Glastonbury gets desifyed again!
Taking British Asian music to the world audience…
Words by Ashanti OMkar (www.omkari.net)
Pictures by Akin Falope (www.aworan.net)
The 1 night stand is imminent! What 1 night stand, you may ask, well, this time, it’s very special and involves pure music, lots of mud and top Asian artistes. Brasian have done it again, bringing the Asian crossover music to it's own home in the world's foremost music festival, Glastonbury. As usual, on par with Brasian's high standards and pristine management skills, the music at Glastonbury will be exemplary, with special rare performances from Canada's Twenty2K and the multitalented actress/singer/songwriter who appears in Batman Begins and Provoked (with Nandita Das and Aiswariya Rai), stunner, Karen David. The live performances that brought in a packed audience in 2004, comes with more of the popular Asian artistes and Dj's, like Radio 1’s Bobby and Nihal, Twilight Players, Sona Family, Hard Kaur, Swami, Kissmet, Shiva SoundSystem, Envy Collective, Nasha Experience, Sunny Ji (Shaanti), Tablahead and Juttla, Sonik Gurus, Pathaan, Jags 2AM Project, Temple, Shaheen Badar, Soho Road to Punjab Exhibition, Ash King and this is just the beginning, there are many more to whet the palette, yet to be confirmed! ‘THE Br-Asian ONE NIGHT STAND’ is at the Lost Vagueness area, from 10am on Saturday 25th June going all night to the wee hours of dawn of the 26th June 2005! Nav Sagoo, who had undertaken the Glastonbury project like his very own child gives us an exclusive insight into Brasian's train of thought and what to expect from the very explosive and entertaining Glastonbury 2005!
What is your cultural background and heritage?
My parents are Indian, but my father was born in Kenya whilst my mother was born in Punjab. I was born and raised in London by my amazing grandparents who taught me to simply be Honest and true to myself. I was exposed to various cultural segments as a child, mainly the Punjabi culture being born into a Punjabi family however I seemed to have a very sponge-like personality, picking up influences from anyone I would interact with. I was one of only 2 Asian kids at my primary school; being teased and taunted was the norm to the point where the word PAKI didn’t hurt me anymore. Today I see myself as Br-Asian; I am no less or no more. A cocktail of Asian cultures and traditions brought from the motherland nurtured by aunty England.
Your background in the music industry is immense; tell us about your rise within this tough industry to crack?
My rise? Well we haven't fully risen yet; the thing that keeps me going is our vision. I want to remove the typical stereotypes from our and future generations here in uk that being Asian means we have to be doctors, lawyers, accountants, taxi drivers or corner shop owners etc to gain respect in our communities. As a community and as a culture we have so much creative talent its unreal, yet social setbacks suppresses the talent in favour of saving face in the form of social credibility in the eyes of their peers. I hate the old school way of thinking. Just because the mainstream sees us as a certain "type" it doesn’t mean we have to sit back and allow them to dictate to us, we can do something to change that opinion, the only way to do this is to have self-belief. I have belief in our people, I personally want to see young Brit Asian kids happy being themselves, not trying to be white or black, just being themselves. For that to happen I realised that we have to make it cool to be Br-Asian. So I hope that by helping Asian artists become successful role models then suddenly there is no need for the average Asian school kid to try and be anything he/she is not. Also this stardom will give the parents of these children comfort as they see another brown face on top of the pops, perhaps by repeating this to the point where it is the norm the same parents will not neglect their children’s talents and instead would encourage them to rise, just as we have.
Glastonbury 2004 - this was another 1st for Brasian, with your own tent, how did that come by?
I personally have been going to festivals like Glastonbury for a few years, ever since my university days; I managed to experience the joys of camping. But coming back to London I realised that in our insular club culture British Asians had lost the ability to appreciate "good times". Instead in cities throughout Britain, young British Asians interpreted clubbing as a place to get drunk, show off their latest clothes and try and pull a sexual partner oh yeah and maybe dance to the music in the process. Having seen what Glastonbury was about, music, liberty, a back to basics environment and essentially everyone on a level playing field - I knew that it was the ideal place to begin to build our appreciation for British Asian music back up. At Glasto there are no distractions - there's lots of nature, lots of mud and lots of music. I know which of the 3 will get my attention. We knew that teaming up with Lost Vagueness would be a good move as they seemed to be one of the most eclectic groups at the festival - every year brave enough to challenge the norm. So the Lost Vagueness field became home to the Br-Asian Experience in 2004.
