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Saturday Live

Kuljit Bhamra

  • JP
  • 2 Feb 07, 05:39 PM

Kuljit Bhamra is an influential British Asian musician, having won many musical awards and recorded over two thousand songs to date. A self taught composer, producer and tabla player, he is credited with spearheading the Bhangra movement in this country.

Kuljit has worked on film scores for over fifteen years, including Bhaji on the Beach, Bend it like Beckham, Alexander the Great, The Guru, A Little Princess, Wings of a Dove, The Four Feathers, Alexander the Great and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

In 2002, joined forces with Andrew Lloyd Webber for the West End musical Bombay Dreams and he spent the next two years appearing as an on-stage percussionist. He also acted as Indian Music Consultant for the musical adaptation of The Far Pavilions, and in 2005 re-worked the Bee Gee's popular seventies hit "Staying Alive".

Born in Nairobi in 1959 to Indian parents, Kuljit had polio very young which damaged his left leg. His father, who was studying in England at the time, sent for him and his mother, and in 1962 they settled in Southall. He learnt to play the tabla by imitating his father as he accompanied Kuljit's mother, singer Mohinder Kaur Bhamra, who performed devotional songs at local Sikh temples. Kuljit discovered he possessed a natural talent for the tabla, and soon took over his father's role. Kuljit and his two younger brothers, who played the accordion and mandolin, also performed extensively alongside their mother at private parties at weekends and at religious occasions across the country.

Kuljit's father maintained music should remain a hobby, and that his children go on to university and gain professional qualifications. In 1982, Kuljit graduated from Middlesex University as a civil engineer, and went on to work for Richmond Council as a Highways Engineer, designing speed humps. After seventeen years, he left his job to pursue his dream of a full time music career.

Kuljit is working on a number of different projects and is currently on tour with Cascade - a collaboration of five musicians, each with a reputation for cross genre and improvisatory work.

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  1. At 09:12 AM on 03 Feb 2007, Brian Coleman wrote:

    There is no evidence that speed humps , tables or cushions save lives . I should know. In Barnet in North London I am the Politician that ordered most of them out and our number of road deaths and serious injuries have declined faster than any other Borough

    Brian Coleman , Chairman of the London Assembly

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  2. At 02:21 PM on 05 Feb 2007, Richard Lewis wrote:

    Kuljit mentioned on the programme on Saturday that the Indian ragas were unique in music history in that they were not merely patterns of intervals between pitches, but also embodied expectations of use patterns and mood.

    I would venture to suggest that the medieval European modal system had similar qualities. The modes were much more prescriptive and restrictive than the modern western diatonic system. Each mode encompassed an exact set of pitches, similar to ragas but dissimilar to the diatonic system which is merely a pattern of intervals that can be translated to begin on any pitch. Each mode also evoked a particular mood and was chosen by composers to match the mood of the text to be set. This highlights one of the main differences between ragas and modes: ragas are used mainly for improvisation, whereas modes were used mainly for composition (though improvisation around a composed modal line was commonplace).

    Ragas, as a tool for improvisation are much more nuanced than the medieval modes were likely to have been. While the modes had distinctive moods, the compositional techniques applied to them were universal. A raga, on the other hand, dictates how each note should be used and gives rise to distinctive melodic devices and patterns which are peculiar to the raga itself.

    Its a fascinating topic. Thanks for bringing it up!

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