishi & Juggy & our whole crew etc.

Do you have some comments on the Radio shows that have supported you, such as Bobby Friction and Nihal presents and Rishi's Kiss FM show?

Well I co-present Rishi's show with Juggy so I can't really comment on that but all the other presenters like Bobby & Nihal, Adil, Panjabi Hit Squad, Club Asia & BBC Asian Network have been really supportive & it's the reason why people like me, Rishi & Juggy are in the position we are now. Its important that our music flows through these taste-makers first as they are the opinion formers who can break new Asian artists to other communities.

What messages do you have for your fans out there?

Keep representing & supporting because without the support there's no way our community can continue to grow & flourish in the country where a majority of our children & grandchildren will grow up. Respect for support so far - Peace.

Posted by ygeetha at 4:18 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 29 June 2004 12:14 PM BST
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Friday, 25 June 2004
Asian Chart busters in 2003 and the future of Mainstream music in 2004
By Ashanti OMkar

Namaste, Vanakkam, Khush Amdeed, Sasriakaal & Swaagat to all the music loving masses in the UK. Bringing to you the best and hottest music round-up for 2003 when Asian music hit the mainstream big-time!

What can one say, after Asian music had been hiding underground for the last few years, the fans are now supporting it and it has finally hit the surface! With all the music piracy and downloading, it is a surprise that any music has been making the charts, but this year, with all the biggest Asian producers and performers working double time, the music is impacting the masses.

In the true sense of mainstream, the pioneer of Bhangra with Ragga fusion, the legendary APACHE INDIAN, who had made it into the UK Charts with hits like Boomshakalak, Ragamuffin Girl, Chok There and Arranged Marriage, back in the Nineties and is set to make a huge come-back in 2004, with a new US produced album and Single set to drop in January, `Get Loose' - featuring Pras of the Fugees. Since then, it's been a long absence for Asian music, though musicians like the great and multi-talented NITIN SAWHNEY, re-mixer BALLY SAGOO and Tabla and `Drum & Bass' specialist, quirky TALVIN SINGH were making waves with select audiences.

As always, trends seem to start from the USA, with the UK catching on and embracing it, allowing for our multi-cultural unity to shine through. It all started with "Timbaland and his Tumbi", to coin a phrase from the Punjabi Hit Squad. When Missy dropped her phenomenal `Get your Freak on' back in 2001, the sounds of the one stringed Tumbi and Tablas hit the ear of Westerners and also the young NRI population! Then 2002 set the scene with Dr Dre and Truth Hurts followed with `Addictive', where the sampled Bappi Lahari tune, "Thoda Resham Lagta Hai", sung by Lata Mangeshkar was used. This song was extra hyped when Bappi Lahari sued Dre and won the case for Dre not crediting the singer or composer of the sample! The song was a major hit, which still features in dance floors and parties all over the world.

In order to get to the part of 2003 and the hit makers, a huge mention needs to go to AR RAHMAN, the `Asian Mozart', who in 2002 launched the musical `Bombay Dreams' under the Andrew Lloyd Webber banner and had the First Asian Female to make it to the Top 40 UK charts with `Shakalaka Baby' the hit single from the musical. This was sung by the then lead Preeya Kalidas, who is now pursuing a successful acting career and solo music career. In 2002, with Selfridges doing the 23 ? days of Bollywood and the emergence of Bombay Dreams, a dream come true for over 500,000 people who have sent he show and huge money-spinner for the makers! These made the path for all things Asian to be loved by the UK consumers. With Bollywood movies making major profits for distributors, music directors from India, like AR Rahman, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Ismail Darbar are being recognised for their huge talents and their ability to touch the hearts of music lovers everywhere.

So, one may ask, what happened in 2003 that makes it the `coming' of Asian music from underground to over ground? Let's start with the name on everyone's lips, PUNJABI MC (PMC), the man who penetrated the whole of Europe with Bhangra, with all the music channels and radio stations playing his `Mundian To Bach Ke' - Beware of the Boys. No club was complete without this infectious tune, which used a sample of the Knight Rider bass line and had the clubbers going wild and the un-Bhangra savvy ones learning all the dance moves! The tune went into the UK Top 10, indeed a huge achievement for the Asian music industry, paving the way for the rich tapestry of Indian music to reach the masses. Indian music is no longer conceived as Sitars and people dancing around trees, but as a serious set of tunes that blend with the new world and new musical movement! In fact, the latest news about PMC is that he has remixed top starlet Beyonce's `Me Myself & I', on recommendation of her Man, Jay Z (he performed on the remix of Beware of the Boys, giving it his inimitable rap vocals). PMC has won the prestigious World Music Awards 2003, as Best Indian Artist.

The other Happenin' Dude of 2003 was RISHI RICH, with his Rishi Rich Project and his Perivale based 2point9 management (a colourful concoction of Black (Billy), White (Rob) and Asian (Rishi) to make hits). Rishi's achievements over the past 8 years cannot be forgotten, where he started with the fusion of RnB/Hip Hop with Indian Punjabi Music, mainly Bhangra and reached many people with his Remix albums. He teamed up with Veronica, a talented female vocalist and produced a major hit album, `Voices', back in 1998, way ahead of it's time. In the last few years, Rishi started to make it into the mainstream, slowly, with his re-mixes for big UK bands like Misteeq and made a major breakthrough when he found Punjabi vocalist, Juggy D, who featured in the wicked remixes for Southampton sensation Craig David, with his songs Rise and Fall (featuring veteran Sting) and Spanish. Rishi then got together his fine vocalists, multi talented Jay Sean and Juggy D, to make the Asian single `Dance with Me' - Nachna Tere Naal. This catchy tune was bought by so many people with only play from 1Xtra (Big up to BOBBY FRICTION and NIHAL for this - no wonder these guys won the Sony Gold Award within 6 months of launching their specialist show), and Digital Channel U, it went straight to Number 12 in the Pop Charts. Now that is what we can term as a major achievement for Asian music! These remixes caught the ears of major foremost artistes like Hip Hop's finest lady, Mary J Blige, Reggae phenomenon Wayne Wonder, who have worked with him. When Britney Spears asked Rishi to remix her new single with Madonna, Rishi obliged with a brilliant remix, which Britney loved so much that she decided to perform the pure Bhangra remix at the American Music Awards, capturing the ears of millions of viewers all over the world.

