Dipps Bhamrah returns with a brand new blog - This time discussing the Top 5 most shocking moments in UK Bhangra - Those moments that left the media & the industry speechless!
5. The release of Pump Up The Bhangra
3 decades ago the global landscape of music was very different to today. For those born after 1990 you’re really gonna have to try and visualize and understand the shocking magnitude of this Bhangra event because in this time, it was madness. In a nutshell, if you wanted to make music 30 years ago you had to be able to play an instrument and make interesting sounds using the various tool available. There were no computers, no plugins, nothing but instruments and creativity. Now with the world advancing in technology so did the music world and acoustic instruments were being joined by a new wave of electronic instruments like keyboards and sound modules. One of these tools was a device called a sampler and the The New Pardesi Music Machine used it in such a way, it changed Bhangra music forever.
Sampling is a process of taking something that already exists, recording a small part into this sampler machine and then you are ample to use that recording/sample however and wherever you wanted to. It was revolutionary because never before was possible to recreate something that already existed. Now I have to say that the first sampling credit goes to Deepak Khazanchi in Bhangra music where he used voices he recorded and used a part of it to sample back into his own track. Tracks like Holle Holle, Heers’a album Diamonds from Heera were the introduction. Pardesi came along and took sampling to shock new level causing a craze among fans and carnage within the industry.
Now the real story of how the track Pump Up The Bhangra was made came from a gig which Pardesi were at in the mid 80’s and the saw a DJ from spinning Bhangra tracks and mixing in big pop tracks of the time. The music guys heard this and thought ‘how about if we produced a track like a DJ mix?’ Thats how the concept came about but its the final product that was the shocker, because Pardesi didnt just sample their own music, they sampled anything and everything they felt they needed whether it belong to them or not. Can you imagine a world where your own music was your own property and then you here your sounds and voices on another bands song? How is that even possible? How can Malkit Singh’s voice in full appear on this Pardesi track? How did Pardesi turn ‘Pump Up The Volume’ into ‘Pump Up The Bhangra’? The scratching, the train noises, the band singing lines from other bands songs ... it was then Bhangra blasphemy of the highest order!
The bands and musicians were up in arms and Pardesi really were public enemy number one. The audacity and arrogance to make a track that wasn't theirs, who did these guys think they are? Some musicians hated Pardesi on a personal level as they felt that the band was taking the micky out of their work. But as I always say and will continue to say ... the audience makes and breaks a song and boy did the audience love the creativity of Pump Up The Bhangra. They were given all their favorite songs in one 10min non stop song and they loved Pardesi for it. Nothing like this was ever heard of before and they became international superstars. The crazy thing was they would recreate the song live on stage with the same samples which was mad in itself because a band could only have like 7secs of sample time at any one time and Pardesi were somehow doing so much more.
It was the first big shock in Bhangra and Pardesi not only opened, but kicked down and burnt the door to what was musically possible. Let face it ... the ones who hated it eventually embraced it!
4. Lehmber & Dr Zeus The Original Edit
Rewind to 2003 and that amazing album Unda Da Influence. Enough said, as we all know how the album changed the landscape in the new millennium. Dr Zeus became a household name, Kangna was an international success and a new singer became the hottest commodity in Bhangra, Lehmber Hussainpuri. Lehmber was first heard on Muktar Sahota’s Time Out album and his work on Unda Da Influence created one of the most exciting vocalist & producer combinations. Fans wanted more ... they got way more than they ever expected.
Dr Zeus announced that he was producing Lehmber Husainpuri’s first official release for 2005. So much excitement was generated and so much anticipation from Bhangra fans for this album. In all honesty, it was the waiting part of the album which was the problem and the shocker which transpired from it as managed to elevate and break a team at exactly the same time.
With the album underway, all the songs pretty much complete, Zeus gave Lehmber an uncompleted version of the album so that he could get a deal for himself in India. Lehmber took the uncompleted album and went to India to secure his deal. What transpired was such a bombshell, so unprecedented that Bhangra music fans couldn't believe it. One moment they were waiting for this epic album, the next it’s randomly released in India as Folk Attack, the album was circulated on the internet and one of the most anticipated album was being downloaded for free. No one could believe it. Artists, fans and most of all the Zeus/Envy camp who were set to release their prize assets. The release of Folk Attack forced Zeus into studio sessions to get the original album complete and drop as so as possible and counteract the India release. The Original Edit was complete and released without any videos and fanfare to a big reception. However, the shocks continued to roll with the picture of Lehmber in the album. When you opened the CD, every seemed as per usual until you see the picture of Lehmber ... i say picture, it wasnt really your standard portrait, it was just a forehead up shot. The ill feeling from the Envy camp, who introduced Lehmber to the world, was evident by chopping off his face in the album. Oh dear!
