G-Company's Bhangra Flashback is set to take you back into Bhangra history for each edition, uncovering a Bhangra song or moment from the past that may have been forgotten. So, dust off your tapes & vinyl’s and get ready to be transported back!
I remember between the ages of 18 and 21, sitting in lectures, head down, studying hard and hanging onto every word spoken by the lecturer. I wanted to do well in life and have a secure future. I had already planned my career, family consisting of 2.4 children, with a 3/4 bedroom house in a safe cul-de-sac, and a reliable (not dull in the slightest) Volvo estate parked in the driveway. Oh yes, that was exactly what my mind was focused on whilst at Uni.....YEAH RIGHT! How I would have loved that to be true, but in reality my thoughts had not gone beyond what I would be doing in 6 or so hours time, for it was a weekday after all.....
The majority of people went clubbing on a Friday and Saturday night, but if you were an Asian student in London, it was all about Monday to Thursday nights. Without a doubt some of the most iconic Bhangra club nights in history (yes, since the beginning of time) took place in London between 1993 and 2000. Now before I go on, I’m not knocking club nights/gigs in the Midlands. When it came to putting on a big show with a massive line-up, Midlands were up there with the best. BUT if you wanted a regular weekly club night, London was the only place to be.
After lectures, my next stop would be the Student Union bar (named ‘Freddies’ where all the “apne” hung out, and ‘Dog Bollocks’ which was named by those who were supposedly the future of this great nation) to decide what the plan was for the evening whilst sipping the customary and ever classy pint of Snake Bite with a few yaar velly. We would buy a bottle on the way back to my students digs, get changed, splash of Eternity/Obsession, hit a session, and we were ready for the night ahead. Whether it was the now Legendary ‘Hot N Spicy’ at Limelight, ‘Bombay Jungle’ at Wag, Samantha’s on Monday, Gas Club, The Office, Capital Club, Mullins, Iceni, Equinox or Hippodrome, no matter which club night we ended up at, each and every week the club was at full capacity. This was to the point that you would either be turned away, or allowed in for an extra fee so that you could still “rub mohdey” with other like-minded, sweat infested, intoxicated students.
(These club nights are not to be confused with Le Palais, Zeniths, Bagleys (with CS gas), Complex, Minstry of Sound, Adrenalin Village etc, – those “gigs” and “daytimers” will be covered in a whole separate article!)
At these club nights you would have the pleasure of busting some crazy spasm like dance moves to the finest club DJ’s spinning the biggest and baddest Bhangra tunes – yes, I did say spinning. There was none of this Serato beat matching technology or Pioneer CDJ’s, these real deal DJ’s would be spinning/scratching/throwing VINYL to entertain and test their skills (again, not knocking current DJ’s as there is some real talent out there - no death threats please). DJ’s included Ambassadors of Sound, Double Trouble, Wreckin Force, Asian DJ Culture, Groove Seduction, Dhol N Bass, DJ Ritu, DJ Bilks, Xzecutive to name a few. One DJ outfit I have deliberately missed off this illustrious list and whom deserve their own mention is, in my eyes and most people will/better agree, a crew who a club night would not be complete without – MAXIMUM NRG with Atepal, Gorby and Markie Mark.
Pick up any club night or gig flyer from this era and if Maximum NRG’s name was not mentioned, it would be a good indication of the type of tunes and vibe of the night. Maximum NRG meant a set list that was the ‘crème de la crème’, with mixing that would compel you to stare at the DJ box with envy, and this would of course include the EPIC (before the word lost all meaning) 'DESI HALF HOUR’ which consisted of 15 minutes (!!!) of pure Panjabi Folk featuring snippets of Kuldip Manak, Surinder Shinda, Gurdas Mann, AS Kang and Old Skool Bhangra by Heera, Alaap, Bhujhangy etc.
Atepal from Maximum NRG commented:
“ As most DJ’s of that time, we did it because we loved the music. Our first love was Bhangra, then DJing and Hip-Hop. Although we did roadshows, and could have easily focused more on this, we much preferred testing our skills in the club in environment where we had total control and could experiment. A few of us DJ's, including AOS DJ Rax, dreamed of being skilled turntablists, and our dream was reaching the heights DMC DJs. We didn’t always conform to the usual tracks and always tried to be different. We never used Rumours instrumental at a club, handpicking beats that were more complex by Gangstarr, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Alkaholiks and Cypress Hill. The adrenalin was provided by the crowd, none more so than when we played Dupatta Tera Satrang Da at Limelight - it blew the roof off the place as absolutely no-one expected it! The whole dance floor was packed with people jumping up and down. It was one of those moments where my hands were shaking, and even thinking about it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Good times! ”
Such was the genius of Maximum NRG, that they knew how to keep the crowd entertained night after night playing the finest selection of Bhangra songs mixed with western beats, to truly give these now anthems a surge of energy and extra cherry of bass. I can remember another time when a DJ had played back to back dance floor Bhangra classics, and then Maximum NRG came on the decks and cut the music to complete silence and dropped/scratched in Fu-Gee-La by the Fugees. The crowd just stopped with a look of contempt and disdain; how dare this DJ disrespect our music/heritage, and waste my £5 entry fee by replacing it with this “noise” – then they did it......amongst the slick scratching they effortlessly blended the distinctive high crisp treble dhol roll from Saqian De Dhol by Saqi. YES, this was one of those moments which I am sure has remained with all of those present as it has with me. It was a moment of extreme doldrums and the peak of ecstasy all rolled into one without the need of any Class A substances. That is what made these sets so memorable; expect the unexpected with a few curve balls thrown in for good measure.
I could go on and on about moments such as this, but why describe them in words when you can hear the pure genius of these live sets. As a WORLD EXCLUSIVE, I have managed to persuade Maximum NRG to recreate the magic. Handpicked by Atepal, who has replicated the exact set he played at the numerous clubs during that time including all the beats and instrumentals that he used. PLUS as a special request by me and for the Panjabi Folk fans, he has recreated the infamous 'DESI HALF HOUR’.
I actually feel sorry for people who only experienced club night’s post 2000 – you really did miss out on the era where it all began. A gig was all about the music and having a great time – no pretentiousness, no constant posing for the camera (with 2 finger gun/gangsta pose) and, above all, no Facebook to expose your late night shenanigans! These really were ‘The Wonder Years’.....
Massive thanks to Atepal from Maximum NRG for recreating this legendary live set, and to Mits Singh (Hustlers Convention) for providing the original flyers.
Maximum NRG links:
G-COMPANY is 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 2014.