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Dipps Bhamrah: Top 5 Defining UK Bhangra Albums

In the first of a brand new monthly blog on, Dipps Bhamrah goes through his Top 5 Defining Bhangra albums of all time!

Honourable mentions - Specialist & Tru Skool - Repazent, Sukshinder Shinda - Living The Dream, Shaktee - Powered Up, S.S.Gill - Jam To The Bhangra, Malkit Singh & Harvinder Singh - Forever Gold, Panjabi MC - Legalised, Bally Jagpal - Dark & Dangerous.

5. Dr Zeus - Under Da Influence

Bhangra music has been through many personas. 5 man band with their own amps and mics, the professionalism of bands in the 80’s, the youth injection & experimentation of the 90’s which brings us to the 2000’s. Bhangra is on the up, new acts, new producers and a new generation are embracing Bhangra and want more. What the new generation wanted were Bhangra stars to call their own just like their parents had with the 80’s bands. 2001 gave them Dr Zeus.

The album Highlife had the dance floor epic Gwandian Da Dhol and from it Zeus was one of the hottest names around. It was his 2003 follow up which, in my opinion, globalised Bhangra music. Whatever people say, think or believe the facts are here....Under Da Influence is an album which showcases one the finest examples of ‘talent mentoring’. Kam Frantic is a name which many hear and have their own view or conspiracy theories about. The simple fact is that Unda Da influence was an album where we heard the musical vision of Zeus and him team of singers and musicians bringing that vision to life.

The opener of ‘Ah Ni Kurie’ is an anthem, there are no words left to describe the impact and musical genius that is ‘Kangna’, ‘Mil De Yaar’ is an urban new age UK Bhangra sad song, ‘Mele Wich Jatt’ is still a banger, ‘Naina’ still a summer anthem...shall i go on? The ‘Kangna (Acoustic)’ would have been a wonderful track to listen to even if the original wasn't on there and ‘Tin Cheejha’ is the apex of Lehmber & Zeus. The song selection was amazing, the vocals are stunning, the usage of new recording and editing methods makes Dr Zeus’ Unda Da Influence an album ahead of its time and simply a special Bhangra album.

4. The Safri Boys - Bomb The Tumbi

If there was ever an album which quietly walked round the corner and punched you in the face....its this one. An album which was a much anticipated follow up and delivered more than anyone could ever have imagined. It excited the musical taste buds of Bhangra fans. Balwinder Safri was an industry favorite. Musicians, artists & those behind the scenes knew his talents & desperately wanted him to succeed. He did bits with Ashoka Group, bits with Geet Sangeet Group, an album with Deepak Kazanchi which wasn't really the breakthrough but Safri didnt give up on an almost 10 year hustle.

The early 90’s saw the coming together of a group of young, talented and eager musicians from Birmingham which havd Safri as their front man. The Safri Boys were born and the release of the single Legends blew everyone away. The music, the voice the creativity was unique and so captivating that people wanted more.

Its 1992 and Bomb The Tumbi did exactly what the album cover showed .... it crash landed like a meteor from outta space and caused Bhangra carnage. You put the cassette into your tape player and the first this you hear is Shakespear given a Punjabi refix with the famous ‘Tumbi or not Tumbi’ into for The Boys Boliyan. The Boliyan themselves were a roller-coaster ride and a half with their mix of traditional lyrics from the pind to comedy lyrics from UK lives. The musical energy in Mr Mirza, coupled with the incredible vocal performance from Safri, was just crazy. The whole album was an incredible showcase of the talent that made The Safri Boys and of one of the first albums to show every element of Punjabi music. From folk to pop, classical to comedy, sampling to slow jams, quirky to confidence, Bomb The Tumbi had it all and set the standard for the new wave of 90’s band to meet.

3. B21 - By Public Demand

When the UK was on a high after football came home, we were all picking our favorite Spice Girls, the desi audience had their heads turned by the sight and sounds of 3 lads from Birmingham. It was 1996 and Bhangra music was going through a real off period. Band culture was declining, DJ mixing culture increasing, Bhangra music was being fused left right and centre with any genre possible to make it relevant (and i mean everything from jungle, to rave, to acid and god knows what you can see i wasn't really a fan) and the essence of happy go lucky Bhangra was almost non existent.

So when Bally, Bhoota & Jassi released their debut album it gave Bhangra fans what they ultimately always want, Bhangra music! Roll on 1998 and B21 mania is sweeping the world and thats not an understatement. The music, the simple but hypnotic stage performances, the smiles, the swagger just captivated the audience and people paid the see B21.