During 2003, the Urban Music Seminar happened in the Royal Festival Hall, attracting Thousands of young aspiring musicians; people like Rishi Rich and Radio One's Nihal contributed their valuable time, showing these kids the path to getting into this blooming industry, where all Urban Music came together. The AMA's (Asian Music Awards) were the first of their kind, where the talents from the industry gathered together to celebrate the achievements of these pioneering people. Again, Sri Lankan, Nihal of Radio One was presenting, with co-host Zee TV's Sangeetha. Apache Indian won the prize for best international success; Rishi Rich best producer and best R&B single awards; Bally Sagoo won outstanding achievement award; Punjabi Hit Squad's Markie Mark, a white DJ from Southall who speaks Punjabi, won the commitment to the scene award. Best MC's went to Metz and Trix, the Shaanti Collective from Birmingham won best Asian Underground Act, Best Group went to B21 (watch for their new album and single with General Levy & Dr Zeus, `Shake what Ya Mamma Gave Ya') - and so many more!
Husan hit the club floors, with the massive `Peugeot advert' song - Bhangra Knights - awaiting new music from these guys in 2004. With shows like Second Generation, which hit our TV screens, people like Nitin Sawhney scored the music, with Uzi's rap by UK Apache being a hugely requested tune - we hope it is released as a single in 2004. Watch out for acts like RAGHAV, a talented vocalist and song-writer of Uttra Pradesh descent, born and brought up in Canada, his singles are set to fire up the charts in 2004, with `So Confused' -with 2Play and MC Jucxi and `Can't get Enough' with rapper Iceberg Slimm. Bands like Danish based Outlandish and Lankan Ill Noize are set to make it blow up in 2004; DJ Sanj and Navdeep with their forthcoming releases will be bigger in 2004. Raje Shwari - although she has split from the Timbaland camp and is yet un-signed, is set to come forward in 2004. Deeya, a female singing talent from Norway is also set to storm the music charts in 2004.

Out of so many hopefuls, Windsor born Tim Kash of Sri Lankan origin was picked to be the presenter of the All New Top of the Pops, which appeals to the youth audience - again, a big bang for Asians, as TOTP remains the forefront music show for people around the world! The only way is up, for Asian music! Please support it by buying it and enjoying it legally!

To quote from Markie Mark of Punjabi Hit Squad;

"Asian culture is part of the fabric of British society."

"Asian music is now in the mainstream. It isn't just a fashion. We are building a foundation that will last in the future."

This was an article written at the very end of 2003, with my predictions for the future.... Since this, Raghav has gone into the Top 10 numerous times, Jay Sean has hit the Top 10, Deeyah is releasing her 1st album, the Punjabi Hit Squad are thriving in the Asian Music Scene.

Posted by ygeetha at 4:51 PM BST
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The hottest Valentines tunes in the Asian Music Circuit - 2004
By Ashanti OMkar

As one of the most romantic day of the year approaches, one of the pleasures in life that brings back memories of special moments together is music. With the influx of brilliant artistes in the mainstream in 2004, there are so many tunes that will capture the ears of the discerning listener leave a lasting impression on the minds of music buyers.

In terms of pure romance, the name that strikes the chords of most young ladies is RAGHAV - the young tri-lingual singer/song writer, who has taken the Asian music industry by storm, with his tantalising vocals and true to life lyrics, not to mention his exceptionally good looks. After being in the top 10 for 4 weeks, as the featured singer on the smash hit, `So Confused' with 2Play, Raghav is set to make his solo break with his exceptionally catchy song, `Can't Get Enough'. This song was penned by the man himself, using his real life experiences in true amorous fashion, where he is telling the secret object of his affection that he is in love with her - very much in line with Valentines Day. This song is a combination of an old Hindi song, English vocals, Hot UK Rapper, Iceberg Slimm rapping some sweetness and Raghav giving it his true stamp by singing in eloquent Hindi. This is definitely the record to buy for your Valentine, one to savour for many years to come. Out now in all good record shops.

The boys from the 2point9 crew are hard at work, bringing you the best in slick production and banging tunes. Rishi Rich and his prot?g?s, Jay Sean and Juggy D are now on KISS FM, bringing to you a new show of Asian flavas, once a week, every Friday, at Midnight. This is one show the Asian music lovers will enjoy listening to, just sit back with your loved one and chill out to the vibes flowing with the best in Asian tastes hitting the airwaves. Jay Sean's `One Night' is one song to listen out for, smoothness in his voice and great music, that's what it's all about. Also, Juggy D's album is in completion, with help from Mentor, cousin of Rishi Rich, who has done the Timbaland/Magoo remix of `Cop that S***'. This album is set to hit the streets very soon, with a lot of real Asian music, featuring the music talents of violinist Karthik Raghunathan and vocalist Kumar Raghunathan. The sneak preview sounded good to me and I can say, `The Mentor' is the name to listen out for in 2004, with his dope beats and love for all Indian flavours of music.

The other Valentines specials to go and buy are the album by Dalvinder Singh, `The Survivor', which features many a stunning track, a wide favourite being `Shaunk', which features the Ragga stylings of legendary Apache Indian; `Hai Hai', the single release by Punjabi Hit Squad, featuring the gorgeous Ms Scandalous will be in shops very soon, certainly one to enjoy with a loved one. On discussions with Irfan of www.desutunes4u.com we came up with a joint consensus of liking for his find, new and talented songstress, Sneha Mistry, a young lady with a flair for music.

Last but not least, with the month of March soon coming up and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CSBO), celebrating Indian music with the `Asian Mozart', AR Rahman, tickets are available for the 2 shows on 5th and 6th of March, with special music treats from the man himself. In terms of Bollywood, the album to buy that loved one is surely, MEENAXI (Tale of 3 Cities), the music sits at Number One in all the charts, with AR Rahman working his magic. `Yeh Rishta' is the song to capture that heart, with the vocal talents of Reena Bharathwaj, a resident of Osterley, Middlesex, with the soothing, nightingale like voice.

