Ever since Tigerstyle controversially left Moviebox back in 2003/2004, the idea of their next full LP has left the Bhangra scene waiting to see what these two talented brothers can deliver. After years of doing mix tapes, bootlegs and probably a shed load of ghost production they have finally arrived to their brand new album.
The self titled ‘Artists In Exile’ have come a long way since the days of The Rising, Extended Play & Virsa. Having built their own studio ‘The Dera’ they have established themselves as one of the biggest names in the Asian music industry; all without the release of a full album for almost 6 years, since ‘Virsa’ was released back in 2002.
Three years after signing to Ninder Johal’s Nachural Records; their brand new album creatively titled ‘Mystics, Martyrs & Maharjas’ is finally out! Featuring some of the biggest names in the Bhangra industry, alongside a whole host of other artists.
Bobby Friction has claimed that Tigerstyle are ‘the next Bhanrga act to break the mainstream’ and the press release for this album states that this album is ‘what the Asian music industry has been waiting for’. So the hype has been created, the stage is set, will Tigerstyle deliver an album worthy of the all these years of expectations?
The album kicks off with ‘Maan Doabe Da’, roughly translated into ‘I’m from Doaba’. For those who don’t know, East Punjab is split into three main sectors, Majha, Doaba and Malwa. You learn something new everyday hey? Anyway onto the song…which has been sung by the unknown Amrik Babbal. A typical dhol brings the song in, with the production qualities of the Tigerstyle quite evident. A heavy bassline mashed up with all the instrumentation you would expect from a Tigerstyle track. It’s top track, but I won’t find myself blasting it too much….I’m from Malwa! Regardless it’s a good way to kick off the album, why anyone would want to big up Doaba is beyond me though… (I’m going to regret saying that aren’t I?)
An infectious dhol beat brings in ‘Balle! Shava!’ which in my opinion is only a song Tigerstyle could pull off. It features a interesting collaboration between dancehall act Vybez Kartel, former X-Factor contestant Nikitta and one of my favourite Punjabi vocalists Mangi Mahal! Now when I heard Tigerstyle were doing a track with Mangi Mahal I envisaged something totally opposite to this. Regardless of what I wanted, this tune is banging. As I said before it’s only something Tigerstyle could do, bring three totally different acts together and make such a great single. For those who only want to hear the sublime vocals of Mangi Mahal there is an extended Punjabi edit available via digital downloads. Also check out the Swami & Sinden remixes of which both are quality!
‘Akh Mastani’ is up next and also features another collaboration. This time with UK Hip hop act; Iceburg Slimm. The Punjabi vocals are by Labh Janjua who gives his usual high impact performance. There are two versions to this song available with the Punjabi Mix on the Balle Shava EP; personally I really don’t see what Iceburg Slimm brings to this song. Sticking a rapper onto a song won’t make it easier to break the ‘mainstream’! Check out the Punjabi drums mix, which is much superior to this version. But I can’t really review a track that’s not on this album.
Bill Singh and Lady Ru combine on “Dil Lutke legayi” and it has your typical Tigerstyle feel. It’s a song that’s a little in between average and very good… the production is good enough and the vocals of Bill Singh do the trick. Once again I’m not too sure what the inclusion of Lady Ru adds to the song, other than the fact she’s a semi-mainstream artist.
A big collaboration with Raghav is up next on “Tired of Love” and I can’t explain how infectious this song is. You hear it once and you want to hear it again and again…However I did find myself getting a little tired of the repetitive lyrics from Raghav. Regardless, the music laid down by Tigerstyle is top quality. However one question, the same harmonium piece appears in Kid Skilly’s ‘Bhangra Chick’ which was released over a year ago…so who copied who?
“Heer” has been sung by Bikram Singh and is a slow ballad-esque track with some heavy duty production from Tigerstyle. Bikram’s own album was released a few months back and well it wasn’t very good. I have no idea what has happened to his voice, it seems as though since ‘American Jugni’ he has gone downhill. I have no idea, but this song isn’t doing him any favours. Is it really the same person who sang Kawan?
A bit of Lehmber Hussainpuri, I guess no album would be complete without Lehmber. He appears on “Jatt Mele Chaliya” which is another re-work of a song that was first leaked (somehow) a few years back. This song is one of the better tracks on the album, with a gritty beat and a pounding dhol. It’s a good song, but I’m not really finding myself going back to it.
Whoever thought of the track listing wasn’t paying attention when they put two similar sounding songs next to each other… “Jatt Di Lariye” follows Jatt mele chaliya. It’s been sung by Sucha Rangila. Much like the Lehmber track it’s another pretty decent effort but follows a worn out production sound that we’ve heard before. It’s nothing really innovative or different. The vocal could have been put to much better use.
Now I’m awoken by the sounds of “Bol! Bol! Bol!”. Miss Rimpi, whoever you are, get out there and make more songs! This is one of the best gidda tracks I’ve heard in a long long time. However this version on the album is the drum and bass edit which I have to say is equally as good as the desi mix. After a couple of lacklustre efforts Bol Bol Bol puts this album right back on track!
For those of you readers who live in the UK, you will all know about Tigerstyle gaining fame via the Britains got Talent show. Their track with Kaka Bhainivala became a cult hit and they have teamed up with him again on what is possibly the best single off the album titled “Nachne Nu Dil Ta”. Unlike the anthem Nachna Onda Ni, this is more mellowed out song, with production being slick throughout. I guess this is what you call a safety song. It’s something everyone will like and sticks to the tried and tested formula.