Lost vagueness - it was a huge hit in 2004 and is set to be even bigger in 2005 - tell us about how you envisage it for this year.
Last year we had the who's who of the Brit-Asian scene performing and showing their support, this year we want to showcase fresh new talent, we want to continue in the plan to educate the mainstream by highlighting that Asian musicians, producers and artists are some of the best in the business, not only that but also that we don’t just make bhangra and bollywood music, so we have Asian guitar bands, Asian hip-hop artists', drum and bass bands/Dj's and Desi dance acts. Some of the acts performing are not your traditional Asian acts but still have something amazing to offer. It's going to be very very exciting.
Is it true that Punjabi Hit Squad will be at the Roots stage as opposed to Lost Vagueness?
One of our aims with Glastonbury was always to simply integrate Asian acts into the overall programming of Glastonbury, I became frustrated year after year when I would go and see mainstream acts performing on the main stage or the acoustic stage and think to myself, why aren't there any real Asian acts here? Sure Talvin and Nitin had their fair share of festival focus but I’m talking about the real Desi roots stuff that the majority of our generation are listening to in their cars, bedrooms and nightclubs. Initially that’s all we wanted to do but we soon realised that the officials as Glasto hadn't even heard of our artists let alone our sound, we decided to make a whole lot of noise in Lost Vagueness knowing this would attract some sort of attention, so I genuinely am happy to see Desi acts branching out to other stages, its the reason why we did this in the first place. That's not to say that Hit Squad won't stick around to support the cause in year 2005.
How comes as Asian artiste like M.I.A will be at the John Peel stage instead of Lost vagueness?
M.I.A is one of a handful of Asian acts to have the support of an established well-connected UK record label. This obviously can be the difference between getting on the John Peel stage and not. We aren’t competing with any other stages, we are simply here to make sure the Sound is heard and British Asian artists are represented in full force, this is only complimented by the Asian artists who hopefully will continue to get booked for other stages. It is great for all of us.
Tell us about the show this year, is it another all-nighter - which day/days will this be on?
It's called the "Brasian One Night Stand" It begins Saturday 25th June at 10pm and continues throughout the night until 6am the follwing morning!
What types of Brasian music will this year's tent be showcasing, considering there was quite a variety last year?
There’s still quite a variety but not so much the R&B, pop kind of thing, Glastonbury has never really embraced R&B or POP let alone Asian artists doing it, so all the artists coming this year will tailor their performances to a more, dance, breaks, drum and bass, alternative sound that is fitting for Glastonbury, of course bhangra and traditional folk continues to work very well so I imagine this will be undiluted.
How are the arrangements for this year coming along? Any thorns in the path or is everything going smoothly?
With something like the Brasian Stage, there are always going to be thorns in our path when it comes to Glastonbury, but I don’t think the thorns are laid intentionally, its just that the organisers of the festival are slowly becoming familiar with British Asian music and thus slowly realise how great it works in the festival. We don’t expect miracles; we know that anything that is worth fighting for never comes easily. Rome wasn't built in a day but the Brasian Stage will be built for one night!!
Last year's success should indicate that this year will be massive - do you think that many Asian music fans managed to get tickets so go to Glastonbury?
I seriously hope so; I do know that we have had so many emails asking us if we can get tickets! It’s bizarre! Don’t get me wrong, its not thousands but the response suggests that the trend will continue to grow! I imagine year after year if we do our job right, more and more British Asians will go rural in the search for urban Asian music.
In terms of Asian press, will there be a lot more coverage this year than last year?
Again we hope so, we ask the Asian press to soldier with us shoulder to shoulder in our mission to spread the British Asian vibe. I mean its great news; have you ever seen Rishi Rich in Wellington boots or Raghav sheltering in a tent from the rain in the middle of a field? We have!!
Do you feel that Asians who would perhaps not have had an interest in Glastonbury as a festival, be much more interested and drawn to it because of Brasian?
I would hope so, I do realise that its not something for everyone, but I believe that the British Asian 3rd generation are always looking for new things to do, the rise in trends to go abroad for package weekends and the introduction of Desi weekenders have shown that if packaged right then the general public will buy into it, so yes I think more Asians will be coming to Glastonbury as a result of our activities.
There will be no Glastonbury next year - how do Brasian plan to keep the Glasto fans appeased in the meantime, while they wait till 2007 for the next Brasian experience?
Glastonbury is the best-known festival in the UK, however it’s not the only festival we are planning to visit. We are already talking the other major festival organisers to make sure Br-Asian Beats make our presence felt at all the other major festivals.
