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The Big Bhangra Debate...

Bobby Friction | 18:28 UK time, Friday, 17 July 2009

...Happend on wednesdays show.  A whole hour (too short many of you complained!) dedicated to the positives, negatives and future of Bhangra in the UK.



I was joined by Shin (DCS), Truskool, DJ Vips & Boy Chana.  We dealt with topics such as Who's responsible for the continuing downward sales spiral?  Is Bhangra still relevant to 3rd & 4th generation Brit-Asians or Non-Punjabis?  Where's the new talent etc...

It was a robust debate with many different points of view, some of them communicated in a very forceful way!  If you didn't catch it its available for 7 days after broadcast here 

The response from you the listeners was massive, and below is a cross section of what you guys thought.

Enjoy reading...

"Hi i just want to say that the  UK bhangra is being lost on the new genertaion. They are missing out on the true bhangra  vibe.. its not all hip hop, slow jams, r n b tunes.  mixing thingys .. its about the true panjab revebertaing through your heart.. when you hear  bhangra  you should not think of or see flash cars   girls and boys in designer outfits dripping with bling... no no my son its about the panjab and the vibe of the village... its the desi sound.....makki the roti... sagg... lassi .... the green fields of panjab and the colourful outfits  of boht the men and women......gidda and teya....


to taste  the true bhangra vibe you need to look at Gurdass mann, monmohan varis, harbajhan mann....to name but a few....


UK BhaNGRA  has lost its desi sound... sooo sad for the genartion now in the UK."


"Why is it that artists who are talented, make their own music, play their own instruments and are humble and straight talking are not as recognised and respected as "artists" who get their music ghost produced or those artists that have no credibility and release songs with no substance and with choruses such as "sohni sohni" or "vang teri vang teri"? Is the industry so accustomed to low quality music that they can't recognise when something good actually comes out?"

"Singers sing on too many songs because producers do not know what originality is

UK singers cannot speak punjabi properly let alone singing in Punjabi

Just because a song is written and sung in Punjabi does not make it Bhangra? Look at Ghum Shum Ghum Shum, that is in punjabi and is qwalli music. Look at Bohemia, that is not Bhangra that is Hip Hop sung in Punjabi.  majority of the songs are R n B sung in Punjabi if you ask me.


There is no quality control in Bhangra,


Most of the producers are not producers, they are DJ's"


"Bhangra is dead because of powerful singers steering the industry and introducing other genres and marketing it as Bhangra -  IT IS NOT BHANGRA IT IS FOLK HOP, HIP HOP, R N B sung in Punjabi. The track that are bhangra they do not push here.


Take Jazzy B, his last album Romeo had a head line track -  Soorma that was Bhangra raw and real compare that to his latest album - to the western market he head lined Rambo Rambo as the main track - any bhangra head will tell you that Jawani should have been the head line track - that would of been huge, it was only marketed as the head line track in India. The video to jawani hardly got circulated on any UK asian tv or radio station...in fact it didnt at all.


why do producers autotune? if your voice needs auto tuning you cannot sing, how many singers need auto tuning in bhangra, nearly all of them, that means that we have no singers and they are all wannabes"


"The most popular so called 'bhangra' vocalists at the moment are those
- who are unable to correctly pronounce Panjabi
- who appeal specifically to teenage girls
- who have expensive videos
- who tend to have simple pop music type beats and melody

The most popular and best known so called 'producers' are those that
- have their music ghost produced
- pay loads for promotion and videos
- produce sub-standard music
- plagarise other peoples production

As for bands, there is not even a handful left in the industry.
Most events feature PA's.

Is this the future of bhangra?"

"There are a lot of problems with UK Bhangra, however we shouldn't think damn this is just full of despair, although at most times this is what it seems like. The reasons for this are mostly due to ghost productions meaning that whenever there is a sudden influx of so called producers, these people have obviously gone off to frantic kam studios and the alike.
This results in a vicious circle of the same recycled music. You have producers also copying each other's style (ie. Taj-E using sounds very similar to that of Tru-Skool) and this also shows there is a lack of creativity.
The problem is furthermore, you have three chord producers such as Panjabi By Nature who plays variations of three chords in every song (jaan panjabi, jadoo, ashiq etc the list goes on). There has to be some kind of quality control.
As regards to bhangra vocalists, you have newcomers seemingly all the time who cannot, unfortunately, pronounce simple panjabi words. Look at people like Rana Sahota, Jassi Sidhu.
But the problem here is that the vast majority of teenage population here that listen to bhangra don't have a clue to what good bhangra should sound like because they havent obviously had the exposure to people like panjabi mc, specialist & tru skool etc. and in terms of panjabi FOLK, legends such as chamkila, kuldip manak, shinda, gurdas mann.
This can also go for singers because they cite these old skool artists as inspirations but surely if this was true, then why can't you put any effort in into singing decent? As for Bhangra record labels, they surely have to stop thinking wow ok lets see where we can make the most money. Dont get me wrong, getting into the music scene is ultimately about making money, especially when you own a label.
But, if they cared for bhangra music and panjabi subyachaar, then surely they would exercise some kind of quality control mechanism where honestly mediocre artists/producers who dont produce their own music DON'T get their music out. Its as simple as that.
Bhangra music is arguably the best music in terms of getting people out of their seats. People who go university especially know this, white black chinese people go to bhangra nights because the music is awesome. It just doesnt need fake artists, producers to ruin it. We should be proud of Bhangra and panjabi culture and it can only start with people taking ACTION, NOT just simply talking about doing it."


