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BBC Asian Network’s Summer of Music event – Reviewed!

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In what’s been billed as the beginning of a new era for British Asian music in the UK, the BBC Asian Network hosted its first Summer of New Music event at London’s legendary BBC Maida Value Studios. A venue that has seen just about every artist across every genre perform there at one time, the spotlight here was on up and coming homegrown Asian artists who are just starting to breakthrough to bigger things.

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In what’s been billed as the beginning of a new era for British Asian music in the UK, the BBC Asian Network hosted its first Summer of New Music event at London’s legendary BBC Maida Value Studios. A venue that has seen just about every artist across every genre perform there at one time, the spotlight here was on up and coming homegrown Asian artists who are just starting to breakthrough to bigger things.

The performances started by recent Ne-Yo signing Sonna Rele; this is the young northwest London artist who through a chance Facebook viewing of one of her covers by the Atlanta urban artist ended up securing a major recording deal. A mutli-genre performer who, it’s got to be said, we weren’t entirely convinced by until she opened her mouth. Any doubts were quickly quashed by the time her performance came to an end. Providing her label doesn’t try and turn her into the next manufactured pop star, the future bodes well for this new singer. From all the acts featured at this event, Sonna Rele probably has the best chance of tasting mainstream chart success if she is presented with the right song- and it won’t be just down to the Ne-Yo factor, he merely opened the door of opportunity…

Sonna_Rele

Next up is the dynamic Abi Sampa who is already on her to way to becoming a household name thanks to the ITV talent show programme, The Voice.  Her choice to cover Aloe Blacc’s “Wake me up” was an ace up her sleeve, showcasing both her power voice and the ability to fuse Indian classical influences with contemporary pop music. The Avicii reworked version is likely heading for pole position in next week’s UK Top 40 chart, ensuring the video of her eclectic and impressive performance will ride on its success and get her noticed by an even wider audience.

Abi_Sampa

Being only an occasional dabbler in hip hop, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Cynikal. I’d heard his debut single, “Won’t Let You Down” but that was it. He’s much more impressive and powerful live that on his recordings (another shortcoming of compressed MP3s). Cynikal is probably best described as a rapper who just happens to be Asian, rather than an Asian rapper. There’s a difference and it probably works to his benefit. For the immediate moment, his music comes across as too specialist but as and when he matures into a fully-fledged recording artist, this may change.

One of the highlights of the event was rising urban artist Steel Banglez airing his collaboration with Jaz Dhami (amongst others). As the recording is yet to see the light of day, the BBC has wisely not uploaded the video of that particular performance. It’s a compliment to Jaz Dhami’s enterprising nature that he is choosing to work with different artists across varied genres that will probably provide him with a longevity that other current British Asian artists won’t have. It was also refreshing and transparent of Steel Banglez to talk about his general lack of interest in Desi music, but that after meeting Jaz Dhami and hitting it off, their diverging music tastes fused together for this exciting project. While the upcoming collaboration is unlikely to provide “High Heels” mainstream crossover fodder, it does demonstrate a willingness on Dhami’s part to experiment and stray away from the more obvious musical path. With the anticipated French Montana effort coming up, this was an interesting taster of things to come.

While presenters Kan D Man and Limelight along with the Asian Network’s new music champion Yasser’s passion was clearly evident on the day; these later day performances were aimed squarely at a dose of invited industry bods (earlier parts of the event, including panel discussions and some other live performances, were opened up to the general public). Future events could definitely benefit the audience numbers by opening up all the day’s activities to a small or select number of fans; the multitude of fans of accessible acts like Jaz Dhami or even the much hyped Abi Sampa come to mind. The only criticism of the event is that the majority of the acts were aimed towards the urban side of things. In its role as a diverse radio station serving more than one target audience; the lack of bhangra and even dance/electronic acts would suggest a proportion of their core audience was very much under-serviced. Brand new protégés from the likes of established chart-toppers like Zeus, Aman Hayer and PBN come to mind; these new singers (some only 1 single old career-wise) would have provided the missing balance on the day. Whereas Radio 1 events provide a logical bridge between new acts and their weekly playlist; the gap at this event seemed too wide. A good analogy is Radio 1’s support for artists like Laura Mvula and Tom Odell; neither are releasing music’s that’s necessarily cutting edge but the support for them as fresh new artists is very much there. The exclusion of popular genres on the night (and popular doesn’t need to mean overtly commercial or cheesy) was very much notable by its absence. If this is to become an annual fixture, we’re looking forward to another exciting but more inclusive event next year.

 Here is our pick of the performances on the night

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http://www.chakdey.com

Music Mad, Bhangra Addict, Film Buff, Health Freak. Calls London home.

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