The USA is on its way, but just doesn’t know it yet. My tour of the States – The British Invasion Tour – was as the name suggested all about another British music Invasion along the lines of the Beatles or the Sex Pistols, but as I found out the dominance of Brit-Asian acts over there may slowly be coming to an end.
The night after an amazing Outlandish gig that got me excited and amped about music all over again I flew off to New York for the first of 3 U.S. gigs, at the famous ‘Tribeca Cinema’. The turn out was good and apart from a soundsystem that you would have found in the UK around 1994 the gig was cool. More of a ‘Bar’ gig than a club gig I met loads of UK Desi expats living in the Big Apple as well as Sharmaji, Jay Dhabi, Sin and Raje Shwari.
I got to interview all of them for the US special I was going to do on the show and what hit me was the complete love and respect they all showed for the UK. It was a sort of “we look up to the UK, you guys are on it!” sort of love. That’s funny considering the biggest anthem for me last year was Jay Dabhis reworking of Kawan and Back To My Other Life, and the artist I was getting most excited about leftfield wise was the hugely talented Sharmaji. Damn, even Sin who’s only had one track out called “Thora Aa, Thora Ja” was more Hip Hop than anyone I’ve played in the last 5 years! So for me it was a night of telling people that even though the structure was more advanced in the UK, the new talent is coming through equally in both countries. I had to point out that Kawan’s other life had 3 US citizens to thank for its success – Jay Dabhi, Bikram Singh and the legend that is Gunjan. I also met up with Jay Gatzby – a New York cross between P Diddy & Damon Dash – only much skinnier, funnier and a DESI as well. Check my US special for interviews with him, Sharmaji, Jay Dabhi, Raje Shwari & Sin.
After New York (where I stayed in the Millenium Hilton overlooking Ground Zero) I flew to my favorite place in the world – San Francisco! The gig in SF at the Minna Art Gallery was off the hook! Every time I play in SF it goes down – partly due to the SF crowds who are without doubt the hardest partying people in the states. Loads of Desi’s turned up and created a mosh-pit of Bhangra in front of the stage. As well as loads of non Desi crew who always come to Desi events in SF – it’s that kind of city. David Starfire warmed up for me and completely shamed me with his Breaks-Bhangra set that got the party jumping. Check out davidstarfire if you need some new talent in your life – and my show where I played his new tracks including a remix of the mighty Black Mahal. To give you an idea of the creativity that SF is famous for let me just tell you what happened at the after party in my friend Darrien Heymans house – His afterpartys are legendary in SF anyway – but this time round I brought along Bohemia’s producer Mixman Shawn and a new singer he’s working with called Ladla. After twenty minutes there was a crowd of people dancing and staring opened mouthed as Darrien spun Jazz influenced Hip Hop, a random MC spat bars, and Ladla sung in Punjabi over the top! This lasted for an hour and sounded amazing – a true creative jam in SF, the city of creative jams….! (Also check out an artist I discovered in SF called Blind Prophet (AKA Mandeep Sethi) with a track called ‘Place Where I Live’ – its all about being Sikh and wearing a turban in the US post 9/11)
After that it was onto the Beast, the Behemoth, the Biggie! We’re talking Los Angeles baby – Hollywood, Los Angeles to be exact! I stayed at the world famous ‘Standard’ on sunset Boulevard, a hotel so Rock and Roll that Sid Vicious would have run screaming from the lobby were he alive today. The gig was at a place called Joes café where Hollywood’s Desi community turned out to party. First of all let me tell you that talking to Desi’s who live in LA is on another level. They don’t have that New York, New Jersey, Chicago attitude nor that SF laid-backness. They are in your face sunny side up optimists – with the perfect teeth to match . I chilled with Ramnik who used to be in Karmacy, the US rap group and met all manner of LA peeps who just frothed with optimism about everything! Once again they talked about how good the UK Desi scene was and how there wasn’t enough gigs in LA for them, but given their can-do attitude and with Desi demographics exploding the US over the next few years it wont be long before they’ll be up there with us.
So after a last night spent drinking post-gig in downtown LA it was time to get a few hours sleep and get back to the UK to do a Friction US special.
Here are my Conclusions:-
1. New York is Desi music central in the US
2. San Francisco is the most amazing and beautiful city in the US
3. LA is just on another level as are its Desi’s
4. Too much Leftfield and Hip Hop artists in the US Desi scene – where’s the Pop culture?
5. The (US Desi’s) don’t know just how much talent they have
6. We (UK Desi’s) should be afraid, very afraid!!!
So my prediction is five years from now there will be an epic musical battle between the US and the UK, and Desi music will be the winner.
What do you think?
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