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.