Record Label: Sanchez Productions
Release Date: June 2009
No of Tracks: 12
In an era when manufactured pop stars and reality tv stars have become the face of music worldwide, every new artist, especially in Bhangra is scrutinized and put under the preverbal musical magnifying glass. They come as fast as they dissapear, yet very few arrive in Bhangra with such musical clout as Jaz Dhami.
Although it would be fair to assume that his career is only a year old, he has been waiting and studying patiently since the age of 16. I actually have no shame in admitting that about a year ago, I wrote off Jaz Dhami, thinking he was just ‘another’ manufactured singer who will become big via his looks and not anything else. Oh how wrong I’ve been. We’ve all seen the Brit Asia TV interviews and the live sessions, and we all agree this guy has REAL talent.
This is where it gets tricky. Having talent is one thing, projecting that talent into hit songs and an album is the hard part. Which leads us nicely onto one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of 2009, the debut solo release by Jaz Dhami.
A mellow piano intro leads in “Gabroo”, with his UK AMA Best newcomer award win being celebrated...before you know it the song bursts into life. Produced by Birmingham based GV, this song has a very ‘Handsworth’ ring to it, or for those who don’t know, the old B21 vibe. Gabroo is the perfect way to start the album. One of my favourite songs of the year, everything about this song is SPOT ON.
Even before its release “Theke Wali” was touted by many as the ‘summer anthem’ of 2009, I’m not sure there’s been a definitive summer anthem this year, but Theke Wali has certainly come close. Production by Aman Hayer refreshingly different to what we’ve heard before, Jaz Dhami’s vocals lace the dhol beat perfectly, you constantly find yourself singing along to the easy chorus. Just to show how good this song is, the video came out in April. It still sounds fresh in July. Believe me folks, thats a rarity in Bhangra these days! Hands up who’s been singing the intro constantly? I think I have it perfected...
Once I finally find my way past Gabroo and Theke Wali, the tempo of the album is dramatically slowed down on the ballad “Pyar”, which has been produced by Kam Frantic. I think I always say this, but I’m never a big fan of slow songs, but it is on slow songs where Jaz Dhami really excels. ‘Pyar’ is no different. Production by Kam Frantic does the job required, but this song is all about highlighting the vocal skills of Jaz Dhami. It’s another very good song. The DVD that comes alongside this album features an acoustic live session of ‘Pyar’ which is absolutely brilliant. I’m hoping the Jaz Dhami camp seriously consider releasing an full dvd of live acoustic sets of all the songs on this album, I know I’d pay for it!
Aman Hayer returns to do what he does best. Lay down a full on dhol packed Bhangra track. If you had any misconceptions about Jaz Dhami’s ability in singing on ‘Bhangra’ songs “Thor Panjabi ” should comfortably blow them away. I guess this proves you don’t really need to constantly sing in a high pitch to make a good Bhangra song. Another very well made song, 4 out of 4 so far.
The ever elusive B.S Productions is responsible for “Bari Der”. Totally off topic but, Zeus’s real name is Baljit Singh. Anyway back onto the song! I said on Pyar that the production did the job required, because it’s a similar story here. The lyrics and vocals on this song are absolutely amazing. I always hark on about the quality of lyrics, or the lack of originality shown by 99% of the industry. So it’s refreshing to hear an original song with touching lyrics. Just brilliant, nothing more to say.
The pop orientated “Roj Miliye” follows on and we first heard this in January. All of my musical instincts and beliefs tell me that I should absolutely hate this song. But I actually like it. It’s as pop & cheesy as they will come, but it really works well and most definitely grows on you the more you listen. Like Theke Wali, it’s an easy sing along song. I don’t think we’ve encountered a bad song as of yet.
The bollywood themed “Bhangra Shuroo (Mumbai Mix)”, I wouldn’t really call myself a big bollywood connoisseur, so I probably don’t find this song too appealing. But saying that, it’s a very well made song and you can tell Jaz Dhami really feels at home on the Bollywood vibe. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song actually got picked up for a future Bollywood movie of sorts.
“Lengha” is next and is one of the weaker efforts on the album. Aman Hayer fails to deliver any variation on this track, and it all feels a bit been there done that.
“Sona Munda” follows, and has been produced by Kam Frantic. I’d probably put this just above lengha, It’s fairly catchy, but once again Kam Frantic doesn’t over exert himself on the musical side of things. It's got a real laid back vibe, but it's going to be hard to compete with the first half of the album.
“Tera Mera” is an epic bollywood ballad. Music by Aman Haldipur sees a beautiful array of instruments pieces, carefully placed together. Jaz Dhami has always confessed his ambition to go into bollywood playback singing, and judging from this song, he is on the right track.
The first of two remixes in “Bhangra Shuroo (Panjabi Mix)” without wanting to sound too critical, it is essentially the same song as the Mumbai Mix, but with a heavier dhol accompanying the song throughout.
“Roj Miliye (Club Mix)” is the final song on the album, I would have loved if they turned this into a hardcore drum & bass track, but I think I’ve just got a strange fetish with Drum n Bass with Bhangra.
Debut albums are always difficult for emerging artists. Artists want to try and establish themselves but at the same time, expectations end up going through the roof. Trying to find a balance between promotion and excessive hype is absolutely impossible to manage. A more difficult task is to try and portray yourself as a real artist to a very fickle musical audience.
In saying that, I firmly believe Jaz Dhami has lived up the expectations put on his shoulders. Debut albums are very rarely the peak of an artist’s career. True artists and musicians will always tell you they are learning and improving. The foundation laid down by Jaz Dhami with songs like Theke Wali, Gabroo, Pyar, Tera Mera and my personal favourite Bari Der, show an exciting blend of variation and originality.
There are exciting times ahead for UK Bhangra, but only if we have new talent such as Jaz Dhami at the forefront of our industry. Let’s hope he waits around a few more albums before going into Bollywood. It just shows what you can achieve when you work hard for something. Make sure you go out and buy this album and support this unique talent.
Jaz Dhami – JD gets a 7.8/10
Jaz Dhami - JD is out now on iTunes and all local music shops.