After both releases there were so many stories, plots and conspiracy theories flying around, especially at the height of the online message board days, as to who was right & wrong. I was lucky enough to interview both artists on my radio show back then and both shared their sides of the story. Lehmber said that he got his deal in India and was made to wait months to get the final album for Zeus and the label couldn't wait any longer. So they decided to go with what they had, added two Envy Lehmber tracks and released Folk Attack. Zeus said that he desperately want to deliver Lehmber an album that he deserved. He saw Lehmber’s struggle and felt his talents needed the right album and took as much time as possible to make it right. Zeus felt so let down by what happened that he stated that the only part of Lehmber he respects is his dastar and that’s the reason why only his phag is shown in the album.
On one hand you have an artist desperate to release and tired of waiting, on the other hand you have an artist desperate to make the right product however long it took. Who’s right? That’s your own judgment call. What we can agree on that the albums Folk Attack & The Original edit elevated both Lehmber & Zeus into international stars but firmly on different paths. Both as massively successful today, but back in 2005, what a shocker it was!
3. The Death of Kuly Ral RDB
Many artists who have graced our ears and hearts have left us to a higher calling. Dalbir Khanpur, Kaka Bhaniawala, Soni Pabla, Dev Raj Jassal to name but a few. Any time someone from the music family leave us its a sad day and a we all reflect on their hits, achievements and lasting legacy in UK Bhangra history. There is one man whose passing was such a shock that even as i write this I still can believe it happened. That man was the extremely talented, gifted and much loved Kuly Ral of RDB.
Why Kuly? Maybe its because he’s from my generation, maybe it’s because I saw the rise of RDB from the little snap shot of them in Surinder Rattan’s ‘The Lick’ album or maybe its because no one knew and no one saw it coming. It was such a shock whether you were a fan or not. RDB are pioneers of their generation. The way they released music, generated hype, took this new thing called the internet by the scruff of its neck and made us use it for Bhangra it was exciting to be part of and Kuly was the mastermind leading from the front.
He was such a visionary and someone who wanted to embrace anything new right out the blocks. Mixing UK Garage with Bhangra was an RDB thing, the face of the first online Bhangra show RDB TV and the all concurring expedition into the world of Bollywood are some of the incredible feats that Kuly was part of and remembered for.
I’ll never forget the morning of his passing. I, as we all do these days, woke up and the first thing i did was grab my phone and check out my Twitter & Facebook feeds. Still half asleep I saw Kuly’s name pop up a few times on Twitter and thought that maybe its new music or something like that. Then when the sleep left me and i actually read the tweets I was speechless .... Kuly’s Gone? What?
Aside from all the music introductions and conquests of Kuly, his personality is the most missed element of a much loved Bhangra star. He really was a Bhangra star world wide with RDB. His smile, crazy 24/7 energy, genuine and down to earth nature is one of the biggest losses in our industry.
2. The Split of Apna Sangeet
The 1980’s is the decade where Bhangra music exploded. There’s no other word for it. It was just incredible to see the rise and rise of this evolved genre of music, born out of the UK with Punjabi foundations take over in the way it did. British Asian’s of the 80’s finally had a sound, a focus, a movement that they understood, embraced and pushed it hard. Today we struggle to name 5 full time active band, back then there were well over 50 all around the UK with each pushing the genre forward. One of these bands was Apna Sangeet and this group of 6 men were among the hand full of standard bearers to the music we enjoy today.
Apna Sangeet were born in 1983 when Gill & Bhamrah left Bhuchangy Group to form their own band. Originally called Fame Sangeet to hooked up with Davinder Kalsi on Tabla and started gigging immediately and even released a Dharmik album called ‘Sucha Sudha’. They then took on Gurcharan Mall, Nikki Patal & Kang jumped ship from Chirag Pechan and the band of 6 became Apna Sangeet. What happen next was a decade of Bhangra dominance world wide. From their debut album in 1986 they went on to release an album a year, they were touring everywhere from North America, Europe, Far East and every city in the UK. They had a fan club which the band ran themselves with hotlines and merchandising, they were the most electric live bands ever to grace the Bhangra stage. Everyone had their favorite member, couples getting married would change their wedding date to accommodate Apna Sangeet’s availability....that’s how mad it was. Aside from all that they were and still considered as the peoples band because of the way they were superstars but still sat with their fans like best mates. Nothing could have gone wrong....but it did and what a shocker it was!
