This month I’m going to focus on the vocalists of that decade and give you my Top 5 Bhangra voices of the 90’s. Again it’s my opinion and if you don't like it well then just share with the Bhangra world your Top 5‘s (I’ll be reading).
For me, the emotional, creative, driven, positive atmosphere of UK Bhangra music was the 90’s....no question, no arguments! If you didn't live Bhangra in the 90’s you’ll never really know what Bhangra is. Yes I know you lot born after1990 will be saying ‘you grumpy old git’ but trust me on this one when I say that I’m gutted for you that you’ve missed it!
With so many voices, bands, hits and anthems from that era it’s a tough one to highlight 5 but here goes Bhamrah ... Enjoy!
Honorable mentions: Surjit Sahota, Meshi Eshara, Avatar Maniac, K.S.Bhamrah, Sardara Gill, Bhoota Pardesi, Silinder Pardesi, Vijay Achanak, Sujit Anakhi.
NO.5 - Dippa Dosanjh
When you start listing the biggest tracks of the 90’s ‘Dhola Veh Dhola’ will be (should be, better be) in most top 5’s. How can it not? Even today it is a massive dance-floor anthem and the man behind the voice has everything to do with its success. That man being Dippa Satrang and it launched the career of one of the defining Bhangra vocalists of the 90’s.
The genuine success of the band Satrang came in the early 90’s with the release of their single Bhangramuffin. There were other albums with varying degree of success before the bands end. The talents of Dippa however carried on to bigger and better things with his work as a guest vocalist. His vocal clarity was fantastic, his pitch was spot on, his vocaling style was a combination of old skool folk with a dash of edgy UK Bhangra, he became the go to voice for ever increasing various artists album market.
With Satrang there was tracks like ‘Pendiyah Neh Bolian’, 'Patloh’, ‘Kartaro’, ‘Sajana’ which combined Dippa’s powerful vocals with Satrang’s unique funky sound. As a solo vocalist he had many more tracks including ‘Akhiyan Di Maar Buri‘ on Death Jamm 2, ‘Bari Khol Ke’ on the Midlands Boyz 2 Men album. His solo albums included tracks like ‘Patola’ from the Kiss & Tell produced album 2U, ‘Bhangra Mein Pawan’ from the Dibby Dipps Style album & ‘Police Check Point’ on the Sukshinda Shinda produced album True Colors. There are so many more tracks and many more albums but the bottom line is that Dippa’s voice was consistently successful in the 90’s and well into the 2000’s.
NO.4 - Shin
This man can easily feature in the Top 5 vocalists of the 80’s, 2000’s and even this decade! That’s how consistently amazing Shin is as a vocalist. But if I had to pick Shin’s peak decade it is without a doubt the 90’s. Along with his band DCS these guys were on another planet when it came to impact they made in the 90’s and Shin was leading the charge from the front. Everything he did in the 90’s had made him the legend that he is today.
Let me roll off the DCS albums that landed in the 90’s. Bhangra’s Gonna Get You, OU1, Doin It, Eat Rhythm, Punjabi Dance Nation (that’s excluding religious, mainstream & solo ventures) and then take stock of what we’re dealing with here. Albums and EP’s that oozed attitude, creativity, swagger and youth. Shin is simply one of the most complete vocalists ever to grace the Bhangra world. His unique vocal style combined almost every aspect of singing from classical to folk, pop to soul...in the 90’s Shin was a vocal machine.
Shin voice graced classics like ‘Dil Phirbi Punjabi’, ‘Nashe Diye Band Bottley’, ‘Kangna’, ‘Kara Vajda’, ‘Doh Chareya Di’, ‘Labha De Ute’, ‘Lai Ke Khethan Val Aja’, ‘Doin’ It Boliyan’ and so much more. I haven’t even touch on how epic Shin was live (I’ll save that for another Top 5). In a nut shell, if you weren’t dancing your sweaty backside off you were just standing and watching in amazement at the hyped, energetic & seriously dangerous of Shin & DCS.
Shin in the studio was a dream to hear, Shin live was a joy to experience. The fire that Shin’s voice lit in the 90’s was so blazing, the man was white hot and Bhangra fans loved it!
NO.3 - A.S Kang
The rebirth of the living legend. In the 70’s AS.Kang was an international triumph for UK Bhangra music. Granted, the industry was at its genesis, but Kang was knocking out anthems almost without trying and was the first UK to Punjabi success story. Kang’s career is a 3 part journey. Part 1 is the ‘Gidhiya Di Rani’ story, Part 3 will be the 2013 return but it’s the 2nd part of this story which makes AS.Kang the biggest legend of UK Bhangra music.
1989 saw A.S.Kang’s release of Lut Ke Le Gayee and then he either took time off, fell off the radar or fell out of love with music....take your pick. Fast forward to 1994, the second coming of Kang arises. In the midst of DJ’s and producers in full force experimental mode a 2 man team came together to bring back and reinvent a legend. That team being Kang’s son Mashinder and a young up and coming talented producer called Sukshinder Shinda. The rest is history!