This was published in The Asian Post Newspaper, Valentine's 2004. Since then, Raghav has has many a top 10 hit, Reena Bharathwaj is cutting an album with the revered Nithin Sawhney (check out my interview with him, Jay Sean and the 2point9 crew are rolling high with hits and AR Rahman is working on Lord of the Rings, having had a mistake ladden but commercially successful run with the CSBO.

Posted by ygeetha at 4:37 PM BST
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GYPSIES - Baila music with a bang
By Ashanti OMkar

`The Gypsies' - a band name synonymous with Sri Lanka and its Sinhalese pop strand of music, which is known as Baila. The music itself has origins from the Portuguese dance tunes, which were brought to the Island of Sri Lanka back in the 1500's. Baila music itself can be classed as `party music'; with it's rhythms and chords faithful to the original Portuguese ones. MS Fernando, known as the Baila King of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), was one of the original propagators of this music, making it popular among the masses.

Officially launched by the father of Sunil & Piyal Perera, `The Gypsies' formed in 1970, with a bunch of talented teenagers, 4 brothers and 3 cousins, Sunil taking the centre stage with his singing prowess and the rest of the band backing with cover music of Western Pop and Sinhalese Baila, playing for various local shows. As time went on, the band evolved, members getting married and moving on into business and with a few changes in line-up, the last 8 years have shown the 6 member strong band - Sunil on main vocals, His brother, Piyal on drums, Dileepa and Cumar on keyboards, Niresh on other drums and Derek on bass. The female vocalists change with the times, keeping this band flexible according to the show required! Corinne Almeida has been a regular feature with the band for years.

The big bang in the Sinhala Pop scene also happened in the 70's, where the influences of people like Clarence Wijeywardena spawned Sunil and his band to start writing their own music - innovative styles, humorous, tongue in cheek lyrics and attacking the social issues surrounding the listeners were the elements that brought the new genre of Sri Lankan Pop music. This is what has given `The Gypsies' a unique standing within Sri Lankan's all over the world and kept the audience rapt.

From 1970 onwards, `The Gypsies' released plenty of hit albums, their latest one being the Re-Mix album of their 70's hits, called `Gypsies Platinum', which is available in Asian music shops worldwide. Prominent world musicians like AR Rahman have noticed some of their major hits, and some of the words `The Gypsies' coined via their music have become slang terms amongst youngsters. The song, `Ojaye', a huge hit was written as a calling to the native settlers of Lanka, the Veddas, this word appeared in the major hit by AR Rahman, from the film Thenali, for the song Injerungo - a song featuring a Sri Lankan man (played by Kamal Hassan) who comes to India to settle there.

In a major `dinner and dance' style concert, sponsored by Prem Sivasamy's "Voice Telecom" and organised by Bala, the Gypsies rocked 500 odd people in Wembley Plaza Hotel, making the show the highlight of the festive season for many a Sri Lankan - to point out, the attendance was not just the Sinhalese speakers, but many Tamil people, North Indians and Even West Indians attended this event and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although the compare was weak in his announcements, The Gypsies front man, Sunil took over the mike and the momentum went up from there! The Gypsies have the capacity to not only draw the crowds but also to keep them partying for hours on end - the music never getting stale and the hits coming one after another! They performed a mix of music, the sounds blending harmoniously and the vocals staying true to pitch. Songs like `Ekatta Kamak Na' (It doesn't matter), a set of Reggae numbers, like Bob Marley's `One Love' and songs by the famous Gipsy Kings were keeping all the young and old on their dancing toes! Piyal Perera performed the famous Tamil pop hit, `Adi Ennadi Rakamma' with ultimate finesse, drumming and singing at the sae time! This in my opinion was the highlight of the evening.


Sunil from the Gypsies told the Asian Post about his views on peace "Although language and religion divide us, my love for us as Sri Lankan people compels me to as that we Sri Lankan's must stick together as one race - we are from the same mother land, let us put an end to this ethnic war." About the music, he says, "We are going to be putting together an album of our Sinhalese hits, sung in the Tamil language, to encourage togetherness". For young bands in Sri Lanka, he says "To stand the test of time, quality is not the only need, but originality is the important concept - when someone listens to your music, they must know your unique sound and writing your own material rather than doing cover versions is key".

To keep up-to-date with `The Gypsies', buy their albums and keep abreast of tours, their official website can be found at: www.gypsies.lk

This article was published in The Asian Post, when the Gipsies were touring in London, January 2004.

Posted by ygeetha at 4:33 PM BST
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The UMF - Does Urban music = Black music? The great debate!
Where were the Asian artistes at `The Prince's Trust's' 1st Urban Music Festival?

By Ashanti OMkar

The term "Urban" - what does it mean? In short, it is: "city dwelling" or "Characteristic of the city or city life ". In my opinion, the genre of `Urban' music is one, which stems from all the minorities particularly in the UK, as it is such a place of immigrants and their cultures, blending with the local ones, mostly in harmony. The `Urban' genre of music, dance and art, in general also stems from the `ghetto' culture of the US, which is fast catching on around the world, giving a voice to those who are of such backgrounds. There are thoughts burning on the minds of many, with the occurrence of so many `Urban' events taking place and capitalizing on the connotations of this word and it's associated selling points One of those events was the `Urban music festival', which was televised on T4, Channel 4 for the youth.

Earls Court was the venue for the new venture by the Prince's Trust, who held the 1st Urban Music Festival (UMF) in London. Known for their famous, yearly `Party in the Park' and for helping youths from impoverished backgrounds, find direction, His Royal Highness, Prince Charles and the Trust got together to arrange the charity event of the season.

The floors of the huge arena were packed with young people of assorted nationalities, the stage was buzzing with various acts and the stalls were full of `urban' targeted marketing and workshops, to inspire the visitors. There were spectacular displays of `urban' art (some excellent, some looking like graffiti) and other things like street dancing. Similar in idea to the Urban Music Seminar (UMS), this venture brought in about 30,000 guests, only this time, unlike the UMS, which is a free event, pocket money had to be spent to attend. Where did the proceeds of the money go? Well, I would guess to fund the all-star American line-up and the spectacular venue, not to mention the charity.