The Brasian music seminar and many other projects to bring about quality new artistes are on the way, no doubt - can you reveal anything?
All our activities generally are setup to spearhead the driving force to uncover the next big thing, later this year, the Brasian Music Seminar will provide advice, knowledge and guidance for anyone looking to become successful in the music industry, whether that be as an artists, setting up a label, marketing advice or any other area.
Glastonbury gets desifyed!
Words by Ashanti OMkar (www.omkari.net)
Pictures by Akin Falope (www.aworan.net)
Glastonbury – a festival that holds special meaning to many a music lover; one that has a history for being held on the one weekend during summer months where the rain pours and pours; the iconic festival which we can say is tantamount to the massive ‘Woodstock’ one in America; one where musical greats from Peter Gabriel, to Paul McCartney, to James Brown have been privileged to perform in; a festival which started with the name Pilton festival, in 1970, which has become multi-cultural this year – with a major twist! A very iconic year indeed, for Asian music, as it breaks through, not only in the mainstream, but also, thanks to the BR-Asian crew, into the ‘Lost Vagueness’ area of the mighty Glastonbury festival. With tickets selling out within 24 hours of going on sale, this muddy, but amazing experience is definitely one not to miss, by any music lover.
Enlisting on the hottest Asian talents around, Moiz Vas of BR-Asian (who founded the 1st ever Asian Music Awards last year) and his team got the best of the best; Radio 1 DJ’s, Bobby Friction and Nihal, to MC this part of the Glastonbury festival – the BR Asian All-nighter, which happened while the rain was beating down on the ‘Lost vagueness’ marquee. The anticipation was really high, with comments like "This is a moment in history. We're gonna 'desify' Glastonbury!" from Sri Lankan British Asian, BBC’s Nihal. After Bobby and Nihal did their 1st DJ set at Glastonbury in 2003, following their Sony Gold Award winning show, this time, they came with chart-busting stars like Raghav and Jay Sean, to give Glastonbury a real Indian experience, with a whole night dedicated to Asian music – a major achievement indeed.
In the words of Nav Sagoo, Senior Manager at Br-Asian: "The Br-Asian team is dedicated to making continuous waves to take Asian youth culture to a wider audience... we are always looking at challenges & opportunities where we can be the first ever player in the ever changing music scene." Literally making these words come true on stage, were the Rishi Rich Project, Raghav, Metz & Trix, Dr Zeus, Sona Family and many others. Asian talents like Nitin Sawhney, Talvin Singh and the Asian Dub foundation have indeed performed on stages at the festival, but this time round, it is a more mainstream experience
In a weekend, which was massive for Asian music, not only did the Rishi Rich project rock Glastonbury, but they saw one of their major stars, JAY SEAN it the Uk charts at number 6, with his very catchy and danceable tune ‘Eyes on you’. The young Punjabi singer rocked the famous ULU, University of London’s Student union that very week, saw his single promoted on TV for the first time and also performed an awesome set at the festival, to add to this, he finds out on Sunday that he has charted with his solo single, at Number 6 – an amazing achievement and a true gift for his dedication to the art, along with his tremendous talent. With his single having an innovative flip side, showcasing his many talents, ‘Me against myself’ is where Jay Sean the rapper goes against Jay Sean the singer, making fun of himself in the rap side and answering back appropriately by singing. Juggy D and Rishi Rich, The Mentor and the rest of the 2point9 crew did their thing by engaging the audience in a fully enjoyable show. Juggy D’s dancing no doubt set the stage alight and everyone is now waiting for his 1st solo album to drop!
The other star of the show was no doubt, the other Asian talent who has made waves in the UK charts, Raghav – the Canadian born Desi, classically trained and pretty amazing on stage, there can only be one person who fits this description. Having had his name to 3 singles in the top 10 this year, one being his solo single, which is one third lyrically in Hindi (fully penned by Raghav himself). Fans are now awaiting his next single and even more eagerly awaiting his album.
In the words of one of our correspondents who attended the festival, “The BR-Asian Experience summed up that Asian music is finally coming of age, and also a serious contender to how Asian music is appreciated and influencing musical tastes in Western societies. The only downer was that there were no female performers, which is a shame.”
Moiz Vas hopes that this Asian experience will go on, in tune with Glastonbury not just being though of as a punk-rock festival, but one of diverse world music, with something for everyone: "We hope this will be an event that will encourage Br-Asians to exchange their high heels and dancing shoes for wellies - gum boots - and join us at Glastonbury over the forthcoming years."