“Jadhoo” follows and I’m left a little disappointed. Really the songs fine, but I’ve heard this before. Maybe not the full song but I’ve heard enough of it not to be taken aback. The remix of this song featured on Blitzkriegs album which I purchased last year. Aren’t remixes supposed to come out BEFORE the main single is released? For what it’s worth both Shveta and Sharifa Shi do a great job on the vocals and the song is almost intoxicating. A good song but I’ve heard it before so skip.
Billa Bakshi is tipped as the next big thing in the Bhangra industry and made a very impressive ‘debut’ on Reloaded (DJ H & Rags) with his song Koi Morr. He vocals on “Gideh Vich, Gideh Vich” the song also features a collaboration with reggaeton act Mic Delincuente. Can you see were this is going? I have never forwarded a song because I was receiving a headache…this has to be a first. What the fu*k is going on in this song? Now really… this whole Bhangraton thing was big for about 6 months circa 2005…its 2008 now, we’ve all moved on. This song is a sad waste of vocal and a complete mess. There is too much going on to even begin to try and comprehend what Billa Bakshi is saying. Maybe I just don’t get what Tigerstyle were trying to-do here, or I’m not that musically knowledgeable. But hey, I paid for this so I guess I’m allowed. It’s all good trying to experiment…but come on lads this sounds so out of date…..
“Maharajas” is next and is another all out rap single featuring a trio of MC’s; Shizzio, Savana & Mexwell D. I know a lot of people maybe thinking that I only just listen to Bhangra and so I am unable to comprehend different types of music but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Maharajas is a lot better than T-T-Tigerstyle and has a infectious beat which all three MC’s grace with adequate quality. A good song but I’m just happy to get past gideh vich gideh vich.
Original Nutta…Nutta..Original badmannn…you’ve all heard it right? Well it was brought to you by UK Apache who brought out one of the biggest underground singles of the 90’s. Tigerstyle have teamed him up with the legendary Surinder Shinda on “Asian Woman”. Forget this whole mashing up Reggaton with Bhangra. Drum and Bass and Bhangra has to be one of the most effective combos. This song is absolute fire! A gritty guitar riff keeps your head moving, along with the pulsating bassline. Now I’m a big fan of drum and bass and Bhangra and this is one of the best track of its genre I’ve heard. This is what Tigerstyle are all about.
Kanwar, of who you may remember from Rambo (Jazzy B) is on hand for; “Son of Sardar part 2”. Part one was released in 2007 on the Shaheedi compilation titled ‘Panj’. Much like part 1 this is another very good song. Just try to ignore the music (which is very good), but this song much like part 1 is all about the lyrics. A dedication to those heroes who gave up their lives bravely for faith culture and religion and made sacrifices we would not be able to comprehend. I honestly believe that even non Sikhs/Punjabis will be able to relate and have some form of connection with this song. As always, Tigerstyle have never ever hidden their political views, from Warcries to Son of a Sardar part 2. Some say politics and music shouldn’t really mix and that is true to an extent, but some things should never be forgotten.
The final track in this mammoth album has been sung by the hugely talented Gunjan. “Maiya” was first performed live on Desi DNA and received a huge response after Gunjans amazing live performance. It’s quite a way to end an album, a 6 minute long song that keeps the same tempo throughout. It’s one of those songs that I guess will only appeal to a certain number of people.., I personally find it ok but that’s just me. Gunjan however does sound awesome. Where’s the solo album?
Wow, that was long. A massive 17 tracks, I don’t think I have ever reviewed something so diverse, so long and at the same time quite infuriating.
Is it the greatest album ever and will it finally bring Bhangra to the mainstream and save us from self destruction whilst saving us from the credit crunch all at the same time? No.
Let’s be fair to Tigerstyle and say that the hype and attention surrounding this album has been, quite stupid. A lot of it has been down due to the media (such as myself) but Tigerstyle have not helped themselves in that respect. It was literally impossible to try and live up to it, and without going through the phases, regardless of the expectations this album does remain a good release.With my personal favourite singles being; Maan Doabe Da, Balle Shava, Bol Bol Bol, Tired of love, Nachne Nu dil ta and the explosive Asian Woman.
Reviewing and judging this album is not like judging a normal album, it’s not a Bhangra album, it’s not a hip hop album, it’s a Tigerstyle album, a mash up of different sounds cultures and artists. Maybe I am just unable to comprehend what Tigerstyle were aiming to achieve with a number of songs on this album, it feels as though they have tried too hard to be different, too hard to try and set them selves apart from the dirty Bhangra scene that they have criticized so much.
The pressure and expectations of this album had stuck to the Tigerstyle name like a stigma, and now that it is finally out the way we will be able to drop great albums in the future. However don’t get it twisted, this is an album that your regular Bhangra joey DJ would sell their soul for, it’s a very good well made album, but it just lacks to give it the edge and maybe the legacy Tigerstyle hoped it would achieve. For me it’s £9 well spent and a great album, but maybe it’s just not as good as Tigerstyle want them selves to believe it is.
Believing the hype Bobby Friction gives you is one thing, delivering an album worthy of accomplishing that feat is another.
Album summed up in three words: Good but not Great (ok thats four!)
Tigerstyle - Mystics, Martrys and Maharajas gets a 7.8/10