The headlining acts were American, Jay Z, Beyonce, Mos Def and Alicia Keys. Sprinkled into this were Black UK acts like Lemar, Jamelia and Mercury Music Prize winner, rapper Dizzee Rascal. However, the disappointing thing about this was the lack of Asian representation in the line-up of acts - not just of Indian/Pakistani/Bengali origin, but also of Chinese origin. When going out to the clubs or sourcing out the record buying public, Asians are dishing out as much money for urban music as the Black and White people. Asian's have a huge amount of `Urban' talent, but it seems that no Asian acts were signed up to perform at this festival. Why? Is the question I ask!

For my initial questions to the PR Company, on this issue, asking why this `lack' of representation of urban artistes appeared, the reply was:

"Please be assured that Asian artists such as Panjabi MC and Panjabi Hit Squad were approached to perform at The Prince's Trust Urban Music Festival but could not be there due to other commitments. Plus the audience at the event went crazy when Jay Z performed his remix of Panjabi MC's Mundian To Bach Ke on both nights."

For which I replied with the following:

"As there are so many people, such as Raghav and The Rishi Rich Project, who have been in the charts and are very well known, not to mention various 'urban' acts who are not quite on the mainstream scene yet, it seems like the effort wasn't made to get at least 1 representation of Asian acts to cover the Indian or Chinese 'urban' musicians.

Fair enough, Punjabi MC and Punjabi Hit Squad were approached, but there are so very many acts that could have represented, as an 'Asian' act, as opposed to Jay Z performing a Remix track, which is a nice idea, but was the Asian vocalist of the track on stage with him - I think not? Was there not 1 Asian artiste who was willing to participate - this is highly unlikely - especially with so many having the backing of BBC 1Xtra/Channel 4/Kiss FM e.t.c.

To second this, my 1st question to the Prince's Trust representative who gave me my tour was about Taz, thinking it was Taz of Stereo Nation - the representative didn't even know that it was the 'Afro/Caribbean' Taz who performed and gave me a 'cock & bull' story about various 'Ethnic groups' being represented. Well, in this case, I would say that the Asian 'Ethnic' group is a very large one, consisting of Pakistani's/Indians/Bangladeshi's/Sri Lankans and many more and anyway, what about perhaps the Far Eastern Ethnic group, who also contribute to the rich culture of Britain in such a way that they even have China Town in their name!

My questions all stem from the fact that the Asian artistes not sharing the same stage or given any prominence, with the markets emerging as they are. Dr Dre/Timbaland/Jay Z, they have all capitalised on the Asian 'samples' and remixes, but when it comes to seeing someone as talented as Jay Sean or Raghav not classed as an 'Urban' act and not performing over 2 days and many many hours, it justifies the reason why we are asking. No doubt, our readers, as myself, like the music of Jay Z and Alicia Keys, the headlining acts, but I think the point here is that our Asian artistes have been shunned for even small 'black' acts who have not charted."

The reply I got back was form The Prince's Trust itself - in my opinion, not satisfactory, considering there was not one single Asian artiste on the bill this year, but it's up to the readers to make up their minds.

"The Prince's Trust is aware that Asian music and Asian artists are an integral part of urban music and culture in the UK. Artists such as Panjabi Hit Squad, Panjabi MC and Jin were approached to perform at The Prince's Trust Urban Music Festival. Unfortunately, on this occasion, they were unavailable to perform. However, we hope that if the event takes place next year, we will have more Asian artists on the bill, as this would greatly enrich the appeal and experience of The Prince's Trust Urban Music Festival".

On this vein, let me divulge into this subject further. Last year, at the Urban Music Seminar, Ms Dynamite (supposedly a role model for today's youth), made the statement "Black people have had everything stolen from them", when an Asian girl asked the panel about the emerging music of East and West, when Hip Hop and Urban music borrows heavily from Eastern, particularly Asian influences, these days. Ms Dynamite, being half white herself, immediately drew a divide between the Asian people at the seminar and the majority there, who were black. It seems that only `Black people' can claim Urban music for themselves, when in actual fact, the originators of `Urban' style music and living were also Hispanic, Latino & White, people like Rick Rubin, Arthur Baker or Tom Moulton. Is it right to say that there are no Asians from the streets, who are voicing themselves or is it that they remain pushed back and never brought into the surface? Is it fair for such figures to be promoting such segregation between minority groups? Is it not right to say that urban music, over the years has elements of so many types of cultural music mingling, merging, to make this particular sound?

With `White' acts like Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake taking `Black' music and making money out of it, not to mention winning MOBO (Music of Black Origin) awards; with record companies marketing the `White' artiste with more vigour than Black or Asian (e.g, the amount of publicity Jamie Cullum is getting, as opposed to so many of the wonderful `Black' jazz artistes), it is no wonder that `Black' people feel cheated, as so many thousands of talented `Black' artistes do exist. Lisa Maffia, one of the notorious `So Solid Crew', made the comment that "Urban Equals Black", but what she, herself of mixed race, like Ms Dynamite, forgot to mention is that Urban is not just `Black', but an amalgamation of music from the various ethnic groups which dwell within the `urban' culture! Certainly, it looks like The Princes trust followed her words, making the Urban Music Festival equal to "Black Music Festival", with a few exceptions, `White' acts like The Streets.

Much of the music nowadays is borrowed from Asian flavours of melody, beats and bass lines, infused into the Hip Hop, just like Dr Dre, when he sampled the Bollywood song, for Truth Hurts (and got sued for it). Beyonce is using the Middle Eastern/Asian flavours massively (listen to her "Baby Boy" or "Naughty Girl" songs) - so all the music markets are EMERGING together! The problem is the segregation of the races, we, as the BROWN people, should help each other out and integrate, so as a MINORITY, we are a strong race - in the end, the Asians/Hispanic/Black are all shades of Brown! Look at the Neptunes, they are Black and Chinese (or far Eastern) and look at the 2point9 crew - though the Rishi Rich project is Asian, the management team is White and Black! When we have artistes like Timbaland visiting Southall and buying over ?3000 worth of Indian CD's, we can safely say that the urban baton is now shared amongst the Asians and well as Black people, likewise, in the USA, the Hispanics and the such are included.