The release of the album By Public Demand did exactly what it said on the tin. The people wanted more B21 and with this album it made them household names. The creativity of ‘Chandigar’, the slow tempo desi grooves of ‘Deor Da Viah’, the Bee Gee’s inspired ‘Chitia Kapa Dia’, the ragga to DnB fused ‘Kothe Te’, Garage inspired anthem ‘Din Raat’ & the hold on to your chudies its gonna get Bhangra hyper ‘Put Sardaran Da’ ... every track oozed freshness, happiness, energy, creative sampling and youth. By Public Demand by B21 is defining because it the final push Bhangra needed out of the pit of fusion wilderness and gave it the kick of the back side it needed. It showed the artists that the new generation may not have got the lingo but craved Bhangra music they could simple enjoy dancing to.

2. Heera - Diamonds From Heera

Welcome to the westernisation of Bhangra music. AS.Kang, Alaap, Azaad, Bhuchangy, Premi, Kuljit Bhamra were just some of the names making great music in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Armed with a handful of the standard traditional instruments used in making Punjabi/Bhangra music they made some wonderful songs and anthems. Then Deepak Khazanchi met Heera and their collaboration gave all musicians of Punjabi music a new vision.

Deepak was the first producer to grab UK Bhangra by the scruff of the neck, introduce it to 80’s Pop music and said ‘im the vachola, you’re getting hitched’. The marriage was the most perfect possible and showed every artist how you can make amazing Punjabi music while fusing it with the music that the 2nd British Asian’s were moving towards. Diamonds from Heera may well be the birth of the UK Bhangra scene.

Every song was a lyrical joy, the vocal performances fantastic and the music was fresh as you can get. Synth drums, guitars, bass lines, chord structures were ever present in all 8 tracks. The fusion with santur’s, violins, tabla, dholacks was something never heard on this level and set the standard which everyone embraced. Diamonds From Heera was the album which showed the UK desi artists the future and finally gave the young BritAsian audience an album they proudly show the rest of the world as ‘their music’.

1. The New Pardesi Music Machine - Pump Up The Bhangra (1988)

To truly feel the impact Pump Up The Bhangra made you really have to understand the age in which that album was released. It was an age of recording everything live, musical structures had to be followed, western percussion & chord structures had just about been integrated. So when you hear the opening track containing words from one of the biggest 80’s tracks of all time, samples of trains, scratching, Malkit Singh’s vocals jacked, lines from other bands songs, all in 10mins of non stop Bhangra, its something that your mind just couldn't handle but damn sure enjoys. You just about had a telephone in your house and got goose bumps hearing the ringing tone and then you hear a whole song with the phone ringing in it, answer phone messages and a whole lot more going on....amazing! Simply the album which changed everything in Bhangra music. It changed everyone’s mind, ears and expectations in a way that will never be replicated.

Why so many accolades?

Lets take trip back to 1986 and the debut Pardesi album ‘Nashay Diyie Band Botlay’. Couple of nice tunes, interesting cover of a woman trapped in a bottle, otherwise it wasn't anything amazing. 2 years later and the forces of analogue, digital, east, west all collide head on. 3 names to remember ... Rag, Surinder & and man who later became more universally known as Kam Frantic, the genius minds which changed Bhangra forever and that is no understatement. The 3 brothers took the new phenomenon of sampling existing sounds and reusing them without any inhibitions. They did whatever they wanted musically without caring, they put in sounds which technically you weren't supposed to, but what constructed was an album which was so ahead of its time, i don't think any producer in 2013 could replicate the vision it stands for.

Aside from the sampling elements in Pump Up The Bhangra, there were stunning tracks from top to bottom. They pulled out a cover for Shuncata Penda, banging Bhangra anthems in Pardesi Pind Wich Ageya & Balle Balle, Telephone was sampling and creative lyrical bliss and Kach Wargi Mutiar was how creative sampling is gold!

Arise and salute, in Bhamrah’s opinion, the most defining Bhangra album of all time....

Pump Up The Bhangra, Pump Up The Bhangra, Pump Up The Bhangra, Dance Dance Dance....

Dipps Bhamrah is currently a presenter at the BBC Asian Network, with his Sunday Punjabi Music show from 6-8pm. Alongside this, he is also a sucessful DJ & Producer at his newly founded studio The Hyper Lab.

Twitter: @DippsBhamrah