'Flashback' was the comeback album. Its an album which combined 2 generation into one mutual love for a product. Kids were buying by the bucket load because the music was solid, fresh, it was traditional Bhangra music but in a 90’s way, it had songs with cool hook lines and the target market loved it. The crazy thing wa also that the kids parents who went out and bought it because it was their returning star and that why Kang packed dancefloors. The best thing of all was that Kang’s voice was still amazing, it still packed a solid punch and it was a no brainer that Kang re-entered the Bhangra world right amongst the best vocalists of the era.
If Flashback was your amuse bouche, 'Jawani Youth' was our starter, 'Kang Fu' was our main meal and 'The Untouchable' album was our desert. 4 years, 4 albums and a legacy reignited. ‘Valeti Boliyan’, 'Sara Tu Punjab’, ‘Mele Vich’, ‘Gorie’, ‘Desi Boliyan’, ‘Udham Singh Di Waar’, hits in every decade, Bhangra’s Cliff Richard? You better believe it!
NO.2 - Malkit Singh
The 80’s showed the establishment of one of the greatest (maybe even the greatest) UK Bhangra vocalists of all time. Malkit Singh hit the ground running well alongside Tarlochan Singh Bilga and their band Golden Star. His voice on the albums ‘Nach Gidhe Wich’, ‘The Best of....’, ‘Up Front’ established Malkit as a household name.
Come the 90‘s, Malkit splits from TSB and takes full advantage of every potential he had to offer. The globe-trotting superstar was vocaling iconic albums like 'Midas Touch', 'Forever Gold', collaborating with the likes of Apache Indian and firmly established himself as one of the elite artists in India. To break America is the holy grail of mainstream artists; Bhangra’s is to break India and Malkit Singh’s single minded determination to be nothing but the best allowed him to do just that. It’s what has made him the legend he is today. Malkit was relentless, on the road performing everywhere and was one half of the most epic rivalries of the 90‘s & all time. The mid 90’s gave the Bhangra fans Malkit Singh v Safri ... im talking WWE style! Club nights would bill Safri Boyz & Malkit Singh on the same night, fans would be excited in anticipation, comparing the last time they met to who’s gonna smash it this time around. It was crazy, it was fun and it was something that Malkit Singh reveled in!
Who won or lost is down to the fans but what no one can deny is that the live performances from Malkit Singh were all about his music and rocked crowds around the world without singing a cover version. He was the international face of Bhangra music in the 90’s with every TV station around the world going to Malkit when they wanted Bhangra. He gave us anthems like ‘Mitthe Ganne’, ‘Hai Kurti’, ‘Nachda Punjab’, a qawali flex with ‘Akh Larr Gayee’, ‘Shadaley’ & a vocal performance to behold on Independent Girl.
NO.1 - Balwinder Safri
Simply the voice of the 90’s! A decade of anthems, music versatility, collaborations and living the rock and roll life...that was Safri. The 80’s saw Balwinder Safri struggle and hustle in the UK Bhangra world. Working with different bands, albums, projects just didn’t click for him. There were many singers just like him who just gave it all in, but with Safri he had 2 entities which other struggling singers lacked. Genuine vocal ability & industry support. Safri was a singer who the UK Bhangra industry knew all about and wanted to see him succeed. He was a talent which fellow musicians and artists believed in and really wanted the world to appreciate him like they did.
After many failed attempts it finally ‘clicked’ for Safri with the formation of his band and the historical single ‘Legends’. The rest as they say is history. One track did it for Safri and that was his rendition of ‘Par Lighade’ and it made Bhangra fans sit up and take note. His voice on the track was phenomenal, the hek at the beginning, the sheer was immense, the power and precision on his vocal delivery was amazing and I’m slowly running out of words to describe Safri on this track. He finally arrived.
The 90’s then saw Safri implement his versatility as a vocalist. He had it all and showed it on Safri Boyz albums and many various artists’ albums he featured on. He belted out Bhangra vocals with conviction in tracks like ‘Put Sardaran De’, ‘Chan Mere Makhna’ & ‘Pao Bhangre’, he made us appreciate his classical side with ‘Jad Lagdiyan Chotan’ & ‘Kyon Door Door’, he even gave us Qawali vibes with ‘Apni Nigah Nu’ and a spine tingling Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan cover of ‘Akhiyan Larh Giyan’...his voice was dangerous!
‘Mr Mirza’, ‘The Boyz Boliyan’, ‘Mere Dil Te Alana’, ‘Aja Billo’, ‘Raahe Raahe’, ‘Ankhi Jodae’, ‘Kale Pag Te Sitare’ and the incredible list of Bawinder Safri vocals can go on and on. Balwinder Safri, for me. is the voice of UK Bhangra in the 90’s with his versatility giving him the edge. A voice, the likes of which, we’ll never hear again!
Agree? Disagree? Give us your Top 5 UK Bhangra Singers of the 90’s.
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 successful DJ & Producer at his newly founded studio The Hyper Lab.