The Asian people in this country have been building up to the 3rd Generation, where many a talented artiste is out there, the likes of mainstream artistes like Raghav, Punjabi MC, Outlandish, Rishi Rich, Jay Sean, Juggy D, Apache Indian, Punjabi Hit Squad, Bally Sagoo, Nitin Sawhney and so many up-coming artistes, like Trickbaby, Metz and Trix, Pounds and Naira Inc, Deeyah and so forth, so many people who could have had the privilege of performing for this festival. I wonder why they were all left out and why there was not even a lone Asian flag holder.

In my opinion, Urban music is for all those expressing themselves, whether Black, White or Asian; these are people from persecuted backgrounds, who want a voice for themselves - one can't class all Asians as Doctors, Lawyers or Corner Shop owners, as we could say that neither Beyonce or Alicia Keys is from a persecuted/ghetto background, but both come from fairly well off families, who gave them an education as well as allowed them to cultivate their talents, like many an Asian family. The music that these people produce, however, stems form the sub-cultures they are from. I would urge people like the management of Prince's Trust to take this into consideration and make a serious effort to include more of the `other' minorities, not just Asian on the main stage for the future, which from their statement is what they plan on doing. With sponsors of the show, like Kiss FM dedicating a show to Asian music, with Rishi Rich and his movement and Radio One's acclaimed Bobby Friction and Nihal Presents, it is about time the many talented Asian artistes, not to mention UK artistes, are allowed to share the stage and prime timings with the likes of `big' American stars such as Jay Z and Beyonce!

This article was for The Asian Post - the debate goes on, but with emerging Asian talents like Jay Sean and Raghav, there is no doubt that the Asian Styles and Artistes will have more recognition, since they are all hitting the top 10 of UK music charts.

Posted by ygeetha at 4:17 PM BST
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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Bally Sagoo Interview
Marriage, DJ schools, Night Clubs, Bollywood - paving the way with musical ace Bally Sagoo!

By Ashanti OMkar

Bally Sagoo, a man who needs no introduction to our readers, a man who is accredited with many a trophy and a unique Guinness Award winner in his own right - Let's delve straight into this revealing interview and hear about him and his plans for the future.

Tell us about your heritage and roots.

I was born in Delhi India and my parents moved to Birmingham in the 60's...I was 6 months old. I come from a strict Sikh background and speak fluent Punjabi. I even wore a turban for 21 years throughout my school and college days.

What about the community you grew up in - how did you fit in?

I grew up in Balsall Heath in Birmingham, which had a major influence as I grew up with a lot of my black friends and so got into the black music scene fast and loved it ...more so than the Asian music that my parents played around the house. So I was finding it a little weird, as I was more Funk and Soul, my family, Bollywood...that really wasn't cool at all.

How did your family and community react to your choice of career being music?

At the start my parents were not impressed with my too liking of black music and neglecting the traditional Indian music. They also couldn't stand the fact that soon as I came home from school I'd be on my sound system in my room mixing up reggae, soul disco grooves with my mates from school. They were not too impressed with my dress sense either as I was very much into the two-tone clothing style of band such as 'specials, the beat and madness!

What's this we hear about your impending marriage?

My girlfriend Sita and I have decided to tie the not as we have been together now for 7 years. She works with me and runs my label. She is also starring in my latest video 'Aap ki Nazaron Ne Samja'...look out for her!

What are your plans in the near future?

My latest single is called 'Aap ki nazaro ne samja'. This is a beautiful song which Gunjan has vocalised. It's a very old classic song, which we have covered and I think will do well with all the listeners. I think the scene needs a bit of fresh air and this is the track to do it with. Most of this year is pretty full for my shows overseas. So soon after my wedding I will be on the road again...playing in OZ, SOUTH EAST ASIA and then USA and Europe.

Tell us about the creation and rise of Currywood Studios....

Whilst growing up in school I always dreamt of having my own studio, so made my bedroom look like a studio. I put a sign outside my room 'Currywood Studios'. All my early mix tapes feature 'recorded at CWS'..., which sounded very impressive! Today I have 2 recording studios.


How was Ishq Records formed and is it a success?


After being signed up with Sony music I decided it was time that I set up my own label, hence Ishq records came about in 1998. It's great, as one time I sent demos, now people all over the world send me demos. The best thing is about an independent like us is we find new talent and give them a break... hopefully stars of tomorrow. I not only release my own albums but have total control as this was one of the problems I found working with a Major. Nevertheless, I still became the first Asian to have 2 full Indian songs to hit the UK top 40! The artists we work with get the worldwide recognition they deserve. We try to put the albums across as my fans around the globe pick up most CD's with ISHQ banner. We are very proud that names such as Rishi Rich whose album Simply Rich, has become a huge success. I think he is a great producer. And I am glad Ishq Records has played a part in achieving that success for him.Kenz Desai & Gunjan from USA are doing a lot overseas and have become international names.

As someone who is said to have elevated the Asian culture into the mainstream, how do you feel the trend is going?

The trend in Asian music is great at the moment. I do think it's a phase and you won't get a lot of Indian songs in the mainstream. Everyone is rushing to make the charts and soon people will get bored. The thing to make it more positive is to see more Asian artists making English tunes. That will make more impact. Also Asian people better accept the language of Punjabi and Hindi, as the lyrics are more of a serious business to our culture. Bollywood sells more albums than mainstream acts but won't really make top 40. Desi music is getting wider appeal now. We have some great artists coming through. Bollywood isn't everything. What we need is more live acts desperately, like bands and singers. When are we gonna have a Britney or Timberlake of the Desi scene!

Tell us about the Bollywood/International Film work you have done - what was the experience like?

I am India every other week. I have worked on several Bollywood film songs and am working on some new tracks. Also working on mainstream films such as Bend it Like Beckham has opened more work in Hollywood as I am working on a Hollywood feature.

There are rumours of a Nightclub, which you will run - we are excited.

I am involved in opening my own club, as I have spent all my life playing in so many great clubs...that I have decided this is my next venture. We are still finalising some things and hopefully I will open not just one club but a few. The club I am working on will be on an international tip. It won't just be a Bhangra or Bollywood thing but more than that. We are looking at an INTERNATIONAL house of music playing so many various types of music. I am looking at Dubai first then hopefully also India. I will also be looking into London...but the scene overseas has always excited me more as here in UK we are choosier and NOT as open to world music... so look out for the 'Sagoo Bar'.

