Thursday 4 September 2014

Is Bhangra Music Dead?

Great question! I don't think the Panjabi Music industry is dying per say but I strongly believe it is evolving and changing.  I believe that the folk genre of Panjabi music is becoming more of a specialized listener-ship and soon to be an acquired taste only for the "purists".  I also believe the influence of mainstream music and western flavours have definitely changed the sound and it definitely can be heard in most productions today.

There are multiple factors and variables for this so-called evolution.  To keep this article short and sweet I picked out which I think are some key points that are major contributors a new type of Panjabi music sound.  My article is not based on technical reasons but more on perception and mindset of all the parties involved.  I think if we can start from the basics the technical pieces fall into place.  For example you wouldn't give a loaded gun to an untrained person to fire but if that person is trained and has the proper mindset a loaded gun is just another tool in their arsenal of weapons.


The listener of today is no longer some guy or girl that blindly puts on a set of headphones and listens to music for the sake of it.  Today's listeners are very educated and know what they want.  They can differentiate between "good" music and "bad" music as I refer to as harmonically sound and in key.  The listener of today is adverse with terms such as "ghost production", "taal", "sur" etc.  In short, our listeners know their music.  They understand how it is produced and the money involved to make music.  To disrespect their intelligence by producing sub par music with the attitude that the "listeners" won't know will only harm the artist in the end.

From my experience, the youth today are not only adverse with their Panjabi music but also heavily influenced, if not more in some cases, by mainstream music.  I have been DJ'ing for 25+ years and I've seen a trend at wedding receptions people not only going crazy to classics such at "Yaar Bold" by the late great Surjit Binderakhia but also jamming to anything from Drake equally.  Why is it that artists like Imran Khan and Honey Singh still today are continually touring on  regular basis? Have you heard their music? hmmmm....

Make music for your listeners and not yourself!


I'm sorry artists but Folk is a dying breed.  I've had many conversations with so many producers, artists and DJ's and whether they agree or not Panjabi folk music is dying as a global presence.  I definitely agree folk music should still be created and preserved but does it make sense as a business to solely produce folk music?  Traditional Panjabi folk music gets played in 4 major "Hub" cites outside of Panjab: Vancouver, Birmingham, Toronto and London.  Now desi Edm or Hip Hop records get played globally.  Which one is the better business model?  A global business is something I'm hoping you would want to strive for.  It's really hard for me to understand when a Panjabi artist tells me that they just want to hear their song getting played at wedding receptions.  Is that why you spent all those years of training, and cold hard cash to hear your music getting played at a wedding? Think big people! There's a whole new untapped world out there.

As an artist you have to love what you do and not do it for the money.  I hear so many records from artists that pay to get a song done but most of these records have no soul.  As an artist paying ridiculous amounts of money why would you want your record to sound the same as some other artist's record?  That makes no sense to me!  As an artist it is your duty an obligation to do your best, perfect your craft and definitely give back to the art and music.  Amateur music does not get any attention.


Panjabi's have the term Producer confused with a studio engineer but that's another blog (coming soon).  From my from my experience most producers get payed to work.  I wish they got payed to be more creative instead of replication.  All I can suggest is that a good producer will make you a better artist.  If you come out of a session and you have not gained any knowledge or learned you did not give 100% into that session as an artist.  One myth I'd like to clear up here as well.  Just because someone owns a studio and can play keyboards that unfortunately does not make them a producer.  A producer is a visionary and see's the finished product end to end and not just the record you record.  They have your best interests at heart but also understand what the market needs.  A studio owner is getting payed by you to get in, record and get out then on to the next one.  They do not necessarily have your best interests in mind nor do they necessarily care how good your product is or can be.

I believe that if we had strong producers that have that passion for Panjabi music you would see such a difference in how tracks are being produced.  I'm talking about real producers like Rishi Rish.  He has the knowledge but the global influence of all types of music and it showed in his hits.  What that camp was able to do with their artists is what we need more of.


Let's face it people it's so easy in today's day and age to make music.  All you need is a laptop, some software and youtube as your Ustad and you've got yourself an awesome recipe to make something magical.  The downside to this is what I call the "cookie cutter" effect.  It is also very easy to just reuse samples and beats because it's there for the pickings.  I mean why reinvent when you don't have to right? So totally wrong!  Listen to Panjabi music today especially from the UK it all sounds the same.  Some tracks sound like some producer just re-opened an older session and dubbed new lyrics to someone other artist's tracks.  Yes I agree producers are to blame for some of this but I think we really need to look at the technology first and here's why.  Technology has made the music industry lazy.  Everything is just too easy.  Before the digital age artists were forced to come together to an expensive studio session and they created magic within the time constraints of their booked allotted time slot.  Today you can recall a session within minutes or buy and use samples and sound like every other person.

Social media is key to your success.  Embrace it and work with it.  However, social media can also end your career very quickly so I will say this again; DO NOT BE AN AMATEUR, BE A PROFESSIONAL! 

What can we do?

I think the preservation of Panjabi folk music is imminent.  These are forces beyond our control at work here called evolution.  As an artist or producer you have to recognize change, embrace change and utilize the existing trends within in your music to have longevity in your career.  We have the world in our reach within minutes with social media, internet and technology.  Market wisely and you're an instant star.  I think today's artist need to also embrace different flavours of music style in your records.

Whether as an artist you prefer only folk or have different types of styles to your music, one thing is for sure you have to respect the art.  As I have said multiple times if you treat our beloved industry like an amateur you will also be treated like an amateur.  Be a professional, promote good will and our culture like how it deserves and I promise you you will get back everything you have asked for ten fold.

Comments and suggestion are welcome!

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