"And who to blame? Us the audience "the punters" as truskool says.

i alwys seems to agree with him,

I go uni in london and think its shambolic how there is no bhangra gigs going on.

out of 15 people in my group i would 2 of us know our punjabi/bhangra all the way.

for example i would say i want to play some old school bhangra, there like what? b21? im thinking nah mate thats New..

old to me would be kuldip manak, AS kang, heera, and even older like Chamkila.

to round this up because i could go on for ages. we the audience have lost our culture and roots.

My punjabi is always mocked and isnt the greatest but i understand fully what songs mean and I listen to it all day long and believe if you still want to be a desi, you would! but nowadays its about fitting in, and it tends to be with hip hop/rnb. black orientated music."


"juss to give my opinion on the whole bhangra industry, its turning into the way hip hop is now, no one has got the passion enymore they all juss fame hungry, fair enough not all the artists are like that but the majority of the new ones are, we need more people like tigerstyle who juss do it for the music and not for the fame and money, i go to one of the courses that they run and you can tell that they are passionate about the music. bhangra has become formulad and once a genre has become formulad its finished, everything sounds the same and they scared to experiment incase it fails, but if people keep wantin the same stuff then there is not much you can do bout it init, but we need more people who are passionate and not afraid to experiment and dnt care bout money and fame, soz bout the rant lol."


"I'm not punjabi, been listening to bhangra for years, I can't speak punjabi but my parents do. They got me in to it from a young age family parties and so on.

Every sound is about drink or girls. From what I understand.

Ever club I've been to has played almost the same tracks every time.

As for live PAs few artist can do or choose to as most can't sing live. No one has a band any more on stage as all the sound is studio made. Most producers call them djs when they can't dj. And vice versa.

I could go on but I won't."

"Bhangra can never be in the past and artists need to start respecting it for the art form that it always has been. There has been a trend for anybody with the ability to modify their vocals, to repeat very standard punjabi lyrics over a) a stolen beat b) an amateur beat c) a standard beat from the popular genre of the time.

Having said this, bhangra is supposed to be punjabi music which can evoke or represent any type of emotion. It doesn't have to use the traditional instruments to be authentic folk, as many punjabi artists from back home have adopted melodies which sound more 'pop' than folk but neither does Brit/Western bhangra have to sound like the Heera/Sahota/Alaap/Premi/Bhujangy sound.

You have fantastic artists still revamping the bhangra style such as Tigerstyle, Punjabi MC, Specialist n Tru Skool. The success of Miss Pooja and DJ H's last album proves that bhangra is definitely not dead! Rate it or hate it, I love the remix Delhi Sher Di by Djs Inc - but do people still count the sound as bhangra? Maybe we as listeners expect bhangra to sound a certain way, and as such think any new innovation is watered down, or a fake product."


  • Comment number 1.

    First of all, what an excellent debate!
    There are many facets to this debate. Bhangra is indeed in a state of serious decline.
    We the listeners are in part responsible for this and so are the artists.
    I think there is a fine line between a SIGNATURE sound and a REPETITIVE sound. You cant just pass off a repetitive sound as a signature, thats just shameful.
    I listen to Punjabi By Natures earlier albums and I listen to his recent stuff and its all the same old production & beats. It feels like a quick money making trick. Artists are comfortable doing this because listeners lap it up because of some sense of misplaced loyalty. On top of this artists know there isnt much else out so again listeners lap it up. Rishi Rich has his flute samples. Aman Hayer has his same lazy beat and so on.
    It is us the listeners that have bought this onto ourselves, if we had not followed Bhangra we such a content nature in the first place we would not be in such a mess. When a new album comes out it should not matter what artists reputation is. Listen to it like its their debut album. It does not matter if the artist is Punjabi MC or Gurdas Mann. Expect more and expect better.
    There is a lack of inventiveness from most artists (I see Swami as probably one of the few artists who seems to vary his sound and introduces new instruments). They have a formula and they stick to it. There is no innovation. And then they wonder why we download, which brings me to my next point
    You really expect us to buy an album after hearing one track from it (in most cases)? At least give us our moneys worth. The simple fact is they release albums with the same old lyrics, same old production, that one track that they hope will shift albums.
    There was that a new way of selling music Rishi Rich introduced to Bhangra. It began with Juggy D, by no means is he a special singer by any stretch of the imagination nor were his songs. He did well because the girls went a bit crazy. On the internet I would read comments like this: OMG HE IS SO BUFFFFF!And that was it. It is the same thing I am beginning to see about Rana Sahota, H Dhami and Jaz Dhami. Shut your eyes ladies, open your ears and then listen to the songs. It really isnt all that. Get a grip.
    Bhangra will have to evolve. People want traditional Bhangra back. But I doubt that will solve the problem. Because Bhangra has to branch out, you will not solve this problem of receptiveness by going back. You have to solve it by going forward and experimenting. Otherwise bhangra will be like the thumbi. Limited. And correct me if I am wrong but isnt that the problem with bhangra in the present too?


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