You also have some plans; to help out young aspiring DJ's in India, with the opening of a school....

The DJ school will open in India. It is not confirmed as yet as to when we will be ready. So many people ask me how they can get started and what to use. I have been in talks for some time in India with some people and we are in talks to set a few schools in various parts of India. But kids will be able to progress from basic lessons onto using computers and remixing too. The DJ scene in India is huge and not just guys but girls wanna be DJ's...so why not!

Everyone wants to be a producer nowadays - what are your views on that and how would you aspire young people into this field of work?

It's really not easy as so many weak tapes are out there. I always say to people really think what you put out and take care on your work. Too many labels are messing the scene up and that's also were they make the artists look worse than what they are. The biggest problem is too many copycats.

From a technical standpoint, how would a young person wanting to break into the business go about learning key skills?

Any young person wanting to get experience will not have an easy ride. But what you need to do is get into a proper studio and work with some good producers. The bedroom studio route doesn't always work for everyone. Make good demos that reflect your ideas. Spend time on your work, this will pay off eventually.

What sort of instruments do you play and use?

With today's technology as long as one can play keyboards then you can do a lot. Always get to know other musicians, as having ideas in your head is the most important thing. I watched other engineers growing up then soon found engineering my own self. Today I do it all my self, from programming to playing to mastering. Things happen over time not over night...

What about the use of Singers?

Finding new vocalists is the hardest thing in being a producer. I get so many demos but not from enough strong vocalists with control of there voice. I usually go to India to get my singers, as there are so many there. Singers who have a Teacher and are properly trained are those who show promise.

There are rumours of a Clothes Label - is this true?

I am in talks with some designers to make some cool stuff for me. Will let you know more soon.

What are your best collaborations and who would you like to work with?

Today I am very proud to have collaborated with people like Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Amitabh Bachchan... many Bollywood singers and many great Bhangra singers. I would love to work with AR Rahaman, Adnan Sami, anyone good really. My dream is to collaborate with Lata Mangeshkar...she would be the icing on the cake for me!

Who are your favourite artistes/role models?

Quincy Jones, Jam and Lewis, Timberland, Dre, RD Burman, and P Diddy, Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, Dr Dre, Michael Jackson, Missy Elliot, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd Rafi, Alka Yagnik, Gurdass Mann...so many....

Remixes - will there be more from you? Tell us a bit about the market for remixes these days.

I am constantly approached for remix work not just here but India and other parts of the world. I only take on what I like and when I have time. Today's remix scene is in a real mess. Too many kids are knocking out weak material which I am amazed gets onto the market by labels that just have no clue...its crazy the stuff you hear on Asian radio and also the videos on music channels!If the media get a bit more strict on what they give airplay to then the viewers won't have to suffer in silence anymore!

You have been in the Guinness World Records book - a definite privilege. Tell us all about how you entered and how it feels.

I was the first to have made the top 40 with a full Indian language song. It has always been one of my dreams to have an all out Indian tune in the charts...I did it twice! I got invited to meet the president of India to congratulate me for achievements.

"Bollywood Star" on Channel 4 this is sounding very promising. What's it all about?

The idea of giving a British Asian a chance to go into a Bollywood movie is brilliant. The show was fun and we had so many people from all over UK who entered. It will be on Channel 4, so that is prime time baby!

On winning the AMA - this is a new thing for Asian musicians - how do you feel about it?

It was an honour winning an AMA and always a pleasure in being recognised for my work. I have a major wall of plaques and trophies and it just motivates me...I am always very much into the quality of my work, which is the reason for my success.

Do you have a message for your fans out there?

Thanks for all the wonderful support, look out for the new single 'AAP KI NAZARON NE SAMJA', and some great new projects unleashing soon...much respect to you all.

Since this interview, for Asian Post, Bally Sagoo has got married to the love of his life, Sita, in an understated, but beautiful ceremony, covered by AFM magazine and Bollywood Star has finished it's hugely successful 1st series run, on Channel 4.

Posted by ygeetha at 3:29 PM BST
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Friday, 14 May 2004
RAGHAV - The singing sensation from Canada
The word on everyone's lips is RAGHAV, the hot new Asian superstar who is set to re-define Asian music in the mainstream, reaching the ears of listeners all over the world, no doubt. Every so often, a voice and talent comes to our ears, changing the face of a certain genre of music and setting trends, this has come in 2004 in the form of 22 year old Tri-Lingual Raghav, who with his multitude of talents is winning hearts and making the Asian music industry very proud.

So, you may ask, what is this song that has hit the music industry so much? The song is `So Confused', an infectious tune, with catchy lyrics and the vocal talents of the unique, smooth voiced Raghav! The tune is a mix of dancehall, R&B and pure melody. It is the first release of 2Play, a garage DJ since 1997, whose real name is Wessley - the man behind the huge club cover of `Turn me on' (sung by Raghav and featuring on the single), which was released into the mainstream and was a top 10 hit for Soca singer Kevin Lyttle. It encompasses the talents of MC Juxci and of course the magnificent vocals of Raghav!

To be honest, Raghav steals the whole show, his tremendous singing and song writing shine through and the song is really know as "that Raghav song which we love"! Raghav's singing encompasses a blend of Western with the `shaking of the notes' which have a subtle and loveable Indian tinge to them, this is the pure beauty of the piece, as it makes it universal to all - young and old, everyone has this tune humming in their head, and proving it's worth as an entry into the UK charts at Number 7! To give Raghav more credit, the whole melody line and lyric writing also belongs to him, his concept being `Should I tell her now or tell her later - I don't want to miss out on this chance for love'. A very real sentiment that many people go through, at least at one point in their lives.

The `So Confused' video is on heavy rotation on all the major Cable music channels, Channel U being one of the most prominent, it has been promoting the song since last October or so, with the song also being played around clubs as far as Portugal! Raghav tells us about his experience on the video: "One day after I had arrived in London from Canada, the video shoot was going ahead! It was all a quick set, I had to perform under pressure, but I am very happy with the outcome."

