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Catch-up with Sumeet Chopra

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Sumeet Chopra is a British born Composer, Music Producer and Recording Artist who has worked extensively with globally renowned artists such as Alaap, Kala Preet, Shava Shava, Premi, Apna Sangeet, as well as performing with legendary Punjabi folksingers such as Kuldip Manak and A.S. Kang, SimplyBhangra recently caught up with him to bring you this exclusive interview.

Sumeet produced the critically acclaimed sample CD entitled Karma Chopra (AMG), used by numerous Eastern and Western artists including Panjabi MC and A.R Rahman. As a result Sumeet has been described as "The Groove Guru" by AMG who provide musical content for Apple and other key players in the music production market. You'll have definitely heard his sounds, beats and funky grooves on countless Bhangra, Bollywood, and Western tracks.

As a Music Director/Composer he has recorded with Bollywood singers such as Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Mahalaxami Iyer, and Shanker Mahadevan. Sumeet was recently commissioned to remix a selection of old-school Bhangra anthems featuring the vocals of Mahendra Kapoor, Mangal Singh, Shin and Reshma the well-known folk singer of Pakistan.

Sumeet also remixed A.R. Rahman’s Bombay Theme on this project. Sumeet has been composing for The Panjabi Hit Squad, which has led to a string of hits featuring Alyssia and Ms Scandalous. He also composed tracks featuring Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Richa Sharma and Krishna Beura.

Sumeet was approached in 2006 by Pravesh Kumar to start working on Britain’s Got Bhangra

Where do you get your musical influences & inspiration from?

I’ve worked with and collaborated with many famous artists over the years. This has led to a variety of influences - everything from folk Bhangra, Jazz, Bollywood, R&B, Hip Hop, Soul, Gospel, and Indian Classical Film; to World Music…the list is truly endless!

I really enjoy listening to as much music and working with as many artists as I can. I find a lot of inspiration comes from my experiences and these varied and dynamic musical environments. Developing a song and a musical soundtrack can be done in so many ways. It could literally start from a simple groove, a basic melody line, or jamming with a few chords and a lyrical idea.

How did you get into Music & who taught you to play Keyboards?

Music is in my genes. My mother is a classically trained Sitarist, and I was therefore brought up on a healthy mix of traditional Indian Classical music, Bollywood & old school Bhangra. An uncle of mine, Mr Chaurasia who is an artist/singer came to Britain for a concert when I was 9 years old and I became fascinated by the world of Indian music - thanks to his inspiration and encouragement I developed a keen interest in learning to play the keyboards.

I was then introduced to Satish Kocher, the keyboard player from British Bhangra band, Holle Holle who mentored me in my early days and gave me an insight into the music business.

Give us a brief summary of how your music career has progressed.

My career began when I started performing at an early age on keyboards and recording for some of emerging UK Bhangra artists back in the early 80’s. This was a tremendous inspiration, and learning experience to collaborate with the artists such as KalaPreet, Shava Shava, (a group which I founded with Nirmal Kumar Nirmal), Premi, Apna Sangeet and many others.

During the 90’s I went onto work closely with the pioneering Bhangra band Alaap for over a decade, performing at concerts and festivals all over the world. This provided the opportunity to experiment with synth sounds and sampled loops to create my own sound within the band, which was very exciting. This led to the opportunity to team up with likeminded musicians from the emerging British Asian Underground scene.

This included other great artists and inspirations - Talvin Singh, who to this day is a close friend. This also provided the opportunity for me to continue to compose and produce for bands such as The Dhol Foundation and regularly feature on many World Music albums.

By the time I was 23 I was commissioned to produce the world's first ever Ethnic sample CD entitled Karma Chopra for AMG, which has been used extensively by numerous producers and composers including A.R Rehman, and Punjabi M.C.

The opportunity then arose in Bollywood to be Music Director / Composer / Remixer and I recorded with many famous playback singers such Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Shanker Mahadevan. However in this period, I still continued to compose and collaborate with UK based artists such as Panjabi Hit Squad / Alyssia and am working with new and upcoming British Asian Producers such as Alan Sampson (Jay Sean).

How do you think Bhangra music changed from mid 1980's to 2011?

Bhangra has existed for centuries and has always been the heart and soul of our community. It originates from Punjab and was traditionally performed at Vaisakhi festivals (April). During the 80’s & 90’s the sound evolved rapidly as Producers & Bands blended Western beats, synthesizers and Electronica with traditional Punjabi folk instruments.

Today, the British Bhangra music scene fuses a wide range of genres such as R&B, Hip-Hop, Pop and House.

Bhangra is a rhythmic mood-enhancer with an infectious appeal; one cannot resist the temptation of joining in on the dance floor. Punjabis would call this lifting the floorboards – ‘Chak de Phattey’. I am very excited to see Bhangra music being represented in the Theatre World and hope you enjoy the journey.

Have you worked in Theatre before?

Yes. I composed the music for Meri Christmas, a Rifco Arts production in 2008.

What’s your history with Shin of DCS?

Shin has been a close friend for a number of years. We got to know each other back in the 90s, when I was a keyboard player for Alaap. We were often billed at the same gigs so enjoyed talking music and having a laugh. A few years back, Jonny Kalsi (founder member of The Dhol Foundation) invited me to produce & compose tracks for TDF's debut album, which was signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World Records. This is when I first recorded with Shin.

You can imagine that I was delighted when Shin agreed to get involved in Britain’s got Bhangra as it has added gravitas to the project.

How has working on Britain's Got Bhangra been different from other projects?

When Pravesh first shared the vision of Britain’s Got Bhangra with me over four years ago I saw this as a real opportunity to bring all of this experience and inspiration into a format that could really bring music and cultures together. That has been a tremendous challenge, but a challenge that has been well worth it when we see the reaction of the audience and the critics to the music and the show. Composing the music has been a very exciting challenge & I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the entire creative team.

What's next for Sumeet Chopra?

We really are working hard to bring Britain’s Got Bhangra to a much broader, audience – and that’s how I see the future developing - more music collaborations, TV & Film and theatre work – and a few other projects that we are working on.

In fact, if you are interested in finding out more about the work I’ve been doing, and have planned, visit www.sumeetchopra.co.uk. We’ve tremendous opportunities opening up and it’s delightful to be a part of that.

Britain’s Got Bhangra is currently on tour – Leicester Curve, Hackney Empire, Theatre Royal Windsor, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Oldham Coliseum and Warwick Arts Centre.

Any final messages?

Thank you for all the constant support we receive from the SimplyBhangra readers, much love to all of you! Thank you to SimplyBhangra for all the good work and support!

For more information and booking details visit: www.rifcoarts.com

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