Modern day UK bhangra music has, in my eyes, gotten to a bit of a comfortable position; something that isn’t always a good thing. Sure, many producers are churning out quality hits that are sure to get dance floors at weddings and at clubs rocking. There’s a deeper problem with this though, the sound is becoming generic and stale. I love my desi songs just as much as the next big bhangra fan, though regrettably I can’t help but notice similarity and repetition with every new single I hear. That’s why new singles don’t stick with me for too long, I’ve heard them before. Someone needs to break the mould and create something out of the ordinary. Thankfully, there’s a duo from Glasgow that do exactly this. You might have heard of Raj and Pops, collectively they’re called Tigerstyle.
From the moment their debut album ‘The Rising’ hit stores in 2000, it was clear that they weren’t your average producers that create music to sell. The sounds were varied and at the time unheard of. It’s certainly a CD I still play to this day. The quality continued through to their EP the following year ‘Extended Play’, and the year after that with the record ‘Virsa’. Their last album came in 2009, ‘Mystics, Martyrs and Maharajas’. Since then, they’ve been preparing their latest lightning bolt to hit our industry, in the form of ‘Digi-Bhang’, and this is just what I feel it needs.
Three singles have been released so far, ‘Kudi’ aimed at dance ravers with its thumping beat, the euphoric ‘Ik Banere’ and now the latest offering ‘Ay-Ha’. Each release has offered something different and whilst they’re likely to split opinion, whether you like the songs or not, they just work.
When I first heard ‘Kudi’, I’ll be honest I wasn’t too keen. Then I listened some more and slowly it grew on me. Before long, I loved it. It was a breath of fresh air. Someone in the Punjabi music industry had finally gone beyond the comfort zones and released something innovative. There isn’t one particular thing I can put my finger on that makes the whole song click. It isn’t simply a singer’s vocalists laid on top of a dance beat. There’s a sprinkle of desi with hints of dubstep. There’s just a certain something that blends all the different elements and genres together. It’s not like one of those ‘Dance Refix’ tracks you get at the end of an album that aren’t really all that. As a result you can’t really call it a dance song, and you can’t really call it a bhangra song. The only thing you could really class it as is a ‘digi-bhang’ song.
If ‘Kudi’ impressed me, ‘Ik Banere’ blew me away. It’s drum and bass but not the kind that Ali G would play in his car, it’s euphoric drum and bass and somewhat chilled out. Nothing we’ve never seen before but again, it’s the seamless blend between the western and Punjabi. Something that sounds so unique and again, it isn’t something you can put your finger on as to why. Couple this with the mesmerising video by Mad Tatter Films and Inkquisitive, and the result is perhaps my favourite single of the year.
After just two singles, new releases from the Glaswegian duo now hold an air of expectancy and unpredictability about them. Certainly on a personal level, I think to myself ‘what are they going to do now?’ The bar was set high but almost expectedly, Tigerstyle have met their own high standards with ‘Ay-Ha’. What is it this time? Well, it’s difficult to say again. It’s not really hip hop, it’s not really dance, it’s not really techno either, definitely not desi, but a kind of weird mish mash of them all rolled into an almost impossible ball, and yet again, it works. It is almost impossible to try to imagine what the rest of the album will sound like. Yet this is the reason why there is a place for music like this in the industry. Where your standard bhangra single is like a Japanese hatch back, solid, reliable, yet never offering anything out of the ordinary, Tigerstyle’s production is more like an Italian supercar, wild and unique yet just as necessary as the other end of the spectrum. Music lovers will rejoice at the experimentation by Tigerstyle in an attempt to push the boundaries.
I have no doubt that ‘Digi-Bhang’ will almost certainly be one of the albums of the year, which is strange because I genuinely have no idea what the rest of the album will sound like. Will there be a dubstep song? Will there be a dub reggae jam on there? Hell, there may well be a classical orchestral piece on the final cut too. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Tigerstyle have proven they can make these ‘hybrids’ (if you can call them that) work, giving me and all the other Punjabi music fans out there every confidence that their music production skills will shine through. Not everyone will like it but it’s not supposed to be for everyone, which is why I love it so much. Long live Digi-Bhang.
What do you think of Tigerstyle’s last three singles?
Should other producers strive to go places above and beyond the norm?
Will the new album even have repercussions around the industry or will this trigger change?
Would this kind of production even have worked had it been done a few years back when desi songs became the most popular choice after the ‘bhangarage’ era?
Leave your comments below as I’d love to hear your opinions.