The World’s First Book On British Bhangra

The World

Bhangra music was and still is an integral part of the British Asian music scene, with artists such as Malkit Singh, Sukhshinder Shinda, Juggy D and Jassi Sidhu amongst many many others continuing to be standard bearers for the genre. But have you ever wondered how it became so popular among the South Asian community in the UK?

A Manchester based academic has written a revolutionary new book that aims to lift the floorboards (chak de phattey) on the phenomenon that is British bhangra, from the streets of Birmingham, to its place in the mainstream worldwide.

Bhangra: Birmingham and Beyond, the first book of its kind ever, is written by Dr Rajinder Dudrah, a senior lecturer in Film and Media Studies at the University of Manchester. This historical overview of the unique music genre has been produced in collaboration with Punch Records supremo Ammo Talwar and established photographer-writer Boy Chana.

The book explores how bhangra came from the Indian subcontinent, when the first generation of South Asians who settled in the UK in the 1960s initially used the music genre to have a song and dance on festive occasions. Each performance would always feature at least one dhol and probably consist of heroic lyrics about the motherland, giving people a means through which they could cope with hardships typical of British society at the time such as poor living conditions and racism.

From then on Bhangra: Birmingham and Beyond takes the reader on a remarkable journey, charting how bhangra evolved when artists in the 1980s such as Alaap and Heera started experimenting with different instruments and giving the genre a distinctive British Asian feel. They subsequently paved the way for stars such as Jazzy B and Bally Sagoo (amongst others) to make their mark on mainstream music and define the British Asian scene further.

The story of Bhangra: Birmingham and Beyond is told using splashes of colour, a superb archive of photographs of bhangra artists past and present, and a clear, factual yet absorbing narrative. There is also a whole chapter dedicated to women and how they continue to make their telling contribution to bhangra music in Britain.

Dudrah says of the book:

“Bhangra has really forged a path for itself through the years and nowadays it is commonplace to hear its influence in many mainstream songs, such as the remixed version of Mundian To Bach Ke, which has leading hip-hop artist Jay-Z’s rapping on it. Clearly, British bhangra music has evolved in the UK from its folk beginnings in the Punjab. I simply wanted to recreate the journey bhangra has embarked on over the years and I hope the end product is an experience worth sharing with others.”

Bhangra: Birmingham and Beyond has partly evolved out of a unique exhibition, “Soho Road To Punjab”, which also tells the story of bhangra in the UK and is currently touring throughout the country.

Dudrah believes the book will appeal to a variety of audiences:

“I think this fascinating tale about bhangra’s journey would attract the ‘retro’ audience who are now in their 30s and 40s and were the youth who soaked up the live music events during the genre’s heyday in the 1980s. I also believe young people who are into British Asian music but perhaps are unaware of the history and importance of bhangra music since the 1960s and 70s would appreciate this book.”

The book hits the shelves on November 19th 2007. Until then, Chak De Phattey (lift the floorboards/smash up the dancefloor)!!

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