People in New York tonight might want to stop by the release party for the Basement Bhangra CD, which is officially coming out today. It’s been 10 years of Basement Bhangra nights at S.O.B.’s — and for all that time DJ Rekha has held it down on the ones and twos. (It’s also, coincidentally, been 10 years since the first ‘Mutiny’ party, and the old gang are coming out of hiatus in a couple of weeks for their own celebration — with guests Talvin Singh, and Shaair and Func.)
Rekha’s approach here is to take some familiar Bhangra anthems (like Lehmber Hussainpuri’s “Tin Cheejha”) and mix them up with solid Bhangra tracks most people probably won’t know (Sunil Sehgal’s “Fakir”). The “Basement Bhangra anthem” that opens the CD is really cool — respect to Wyclef Jean (“Mr. International”) for contributing an original rap, and Queens-based Bikram Singh is as usual great (he was also responsible for the absurdly catchy “American Jugni” song a couple of years ago). Incidentally, you can listen to the “Basement Bhangra Anthem” here.
Many well-known remix masters are represented here, including Panjabi MC, DJ Sanj, Dr. Zeus, and Tigerstyle. There are also a couple of tracks from Hard Kaur, a British Punjabi pop star who has been kind of omnipresent for the past couple of years (see “Glassy”). But alongside some staples there are also some surprises, including a track by the drum ‘n bass influenced Dhol Foundation, as well tracks from producers I hadn’t heard of (Ominous DJs).
I should note that this CD isn’t by itself a “definitive” statement of where Bhangra music is today — but that probably wouldn’t be possible to do in a single hour of music anyway. In the liner notes, Rekha describes it instead as a “cross-section of a living musical culture that connects New York City to the Punjab,” and that sounds about right to me. Some people, including commenters on Cicatrix’s earlier post on this, have criticized the selection of songs here, but I actually think the choices are quite good. Some hard core bhangra
downloaders listeners may be tired of “Tin Cheejha,” but I suspect most people — including readers of Sepia Mutiny — haven’t even heard of Lehmber Hussainpuri (though they may have heard his hit song). For them, the Basement Bhangra CD is going to be like a one-hour living room Bhangra party to go.
And doesn’t everybody need one of those every once in a while?