Music

Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Bhangra Dance

Second round for Rough Guide's tour of bhangra. This time, the travel company seeks to update the sounds for your next trip to Kuch Kuch.


Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Bhangra Dance

Label: World Music Network
US Release Date: 2006-04-03
UK Release Date: 2006-02-20
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Six years have passed since Rough Guide's first foray into British Asian bhangra, a dance music style stemming from Punjabi folk culture. Where the first volume attempted to present listeners with a brief history, the follow-up The Rough Guide to Bhangra Dance attempts to bring them up-to-speed on how the music has evolved. DJ Ritu, a 20-year veteran DJ, radio host and record company A&R of British-Indian descent, returns to helm the collection and offers another wide sampling of artists and sounds. Her club and industry experience shows as she culls tracks that present current pop tastes ("flavors of the month", as she says herself), contemporary instrumentation (ranging from the continued use of the traditional dhol drum to the sampling of Usher's "Yeah") and modern trends (placement in feature films). In addition to Ritu's thorough liner notes, this latest edition of the Rough Guide series continues to provide a summary yet economical exploration, apt for the musical tourist.

Considering that it is now a multi-million pound industry, bhangra has understandably become a diverse field crossing generation, genre and medium. Malkit Singh, the "British King of Bhangra" whose 20-plus year career and multiple awards only hint at his stature, sounds strong and clear as ever on his ragga-stomper "Chal Hun (Get Up Fix)". On the opposite end is an artist like Binder, a young producer who comes from outside the "bhangra heartlands of Birmingham and London" of Yorkshire. His "Billo Raneeay" expertly mixes dancehall and club-worthy subtonic bass with traditional vocals, complete with filters and effects. Regardless of age, each artist manages a balance between roots and growth, past and present that makes their respective works equally intriguing. Perhaps the best representation of this effort is Four of a Kind, a "new, boy band" that pushes the classic folk song "Rail Gaddi" to both a brisk house beat and traditional drums riding the upbeats. An apt opener for the compilation, the recording's production value stamps the date distinctly, while remaining distinct from the Western forms it engages.

Certainly, this fusion of influences can be traced to the worldwide paths of South Asian culture. As a medium of expression for artists based in the UK, North America and even the West Indies, bhangra naturally requires fluency in multiple languages and sound dynamics. And, like any other marketable product, desires to be acquired by others. Hence, Soni Pabla's "Dil Tera" can be viewed as an extension of the Asian-Caribbean bridge first laid by "bhangra-muffin" Apache Indian. Mixing dancehall syncopation, patois toasting and Punjabi verses, Pabla navigates a similar migration path of numerous South Asians. Aman Hayer's "Dil Nai Lagda" further expands the network by running Spanish guitar chords and flamenco rhythms underneath traditional vocal workouts from Feroz Khan and the cooing Vinni. Similarly, Veronica employs English verses and an R&B production sensibility, while remaining rooted in bhangra by keeping "Sajna"'s plush bass and drum tracks far back in the mix, in favor of harmonium lines and the familiar upbeat accent. In such a manner, each cut strikes a deliberate balance between contemporary, Western pop/club sounds and Punjabi melodic and rhythmic roots, rather than blind appropriation.

Oddly enough, the most telling examples of bhangra's commercial success are the two most subdued tracks of the compilation, Madan Bata Sindhu (and a cast of actresses)'s "Mehndi/Madhorama Pencha" and Juggy D's contemplative "Akheer". While both cuts are relatively formal and traditional as music pieces, their existence also represents South Asian inroads within Western culture. Sindhu's performance, taken from Mira Nair's feature film Monsoon Wedding, offers Hollywood a rare glimpse of an intimate moment during a traditional Punjabi wedding. The scene presents a predominantly Anglo-Saxon industry with a familiar ceremony, minus the exotic garnish and more with a sense of dignity. Of course, there is always a flipside as with the relative newcomer Juggy D, who has risen to such popularity that "every sneeze and cough [makes] the front pages of the Asian tabloids". You know you've made it when you have reached both the critics and the gossip folks.

Of course, the trick is to draw the line at how much can be inferred about culture from a commercial music compilation. Once again, Rough Guide drapes the package in images of presumably Punjabi men in seemingly traditional garb, creating a forced message of cultural authenticity that makes the package unintentionally insincere. Additionally, like any other popular culture, bhangra is no more or less susceptible to a degree of gruyère. Here, Ritu steers clear of the "low end". However, taken as one DJ's observations on a wide art form and culture, Rough Guide to Bhangra Dance performs ably enough. After all, what more can you expect from a one-hour tour?

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.

Music

Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.

Music

That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.

Books

Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.

Reviews

Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.

Music

Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.

Film

'Thor: Ragnorak' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.

Music

Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.

Music

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.

Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.