on 28 July 2009
If anyone loves their 90s hip hop and knows their bhangra or is keen to explore the genre, this album really is a must. The specialist n truskool created a revolutionary debut album that shook the bhangra industry and in my opinion, raised the bar significantly. SO many english people i know say all bhangra songs sound the same but these artists really brought something new to the table and no one can say their music is run of the mill stuff!
The album consists of 10 great tracks, all of which i still listen to five years later! Subtle sampling of hip hop songs very cleverly fused with traditional folk bhangra showcase their abilities and if Punjabi MC managed to break into the mainstream with Mundiya tho bach ke then I think that these guys definately deserve one or two hits as well!
on 23 August 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.
on 2 January 2010
While most bhangra albums suffer from two big tracks and a lot of filler, 'Word is Born' almost suffers from being too good and too clever. Critically acclaimed and deservedly so, this 2004 release is the evolution of UK Bhangra taking elements of 90s hip hop, funk and big beat while still retaining a purist approach to Punjabi folk through a British Asian's eyes. Tru-Skool himself is a producer, musician (he plays the Tabla, Dholaki and Dhol drums), sound engineer and occasional vocalist based in the Midlands. The first time I heard this album, it blew me away; every time I come back to it, it does the same thing again. I would also recommend the excellent 'Raw as Folk' album on Bazaar Records for being equally innovative; an album Tru-Skool was also involved in. While Panjabi MC caters to the masses, Tru-Skool probably (and possibly intentionally) caters to those in the know. Highly recommended.