Now, the burning question on the lips of our readers is, who is Raghav - how did he come to become the singing sensation he is? Well, Ashanti Omkar had the opportunity to meet Raghav and his manager, Nyrone to get an exclusive insight into this very handsome, could I say gorgeous youngster with a fascinating personality and much eloquence, who was no doubt going to be the star for 2004.

With parents of Uttar Pradesh descent, Raghav Mathur was born in Toronto, Canada and brought up in Calgary, West Canada. A place with very few Asians, his Parents instilled the balance of East and West, which included many visits to India and lots of Bollywood movies. In the words of Raghav, "One day, I was about 4 ? years old and we went to visit my Masi, the in car stereo system was broken and kept playing the same song, `Hey Apna Dil' by Dev Anand. This song repeated all the way and at the end of it, I had pretty much memorised it. When we reached the house, I was singing it and that's when my Parents realised that I had an interest in singing. A few months later, I was sent for music classes with the great Guru, Nishi Kant Bali."

Raghav tells the Asian Post,"I got into Hindustani Classical music, as a result of my Mother's gentle encouragement. She never forced me into it, but gave me lots of opportunity to listen to the music and fall in love with its sweet sophistication, the concepts of Raags, which evoke different moods, the whole ocean of classical music just stayed with me throughout my young days and no doubt will remain in my heart and singing forever."

About his gurus, Raghav feels strongly that they have helped him along the way, "As a child, I was able to imitate the vocal styles, mimicking the sounds of my Gurus, Pundit Mani Prasad and Nishi Kant Ji. This helped to carve my voice into what it is today." One question I always ask my interviewees, if they have an Indian Classical background is what their favourite Raga is, Raghav's reply was "The Raag Yeman, as it is the one that I learnt first and remains my favourite over the years, for it's sweetness and versatility." Raghav began to perform all around Canada, from a very young age and captured the hearts of many a discerning listener as he grew up.

I asked him about how he got into song writing, his reply was, "At the age of 15, I started to jam with lyrics, I started to put together song words out of real life scenarios, definitive stories about my life and the lives of the people around me, then putting the lyrics to melody, that's how it all transpired." He tell us that his musical influences are: "Michael Jackson, I would almost faint before the concert was over; Stevie Wonder, vocally the greatest singer on the planet, in my book; veteran singers Indian singers like Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi are also a big influence for me. In fact, I was hooked on Amitab Bachan movies and the songs in them. AR Rahman is also one person who I would love to work with, as he is the definitive in terms of music genius." Raghav is a humble chap and didn't mention that he has won many accolades for his lyrical talents, the main one being: Top original song in 1998 as voted by the National Songwriters Association Of America. Indeed a huge achievement for someone so young.

4 years ago, Raghav had to make a big choice. He was being offered scholarships in the USA to develop his huge potential. Raghav, a na?ve 18 year old was 3 days away from moving to New York to study drama, when he listened to his heart, a choice he will never regret. He chose to go to LA, where he was coached by Seth Riggs - when asked about Seth, Raghav proudly tells us, "Seth is the genius who trained up Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Madonna, in the vocal arena. He is a mastermind in terms of vocal styles and he really knows how to work with someone's voice. He is an addictive personality and as it's been a few years since I had learned with him, I want to go back and learn more - music is an ocean and he is definitely one to teach me further!"

When asked about his style of music, Raghav tells us, "I would not like to bracket myself into a particular style, my music is from my heart and like myself and it is of an "Urban" nature, a fusion of many styles, Indian, Reggae, R&B, Hip Hop. One couldn't pinpoint the exact genre, but the blending of styles allows for people to feel the music. That is my aim, for people to feel the music and bond with it." He tells us, "I want my music to be loved by various audiences, like my solo release in February, `Can't get enough', it is a mix of Hindi and English, where we explore different elements incorporating the languages, breaking the barriers, the song is a heady mix of Hindi Film Music, through a sample from the movie Aarpaar, my vocals in English, British rapper, Iceberg Slimm performing on it and adding my voice singing a Hindi part too. The producer of the moment, Mushtaq worked on this song, `Cant get enough' and on listening, you can see his technical brilliance."

In conclusion, Raghav is one to be supported by us all, go buy the CD, because talents like his are rare to come by and with his forthcoming album which I personally am hoping will drop this year, Raghav tells his fans: "I will not cut corners on any elements of this album, I will not disappoint you, as I plan to pour my soul into this venture. I ask all my fans to await the album with high expectations, as it is going to be a release of A&R Records, a record company with decades of industry experience and the album will show all my musical passions, all the different aspects of music that I can possibly project at this point in time." Last but not least, Raghav adds: "I would like to Thank all the people who have supported the track and I truly hope to keep you as my fans for years to come, providing you with quality music. I want to take my music all over the world and thank everyone for showing me love. It is truly inspiring."

Having seen Raghav perform live at The Notting Hill Arts Club, for Radio One DJ, Nihal's excellent "Bombay Bronx" residency, I can say again that this guy is pure talent live! His voice resonates and his 'shakes' of the notes really bring out the goose bumps. He's also a huge hit with the ladies, that's for sure! I can't say enough good things about this guy!

Most of this was an article written for The Asian Post and published when Raghav's 1st single, with 2Play (So confused) hit the UK charts at Number 7. He subsequently had a huge hit with his own single 'Can't get enough', which was in the UK top 10 at the same time as his 2Play record! His next collaboration, with 2Play and Uk Rapper, Naila Boss, will be out very soon, entitled - It can't be right! Watch out for his solo outing and album in the summer.

For more on Raghav, go to:

http://www.truedirection-aandr.com/

Listen to Raghav with the guys who 1st showcased him:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/urban/bobbyandnihal/

Posted by ygeetha at 10:45 AM BST
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Thursday, 13 May 2004
Ragams in Tamil Film Music featuring SINDHUBAIRAVHI RAGA
Indian film music touches the masses in huge magnitude; this is done by making the music accessible to the un-trained ear. The way the resourceful music directors of South and North India did this was to `dilute' the Classical strains of Carnatic and Hindustani music and make it appealing to people, with inventive orchestration and use of Raga and Rhythm. Over the years, they chose to take the Ragas/Scales, of which there is, an infinite choice and made melodies out of them, which rarely resemble the classical forms.

