SimplyBhangra.com have hooked up with one of the legends of UK Bhangra; KS Bhamrah! Answering questions about his new album 'Revival' and find out if there will be another Apna Sangeet album! Read what one of the original pioneers of UK Bhangra has to say in a must read interview!
Tell us a little about your new album ‘Revival’, which features Serious 7, a 7 piece UK born Bhangra band.
KS Bhamrah: The album wasn’t something I planned on doing to be honest. I had already started work on a new project when I went to India during the summer. While I was there few people convinced me into redoing a few of the old Apna Sangeet tracks for the India market with an Indian production sound. One thing lead to another, I was introduced to the albums producers, Jassi Brothers, and we ended up starting and finishing Revival in 2 weeks from scratch.
You’ve just come back from India, how do you feel the scene is there compared to here in the UK, and any chance of a duet with Miss Pooja? lol
KS Bhamrah: Yeah why not! Every other Tom, Dick & Hardeep is doing it so why not me! She is a good singer who’s made a name for herself recently which is great for Punjabi music. I personally wanted to work with Sudesh Kumari in this project because I personally feel that she has a slight vocal edge to Miss Pooja. She’s technically very gifted and has a fantastic range to her vocals. It was a joy to work with her this time around…next time who knows what collaboration we could do. Madonna, Kylie or the even the Spice Girls could be an idea! Don’t giggle….Uncle Bhamrah’s watching you!
Going back to 1992, when you won the award for Best Lyricist at the UK Asian Pop Awards for your Solo project ‘Overdrive’. How do you feel that the music and lyrics to the songs have changed? For the better or worse?
KS Bhamrah: Music is likes the sea, vast, beautiful and forever changing. Sometimes things change for the better and some for the worse. Musically & lyrically things have been become very diluted. Anyone can make music. Anyone who has a computer can sample, can make a song. Now that’s not totally a bad thing because it gives kids who have talent but not the financial backing to showcase their talents. But the problem is there are more kids using the technology without having the basic understanding of music. No matter how accessable the technology is, if you want to be the best in music, you have to know the theory. You just have to look at who are the big stars of 2008….Sukshinder Shinda, Lehmber, Jazzy B, all who have learnt the art of music. Having the knowledge will eventually give you the power…having a powerful micro chip processor thing in your computer wont mean anything if you don’t have the knowledge to go with it.
In terms of lyrics, I think we all know that things are a little more diluted then once used to be. But I suppose that’s the way of the times like it or not. The new generation want to be part of the language and the music, but the only access they have to learn is via music because lets face it, most people of my generation are more interested in their business rather then taking an active effort to make their kids learn the language. It’s a shame but that’s life, which is why I’v tried to get the balance of ease in Punjabi within the tracks on this album.
You played the now famous tumbi piece on the smash hit track ‘Mundian Tu Bach Ke’, how do you feel about individuals now coming out publicly claiming they have had certain influences on the track, whereas you have kept your silence on your input, do you think these people are right in coming out wanting more credit?
KS Bhamrah: Why? Didn’t I ever mention it? Sorry, but yeah I was the man who really produced Bach Ke and if you didn’t already know, I actually called Jay Z and asked him to do me a favour and rap on the track as well! In all seriousness, I know my roll in the track and that’s it. Me and PMC have had a close working relationship since the days of his earlier projects like 100% Proof and Grass Roots. We both know how the other works and the rest is history. If I didn’t have any part of that track I still would have been proud and respected all the individuals that have made that track a worldwide hit. With every career high iv ever had, being part of the success of this track and having the chance to represent Punjabi music on Top of the Pops was my greatest achievement ever. There will always be people who will be jealous, make rumors or stories….there were people in Apna Sangeet who felt it was easier to knock the performance than embrace what we did, but I always had a dream that i wanted someone, anyone to showcase Punjabi music on that show in its purest form on the grandest stage of them all…im just so lucky it was me.
You last worked together with Sardara Singh Gill to bring us the album 'Diamond Cuts', have you got any more planned with him? I think what every Bhangra fan wants to know is; will there be another Apna Sangeet album?
KS Bhamrah: To be honest, that is what I would have liked as well. However the reality is very different. As things stand Apna Sangeet is finished. The problems have been simmering for the last couple of years and came to ahead this year. Iv always been a live music man because of the buzz and the respect you gain from it. That’s how I wanted things to be with Apna. Thing is Sardara has/is part of his own DJ roadshow and recently has been paying more attention to that setup rather than the band. While I have been only been promoting the live band, he has been out doing PA slots with his roadshow. I understand that everyone wants to make money and that fair play, but when your in a partnership and the two outlooks are not in the same direction, then it can never work. Sardara is continuing with his roadshow while I decided that whatever time I have left in this industry would be spend doing things live, to keep Bhangra music alive and promote new talent.
Why do you think the era of the live band came to an end during the mid 90’s?