In 1995 Apna Sangeet announced that there were to split after their 10th and final release ‘Thaa Thaa Thaa’ and it was the first band split bombshell of its time. The EasternEye newspaper was the Bhangra fans publication at the time for all the stories. When they published the split article it was an unexplained shocker. Why was one of the biggest bands ever, the band that always looked happy, still making hits, splitting up? Bhangra fans didn't understood and no one liked it. To top it all off the final Apna Sangeet gig was in Canada and no farewell show in the UK.
What transpired years later was behind the smiles, behind the positively and behind the live performances where a group of men who had out grown each other professionally. Factions formed, individual successes contributed to the insecurities and it was a no longer manageable. So at its peak the band split and that was meant to be that. A few months later, early 1996, the fans voices finally hit home and Gill & Bhamrah decided to carry on as a duo and gave first refusal to the old members to join them. 2 agreed, new members were taken on and Apna Group was formed which ultimately was irrelevant because fans still saw it as Apna Sangeet.
The story does have a nice ending to it, in almost a Take That style, with the original Apna Sangeet teaming together for a ‘one night only’ show for a charity event in May 2009....showing everyone however the end was, there remains respect between them. With Gill & Bhamrah still rocking dance floors in 2013 and beyond, the Apna Sangeet legacy continues as the keep showcasing, touring, preforming around the world and all this without an official release since 2005. Take a deep breath Apna Sangeet fans ... that may well all change by the end of the year!
1. The Split of B21
If you were born in the 80’s, you’re British Asian and you were asked to name 3 band split-ups, you’d say the following ... Take That, Spice Girls & B21! I’ll take on the story of the first 2 bands another time (if SimplyBhangra.com have a guilty pleasures category launching soon) and launch into the biggest shocker in Bhangra history.
B21 (version 1) were one of the biggest Bhangra acts of all time. There is no disputing that whether you were a fan or not. There half a decade run was just out of this world. The late 90’s just ended on B21 mania and it seemed that there would no stopping these 3 lads from Birmingham reigning supreme for years to come. The journey of Bhota, Bally & Jassi began with the release of ‘The Sounds of B21’ and it was what the 2nd generation of Bhangra fans craved...an act that was their age, their wavelength and made fresh UK Bhangra music. Kids at secondary school, collages & universities in the mid 90’s were being great music but from their parents favorite acts in the 80’s. As great as the music was and appreciated there wasn't the same emotional attachment from the new generation for the singers and bands which their parents had for them.
Along come B21 out of the blue and suddenly kids around the UK had an act to call their own and boy did they run with it! They were almost at every club night, every daytime, every mela the UK had to offer and has such an enticing stage presence that you couldn't work out why people were so into them. They weren’t a live band, just 3 guys miming and hyping on the mic, but it was fresh. The CIC boyband experiment didn't really click, D/I/P had a decent enough run, but it was B21 as the one and only Bhangra boy band that clicked. With years of world domination ahead and no one ready to get a look in, nothing could go wrong .... Oh dear!
2002, the year that shocked Bhangra fans world wide in a tornado of rumors, controversy, multiple dodgy releases all topped off in the split of B21. Two 6 track albums were released in Long Overdue by B21, Dark & Direct by Bally Jagpal with both albums seeming unfinished and containing old tracks at an extortionate price. Internet message boards on fire with people delivering their version of why B21 had split and continues to do so to date. Stories about jealousy, stealing work, no communication, who actually did the work, deception& so much more divided some of the industry into B21 camp & Jassi Sidhu camp members. It became VERY messy and raged for years. Even with Jassi beginning his solo career.
No one except the 3 themselves know that real truth. What the facts show is that B21 were one of the biggest Bhangra acts ever, the 3 members made life long anthems, they’re unique stage presence made fans world wide and their split shocked the lovers & haters. The happy vibes they projected evolved into a messy divorce.
Dipps Bhamrah is currently a presenter at the BBC Asian Network, with his Sunday Punjabi Music show from 6-8pm. Alongside this, he is also a successful DJ & Producer at his newly founded studio The Hyper Lab.