From the Tamil movies, there is no doubt that that man who not just knew Carnatic music inside out and utilised it in the most dynamic fashion but the one who took Western Classical music also, and created an amazing fusion is Maestro Ilayaraja. Originally a band guitarist, he has blended Mozart and Bach, with the trinity of Carnatic music, Thyagaraja, Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri to make a sound which had enlightened and delighted people all over the world. Jumping from Ilayaraja, AR Rahman is the next genius to arise from Tamil Nadu, a pianist trained in Western Classical music and having learnt Carnatic music, AR Rahman is doing a splendid job brining Occidental music to the mainstream. These two Tamil legends have created a new sound of music which is highly revered all over India, AR Rahman being the one who crossed over to the highly critical North Indians as well, he is now in the mainstream, having brought Bombay Dreams to the masses of UK and going to New York. He is also working on the Lord of the Rings musical, with Finnish folk group, Varttina.

So, what are examples of these fabulous fusion pieces, one may ask. Let's start with Ilayaraja's first film album, Annakili. He created a huge hit, a piece called `Annakili Unnai Theduthe', using the Ragam Sindhubairavhi. He successfully touched the hearts of listeners by fusing the styles of South Indian folk music with a Carnatic Raga, delighting the ear of so many. Thus, the phenomenon of Ilayaraja imbibed the masses. Ilayaraja went on to use the Raga Sindhubairavhi in many songs, such as `Maniye Manikuyile' from Nadodi Thendral and `Enna Sattham Intha Neram', from Punnagai Mannan as it is the more `film friendly' Raga, in comparison to its close counterpart Melakartha Thodi. Ilayaraja did a very classical piece in the Raga Thodi, which was a massive hit, from the 80's classic movie, Varusham Padhinaaru, the song being `Gangai Karai Mannanadi'. I can't say that any other music directors have made attempts with Thodi Ragam since then.

AR Rahman has given the Raga Sindhubairavhi a wonderfully refreshing, modern appeal. He used the Hindustani Raag Bhairavhi (it is a close form of Carnatic Sindhubairavhi) for the song `Taal Se Taal' from the Subashi Ghai film, Taal. This song and it's remix uniquely emphasise the vocal rhythm Thaanam syllables by Sukwinder Singh, which are otherwise known as Konnakol, done in Hindustani fashion. This added an interesting element to it. ARR added a masterpiece to the film Sangamam (rumoured to have done the music for this movie for free, helping out his Brother in Law, also named Rahman, the hero of the film). This was the song `Margazi Thingal Allava'. It is a truly spectacular number, which evokes feelings of sadness and joy alike; following the Classical patterns of the Sindhubairavhi Raga. S.Janaki sings the female part, which starts with a Hindu Thiruppaavai sung by teenager, Madhumitha, which then reaches a Climax of vocal Jathi. Carnatic singer, Unni Krishnan then starts the male part, with a fantastic hook, blending the true nuances (Gamakas and Brikas) of this rather spectacular Raga! ARR also blended Sindhubairavhi for a pathos piece, from the movie Kandukondain Kandukondain, the song, `Enge Enadhu Kavithai' which has a Pallavi in Sindhubairavhi, then transcends into the Raga Lataangi, ending in a peak of the Swaras of Keeravani Raga. This is another stunning piece, which encompasses a variety of instruments and harmonies.

There is so much more to this wonderful Raga - listen and you will be amazed....

This was an article I had written for Veena Magazine - a wonderful Asian Arts publication, Winter 2003.

Visit them at:

www.veenamagazine.co.uk

Posted by ygeetha at 4:48 PM BST
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Mental Dependence - The Educated Asian Woman's Dilemma
As part of the Tongues of Fire season, "The Nehru Centre" in Mayfair was the venue to one of the starkest and most realistic Asian domestic violence exhibitions one would encounter. With the endorsement of top female celebrities such as Nandita Das (of the "Fire" movie fame) who are coming together to support a cause that affects many of us in some way or the other, "Behind Closed Doors" brings to light real issues faced by even the most modern of Asian women, today.

The exhibition was created with the talents of brilliant, outspoken, female Asian photographer, Poulomi Desai and organised by Barnados, as part of the Phoenix Project in Bolton. It explored the harrowing ordeals of many Asian women, who have spent their lives miserable, hurt and injured and told the stories of some of them, in form of a series of pictures and a short film, encapsulating the realities of the situation and hoping to draw out those Asian Ladies who are suffering in silence.

Educating people on where to turn to was one of the main aims of the gallery and question and answer session, and as with the National campaign on domestic violence, bring out the people in the minorities, particularly the Asians (whilst domestic violence sees no boundaries of race and colour, Asian Women over time have been in the pool of targets, over the generations) amongst us to talk about their ordeals and how they have come out of these situations, going on to lead productive lives, without the stigmas of society attached to them.

Domestic violence, which includes verbal abuse, physical abuse, incest, and so much more, is a very real issue. Many Asian Women, who are well educated and will set up in life, tend to build up a mental dependence on the Husband they marry or the In-Laws they are bound to or in many cases, the closed-minded Asian societies they have to live in, hence stopping themselves from getting themselves or even their children away from potentially dangerous home situations. This is a real incentive to change the situations of so many beautiful and successful women, who put their lives on hold to keep the people around them happy.

Of many of the hard-hitting images portrayed, the mannequin of the woman in bridal attire, who had hanged herself, was one of those, which sent a chill through one's spine. The sadness of the situation is that many women choose to take their lives, instead of finding the strength to confront the issue or even try to get away from the abuser/s in question and make new lives for themselves. The photographic images were in the realm of caged birds, cigarette burns on the bodies of these beautiful women and one particularly disturbing one, of a woman not able to get away, with the wording "if I can't have you, no one else can" - showing the mentality of abusive men, if particular, who in spite of the distress they cause these ladies, will try and make their lives hell if they get away.

These are some of the issues that the Asian society faces today, where all the good things are high-lighted in the media, but as the aptly entitled exhibition, `behind closed doors', a lot of painful abuse is going on, which is left un-touched.

Let us all hope that more and more women come out of these situations and go on to lead lives they deserve, filled with love and happiness.

Posted by ygeetha at 4:34 PM BST
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