KS Bhamrah: Lack of professionalism…..simple answer. Singers and musicians are to blame for kicking things off. Yes there influx of DJ’s hasn’t helped but if the bands kept a professional look and attitude then maybe we would see more musicians. As it stands everyone wants to be famous and its quicker to be DJ, producer or dholi than learn the art, craft and techniques of learning a new instrument. Which I why I decided to start a new chapter in my my life and team up with Serious 7. Im proud to say that I have a group of lads supporting me who are all born in the UK, all in their 20’s and all have a passion and hunger to play live on stage. Its very rare you see a 20 years old Punjabi bass player, keyboard player or drummer, but these lads have been religiously rehearsing for the last 8 months and now in 2008 we’re looking to showcase a new sound & style on stage with people who have a desire to make music….just need the fans of Bhangra music to support the movement for live Bhangra music.
In comparison to the very start with Bhugungy Group how unique and innovative do you think the Bhangra scene is at the moment?
KS Bhamrah: There are some really talented lads out there who are really are trying their best to showcase Punjabi music on a global scale. It’s just a shame that’s the quality of the rest makes the good ones look less creatable. There are singers who are desperate for the fame and think that releasing an album commands the respect they feel they deserve. It take more that a few grand, an auto-tuner and internet promotions to earn that respect. The fact that there isn’t a live band is a shame which is why iv now teamed up with Serious 7. Iv been impressed with there commitment even when at time I thought that might not been an industry for live music any more. But the way they have grabbed the initiative and formed a fully rehearsed live Bhangra band in 2007 is a positive and innovation step forward. I want to see more lads and girls picking up and learning instruments and forming bands. That’s the innovation I want to see.
Your previous album was released on VIP Records, how did you feel that album went for you, and is their any specific reason that this new album is out on the OSA label as opposed to carrying on with VIP Records?
KS Bhamrah: I think VIP records decided that they wanted to scale down their operation. Last time I was shown their artist lineup on their website, it looked more like a football team. VIP Records said I could look else where for a deal and after being let down and lead on by some prominent labels in the UK, I had a meeting with OSA and they shook hands after one listen. I was surprised as anyone that the longest running record label, who made Nusrat Fathe Ali Khan & Malkit Singh, who now have virtually stopped releasing albums, decided to get behind this. But they were extremely happy and I was happy to be working with again after doing so a few years ago.
Were you happy with the final outcome of ‘The Return’ album?
KS Bhamrah: Not 100% if im honest. It was a great that Vips wanted to relaunch and re introduce me and a solo artists for which im a grateful. Its just a shame the quality of production for half the album wasn’t the required quality. It was the first time where I had no say in music input for a project of mine and I had to give someone elses opinion a go even if I wasn’t entirely happy. Some of the tracks worked, some didn’t, its just one of those things I suppose. In any project both the producer and the singer needs to be happy which the final outcome. If the singer isnt feeling the track, how can he feel confident in performing it?
I was fortunate enough to see you and Sardara Gill perform live at ‘Kings of Kings 2’ back in March, which I thought was easily the best performance of the night! I’ve heard that you have scaled back doing major gig events, and live events all together, is that true?
KS Bhamrah: Whoever told you that, tell them BHAMRAH WANTS TO HAVE A WORD!!! Music is my fulltime work. I don’t sell insurances, own flats to let or make double glazing windows as my career….its Monday to Sunday music. Scaling back voluntary on gig means bills won’t get paid, I’ll be eating left over pizza the following morning and my wife might just have found that reason to marry Akshay Kumar! The amount of gigs have taken a hit if im honest but that’s due to the lack of focus in the band as explained before. Which is why I had no choice but to bite the bullet and start a new chapter after 28 years. Im a live vocalist and musician and whether im live with Serious 7 vocaling at a wedding or in front of 45,000 Eastern Europeans with The Dhol Foundation, im all about performing and showcasing Punjabi music.
I noticed on the in lay of your ‘The Return’ album that you write a lot of your own material, how important do you think lyrical content is in todays industry, do you think lyrical content is as important to the music?
KS Bhamrah: Name me the last instrumental Bhangra track that broke records and you danced to? There isn’t one! Lyrical content is vital. If is song is collection of random words to a beat who would bother? Its all about getting the right balance between music, vocals, melody and lyrics. If any one of these four elements are lacking then you’ve failed. But if all four work hand in hand then you have a hit on your hands. Every element is important at the other.
Thanks for taking time out to conduct this interview, Any final words for the readers of SimplyBhangra.com?
KS Bhamrah: I just want to take this opportunity and thank you for giving me the opportunity to say a few words on the past, present and future of my career. A lot has happened in the last few years and hopefully with your support, along with the fans of Bhangra music, we can keep the music we love alive and live. Keep up the good work your doing and if you don’t support me….uncle Bhamrah’s is going to come round and get you all in headlocks until you do! (Just Kidding lol)
A massive thanks to KS Bhamrah for taking time out and conducting this interview, his brand new album 'Revival' is out NOW! Click Here For More Info