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:: Spotlight :: Panjabi MC

By: Esther Choo

Bhangra music, its chakra-moving tabla beats, hypnotic guitar riffs and pumped-up bass combined with rap to ‘c’mon’ and ‘hole’ itself to a global audience. Panjabi MC’s Mundian To Bach Ke made it to the Top 100 of America’s playlist. The song took off in Germany, Europe, and eventually, America. In Australia, Panjabi MC’s Mundian To Bach Ke and Jogi received lots of airplay on Triple J.

Panjabi MC’s bhangra foray into the music scene is due in part to the recent popularity of Indian films like Bend It Like Beckham and Monsoon Wedding. Bhangra, traditional Punjabi folk music from India, has been around for ages. Bhangra clubs were all the rage in the 80s, in the UK, amongst South-Asians. However, bhangra or rather Panjabi MC, did not really take off until last year. So what does 2004 herald for the groundbreaking rapper and bhangra artist who will be in Australia to perform in March? Here’s what he had to say:

Mediasearch: The fusion of bhangra beats and hip-hop has proved to be winning combination, and reached out to a wider audience, particularly in Europe, and now the United States. Has your popularity caught on in Asia, excluding the Indian sub-continent? The Japanese have progressive music tastes, have they heard much about Panjabi MC?

Panjabi MC: We did have a release in Japan and I believe its doing quite well.

Mediasearch: Mudian To Bach Ke was made in 1998 with Eqbal Surae but did not become a smash hit until recently, and would not had it not been picked up in Germany. Why do you think it took so long to be noticed?

Panjabi MC: Mundian To Bach Ke was sung by Labh Janjua not Eqbal. I think people had to get used to the sound of bhangra first.

Mediasearch: Tell us how did you go about getting Jay Z to collaborate with you? Or was it the other way around?

Panjabi MC: Jayz heard the song in Switzerland and he loved it straight away. He contacted my manager and that was that.

Mediasearch: Do you see yourself as a rapper foremost, because you did start out as a rapper, or do you see yourself as a bhangra artist?

Panjabi MC: I see myself as both a rapper and a music producer, I’m also a DJ.

Mediasearch: There is a bit of Hindi and Punjabi words in bhangra-speak. What’s the difference between desi and bhangra?

Panjabi MC: Desi means old and bhangra is the style of music.

Mediasearch: It’s great that bhangra has come to in the mainstream, but do you see it has a fad – some people are saying that it’s last year’s fad and won’t be that big this year? I mean bhangra has always been around but will people embrace the genre?

Panjabi MC: Last year was a great year for bhangra and I think it will continue.

Check our National Gig Guide for Panjabi MC tour dates.

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