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Panjabi MC - Mundian To Bach Ke

Panjabi MC - Mundian To Bach Ke

Bhaṅgṛā
(Punjabi: ਭੰਗੜਾ (Gurmukhi); pronounced [pə̀ŋɡɽaː]) is a genre of riff-oriented popular music associated with Punjabi culture. It was developed in Britain in the 1980s by first and second generation immigrants from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan forming the Punjabi diaspora, drawing from music and song of the Punjab region as well as various Western musical styles. It is seen by some in the West as an expression of South Asian culture as a whole.

The roots of Bhangra music date back to the late 1970s, when several Punjabi bands started experimenting with Western styles in addition to the traditional sounds from their homeland in Punjab. By the mid 80's, Bhangra acts were staging festivals and record companies such as Multitone started to sign up more and more bhangra acts. British south asian shows on mainstream television also started to have bhangra acts appear on their programmes, which ultimately led to greater exposure of the genre on the screen and non-asian radio shows from Andy Kershaw and John Peel.

In the 90's, Bhangra started to incorporate hip hop music into it's style, with rap performances and sampled beats including autotune mixed with traditional Punjabi folk music. In 2003, Bhangra hit the UK Singles Chart, when Panjabi MC's Mundian To Bache Ke originally released in the United Kingdom on his 1998 album Legalised started to chart in 2003 due to Internet downloads, it charted in Germany selling over 100,000 in the first two days alone and debuted at #2 in the German singles chart and reached #1 in Italy. The week of its release in the UK, it debuted at #5 on the top 40 UK singles charts; it was also the first bhangra song to reach the UK top 10. The remix, featuring American rapper Jay-Z, also hit #33 on the Billboard charts in the United States and #10 in Canada. Total worldwide sales of "Mundian To Bach Ke" is estimated to be in the millions, with Alona Wartofsky of The Washington Post estimating as many as 10 million units sold. Since then, Bhangra hasn't reached its success in terms of record and download sales compared to its 2003 UK chart placing. Nonetheless, due to the internet and satelittle TV stations like BritAsia TV and radio stations such as BBC Asian Network, the music is still in demand and has gained fans not only in the south asian community, but also outside it.

Links To Peel

John Peel's Holle Holle (Peel Session)-0

John Peel's Holle Holle (Peel Session)-0

Holle Holle Peel session in 1987

Peel started playing bhangra sometime in 1987, when the music got exposed by the mainstream media, who were intrigued by the development of a genre whose roots came from the Punjab region and started gaining popularity amongst British south Asians. Bhangra music was played on asian community radio stations in those days, but outside, it was rarely played, except for specialist shows on television such as Network East and BBC Radio One from Andy Kershaw and Peel himself. Peel wrote an article about his experience on Bhangra in 1987 on The Observer (later published in the Olivetti Chronicles), when he visited a Bhangra festival in London.  He called the experience as:

“Virtually cigarette smokeless and with none of the sense of potential violence that mars some gigs – while it must be admitted, enhancing others – this felt more like a wedding party”

He also described how traditional south asian culture prohibited many teenagers especially girls to go out in the evening. In the same article, he mentioned:

“A young woman, who had sidled up to enquire whether I was a reporter, explained that these discos have to occur in the afternoons as Asian parents will not permit their children, especially the girls to go out after dark. Joe, saxophonist with Holle Holle, told me that, even so, many of those present would be there without their parents knowledge”.

At the bhangra festival, Peel saw Heera, Premi and Holle Holle, who gained some air play on Peel’s show. Two of the Bhangra bands, Premi and Holle Holle were invited to do a session for Peel’s show, which they recorded in 1987. After 1987, Bhangra music didn’t gain much playlist on his show, especially when other types of world music such as those from Africa were getting more played. In fact in the 90’s, no bhangra artists made any sessions for Peel’s show, despite Peel occasionally playing some Bhangra artists on his show.

By the early 00’s, Bhangra, due to the increasing population of south asians and the popularity of the internet, became more widespread in the UK, which influenced BBC Radio One to introduce a Bhangra show, presented by Bobby Friction and DJ Nihal in late 2002. The Bhangra show was first shown late night around 3am, which Peel once asked Bobby Friction to give a copy of his show to listen to, as he felt it was too late for his bedtime.

In 2003, Bhangra hit the UK charts with Punjabi MC’s Mundian To Bache Ke, hitting the top ten in the UK Singles chart. This led to BBC Radio One shifting the Bhangra show to a more appropriate timing in the evening, which ultimately led to Peel hearing more of the music: leading to Bhangra act Tigerstyle, getting their first Peel session in the spring of 2003.  On his 24 December 2003 show, Peel felt he was still not playing enough bhangra music. However he gave his reasons as not having time to listen to many of them and also stating that those he heard in the year were mostly not good. 

After Peel’s death, Bobby Friction on John Peel’s Day in 2005 paid the following tribute: [1]

"During my first week at Radio 1, John communicated that passion to me in just a few days, and although he was name checking Nusarat Fateh Ali Khan, Bhangra Daytimers and Cornershop - he was even more interested in what the British Asian musical streets were saying there and then. 'I gave him some remixed Bhangra and straight away he said “give me something newer – I've heard this stuff..is there anything that sounds more raw. Even in the 21st Century he deflated my ego, made me feel great about myself and got me back to that place in my head I was at when I was a teenager. John Peel was 'The Truth’."

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