5.0 out of 5 stars
Bhangra is reborn . . ., 23 Aug. 2010
. . . is not an overstatement if we accept the achievement of this album and its artists.
From the first track there is evidence of a deep, symbiotic relationship between the artists and Bhangra both as a musical genre and culture. The understanding of the melodic beat structures inherent to Bhangra is consummate and excellently executed throughout each track, while the vocals and lyrics are confident, distinct and memorable. I particularly like how the authenticity of this album to, specifically, Indian-Bhangra gravitates around the rich vocal mastery of Kulvinder Singh Johal, who epitomises the Bhangra vocal with an effortless opening crescendo as on Track 2 - Saibaa Dha Khath. Though interestingly and in a welcome sense, the question this album begs is how authentic and true to form and genre can a British Bhangra album be before compromising innovation? If we accept that innovation is both exciting and enriching to music, and especially to a not so elastic form as Bhangra.
This question's antonym was posed from music emerging after the decline of Bhangra in the late nineties and early noughties. Then the question was: to what extent can Bhangra innovate before it stops becoming Bhangra? I think that question has been confidently answered by some of the woeful music to emerge this decade, and I intentionally and reservedly refer to it as music, rather than Bhangra. Everyone who has grown up listening to Bhangra, whether they never stopped listening to it, or whether they merely caught up at weddings and parties, or whether they departed as one-time companions for the fresher pastures of alternative music genres of Classical, Jazz and the multifarious forms of world music as I did, what all these people would not deny is that the test for Bhangra music remains its ability to compel everyone from your Maama to Bibee getting up to dance at a family function. If that remains the test for success of any Bhangra music I am sure this album will help to bed in any newly fitted hip-joint from the old continent.
I finished listening to this album in a sweat, but not the sweat of oscillating shoulder blades, though that was partly responsible, but that of sheer excitement. The excitement of finally discovering people trying to push Bhangra forward, and not through exploiting the prevailing trends of popular and urban music, but through technical know-how, considered, well thought out and rendered compositions. I truly hope that the artists continue to move forward in a fresh, creative and inspirational way, and do not get anchored by any peripheral demands, whether of audience or commercial viability.
And to end on a note of optimism, one of my most fond memories of Bhangra and its universal appeal came in in the early noughties, when I heard Mundian To Bach Ke being played in the cafes of obscure towns and cities in Central Asia. I would even here of how clubs would erupt at night when the song was played. I am confident that now we evidently have the talent to continue creating a broader appreciation for the genre, one that we can be proud of, especially since these artists are far more able than their predecessors.
I live in the hope of one day to be sitting in some remote valley in South-America and of hearing some newly released Truskool and Specialist music peeling out from a roadside cafe - but I just hope it will be good enough to make me think of whom I am and where I came from.