REMIX/REWORK: THE DHOL COMPANY
ALBUM: CASE OF THE BASS 2
VOCALIST: KULDIP SINGH MANAK
Before you read Edition 3 of Bhangra Flashback, I would like to say I make no apologies for any of the comments/statements made in this article. This is purely my personal opinion, and I would like to thank SimplyBhangra.com for giving me the platform to rant and rave!
95% OF BHANGRA REMIXES ARE JUST WRONG!!! Let me make that clear from the start. With the exception of albums such as 100% Proof, Magic Desi, In Da House, Boom Blasters, 100% Desi, Trespass and a few others, most are the of equivalent receiving a wet willy (wet finger in ear that is) from the class smelly kid - unpleasant!
When using the term ‘remix’ in the conventional sense, it describes taking someone else’s released song, adding a popular sample (usually hip-hop), and if you are feeling particularly creative, getting your mate ‘Jagga’, ‘Raj’ or <fill in name here> to play the dhol in the background, and then to try and pass it off as a brand new track or “your vision”. I might be sounding a bit harsh and what is commonly known as a “hater”, but the truth is I also spent the best part of the 90’s doing exactly that – oh yes, apart from a few dozen real gigs, I was mainly a legendary superstar DJ/re-mixer in my own bedroom!
When my ‘History of Bhangra’ book is finally complete (release scheduled March 2021), there will be 2 remix albums which deservingly get their own chapter for being products which stood out from the crowd and attained the respect of elders and the younger generation alike. These are the now cult albums Mighty Manak and Case Of The Bass 1, 2 and 3. Remixed by The Dhol Company (now known as the highly credible Kaos Productions), it would be unfair for me to classify these albums simply as remixes – these were reworked in such a way that to Joe Public it would seem these were brand new produced songs.
Choosing one song from these monumental albums is a difficult task as the quality is so high. The song for me which is the best of the best is ‘Heer’ from Case Of The Bass 2. Featuring the original song Heer Doli Beh Gai Kherian Di by the Kaliyan Da Badhsha Kuldip Singh Manak from the album Folk Songs of Punjab (1978), the rework by The Dhol Company truly injected new life into this classic folk kali, whilst retaining the quality of the original and in some parts improving upon it. Layered with fresh percussion and music pieces, new chords and arrangement, this was a total break from the norm for a remix. Every new sound had its purpose and place, especially the new bass riff which can be heard through-out and is the glue which holds the track together. The Dhol Company created a sound which was not only unique, but actually gave the old song new dimension and feel. They did this with respect for the original song/artist and with the intention of unselfishly introducing a classic to a new audience. This wasn’t a remix; this rework was musical euphoria which took you on a melodious journey from start to end.
All this was done with precision timing which is the key to any good remix. Those who have tried to remix a pre-1985 released Panjabi Folk song will know how tough this can be as the original recording tempo is not constant due to the fact that in most cases, parts were recorded live. To give The Dhol Company further credit, they remixed this song circa 1994, therefore without the aid of fancy computers and, due to the limitations in technology, adopted a manual approach which requires more skill.
Starting with a blank canvas, the entire songs new music parts and arrangement were produced onboard a Korg Sequencer Keyboard without hearing the original song in the background. In layman’s terms, they made the entire structure of the song by imagining Kuldip Manak’s parts in their head and building the music (percussion, chords, bass and leads) around this. Next they bounced the new parts to a multi-track cassette (remember them!), and recorded the dholak and tabla live in one take (yes, I did say ONE TAKE – no copy and pasting here!) as the final piece of music to the song……THEN finally the Kuldip Manak vocal parts from the original recording were added in the right places after the tempo was “fixed”.
DAMN! As a producer, I am speechless! The thought process, skill and time that goes into remixing a song using this method deserves full kudos with honours and a ticker tape parade. It truly is the work ethic of a committed artist, especially considering the lacklustre attempts of other Kuldip Manak remixes at the time.
“Ah ki latha” I hear my dad shout when he used to hear any remix song. He listened to classic Panjabi Folk songs by legends such as Surinder Shinda, K Deep & Jagmohan Kaur, Mohammad Sadiq & Ranjit Kaur, Didar Sandhu, Gurdas Maan and of course Kuldip Manak (on vinyl - a collection which would leave most folk-heads salivating), and grudgingly, occasionally listened to UK Bhangra bands with moderate approval, so his standards were pretty high. But I still remember the day I played ‘Heer’ to him. After I explained that this was a remix, he gleefully said “balle teray, gahna chankatey mar da” (and he didn’t follow with a nonsensical ‘hurrrrr’). Those words have echoed in my ears since, and for me this was one of the biggest compliments he could give a song, let alone a remix!
This song has some very fond memories for me on a personal level also. It reminds me of a time when Bhangra was thriving, both from sales and a creative perspective and, when due to my age, the harsh realities of life such as work, money, mortgages and loss had not dawned upon me. It was a time when I could use my personal wealth (earned from packing lettuce in a dodgy farm during the summer holidays) and hit the streets of Southall Broadway to go on a Bhangra tape shopping spree. Actually walking into Metro Music / Virdee Brothers / ABC, choosing, listening and then, if worthy, buying a tape was an experience in itself which I am honoured to have been a part of. Proof that the purchased tape was a quality could be judged by whether or not the original printed text was still visible a few months later – in the case of Case Of The Bass 2 (no pun intended), my copy now has no text and is lost amongst other esteemed classics such as Doin It by DCS, Uncoverd by Satrang, Death Jamm Life Sentence, Folk n Funky by Jazzy B, which are in a similar state. It is a shame that the majority of today’s youth will miss out on the experience of actually owning a physical copy of an album – clicking a button to download a song/album doesn’t quite have the same magic or lasting effect, especially as it can be deleted and dismissed just as quickly after ‘hearing’ it, and without actually ‘listening’ to it.
The shelf life of a Bhangra album/song has reduced significantly, where albums like Case Of The Bass 2 will be missed by the general public who buy what is fed to them via Social Media and music channels. Now it has become standard to blow your own algozey, where a superstar is born overnight by looking “sick” in a music video (shades indoors, hired car and miming to singer’s vocals) and creating “anthems” by buying your own song so it reaches number 1 for couple of days. ‘Heer’ by The Dhol Company was a song which didn’t need a fancy video and strategic marketing campaign or hype - it became a monster on its merit and quality, so much so that the song started appearing on numerous DJ compilations with them fraudulently taking credit for The Dhol Company’s work and brand (no names mentioned, but YOU know who YOU are).....god I sound bitter, could be my age, could be to sound controversial, maybe both!
Some may think that I am getting carried away, or romanticising my love for this remix due to the joyous time the 90’s was for me, but this song in my humbly arrogant opinion is THE GREATEST BHANGRA REMIX OF ALL TIME!!!.....don’t believe me, listen to the below comparison of the original and remixed, no wait, REPRODUCED version!
Special thanks to Amo from Kaos Productions for his insight on the rework and for contributing to this article
G-COMPANY is a Bhangra producer based in Southampton, who lives and breathes Bhangra. He is currently putting the finishing touches to his untitled 2nd album, which is due for release mid 2013.