Review: Panjabi MC’s “Indian Timing”

When I used to DJ parties here and there in the early and mid-2000s, I always had a quandary: what can you possibly play after “Mundian to Bach Ke”? It was such a floor-filling crowd-pleaser, and there was almost nothing that could come after it that kept up the energy. Granted, there were variations of the same song that lesser producers and remixers had started putting out, but no other Bhangra track quite compared. “Mundian to Bach Ke” was a singularity.

Perhaps it’s been a problem for the person who produced the song himself: how do you follow a monster hit?

After Panjabi MC became briefly huge in 2003, he went a little quiet. There was the re-release in 2004 of an album called “Desi” [from 2002], and then a studio album in 2005 (“Steel Bangle”) that was mostly recycled filler, to satisfy an earlier contract with Moviebox Records (see Sajit’s SM review here).

“Indian Timing,” which was finally released this spring on Itunes after many delays, is finally, nearly all new material, with very little filler. It’s also an actual album, unlike much of what is released by Brit-Asian producers these days (in the era of piracy and digital downloading, there is a greater emphasis on singles). In terms of the sound, PMC stays true to the combination he’s famous for — big hip hop beats with lively Punjabi bhangra vocals.

For people downloading selectively from Itunes, I would suggest starting with “Can’t Stop Us,” “Kee Lagda,” and “Punjabi Soldiers.” All are upbeat Punjabi songs over hip hop beats, with vocals by Manjit Jelhi. Pretty much any of those three would be good to follow “Mundian to Bach Ke” on a dance-floor.

Fans of Bollywood might also like PMC’s electro version of “I am a Disco Dancer,” which is somewhat of an anomaly on the record. The most provocative song is the title track, “Indian Timing.” This is Panjabi MC rapping himself, with Punjabi vocals from Gulshan Komal. Here, he kind of has his cake and eats it too, in that the Punjabi lyrics of the song run along the lines of “Why are we fighting? Let’s stop this feud…” Meanwhile, Panjabi MC’s English rap fans the fires of a Bhangra MC feud, with a direct dis of the Kray Twinz, for publicly claiming that they had something to do with the idea behind “Mundian to Bach Ke.” (Their claim is apparently that they were the first to put Busta Rhymes’ “Knight Rider” beat next to the “Mundian to Bach Ke” song Panjabi MC had already recorded, albeit with a different beat. They claim that they did this once in a club around 1998, and then Panjabi MC recorded it without crediting them.)

Here is the track itself on YouTube, with a montage of images put together by a fan:

There is also a version of the song someone has put together, with the rap pulled out, but snippets of radio interviews inserted: here. I can’t make out all of what is said.

Overall, I tend to side with Panjabi MC, who is clearly up there with Bally Sagoo as one of the most inventive and talented desi producers ever. I do not know the ins and outs of who first had the idea to juxtapose Busta Rhymes’ “Turn it Up (Remix)/Fire it Up” with a Labh Janjua singing a spicy, but otherwise unremarkable, Punjabi number. Does anyone have “scoop” that doesn’t consist of internet gossip?

As a side note, it might be worth pointing out that the debate over originality here is a bit absurd: in 2003, Jay-Z “remixed” [1] a Panjabi MC track from five years earlier [2], which itself used a Busta Rhymes hip hop beat [3] (that was itself a remix of the original album version of “Fire it up” [4]), which in turn sampled a 1980s television show called “Knight Rider” [5]. I doubt that the Kray Twinz are entitled to any royalties even if their version of the story has a kernel of truth in it, but one might wonder whether Stu Phillips and Glen Larson, who created the original Knight Rider jingle back in 1982, might also deserve some credit for the success of “Beware of the Boys” more than 20 years later?

While we’re posting videos, I think readers might also really enjoy seeing the song in the original Punjabi movie it is derived from:

I believe the film is “Jatt Jeona Morh” (1991). Ah, the wonders of the Punjabi film industry. Why has no Punjabi film ever won at Cannes?

A couple of thoughts about other Punjabi music on my Ipod this summer:

The soundtrack to Oye, Lucky! Lucky, Oye! is very good, especially the catchy title track. I also like a couple of the Punjabi songs on Dev D (“Mahi Mennu Nahin Karna Pyar”). And, partly because my son likes them so much, we’re still driving around listening to the songs from “Singh is Kinng,” which I briefly reviewed last year.

I also like, as a guilty pleasure, a new singer named “Miss Pooja,” because of her simple one-word song concepts and teasing lyrics: like “Petrol” (“Where do you get the petrol to keep chasing after me?”) and “Taxi” (“‘Come and ride with me in my Taxi/I’ll show you Delhi’ / ‘No way/ men like you wash clothes for girls like me.’”), and “Mobile”. Admittedly, Miss Pooja seems to be working a little too hard, releasing generic track after track, nearly all of which are mid-tempo love song duets with male singers (according to Wikipedia, she has already recorded over 800 songs… in three years… wow).

20 thoughts on “Review: Panjabi MC’s “Indian Timing”

  1. Thanks for the review Amardeep. You are so correct with Miss Pooja! I gotta get those tracks you mentioned of her…Petrol and Taxi…

  2. Ravneet, the album I have is “Yaaran di taxi teh.” Besides “taxi,” there’s also a nice song called “Visa,” about a girl who falls for a guy who’s about to leave the country (again, the one word title). On YouTube, you can find a couple different versions of songs by Miss Pooja called “Mobile”; the theme seems to be, “‘Hey, I called your mobile, but you didn’t pick up’ / ‘Sorry, I forgot to put money on it!’” There are also songs about numerous exciting topics, like going to college in Ludhiana.

    I forgot to mention a couple of other songs I like right now, Labh Janjua singing “Munde U.K. De” for the Punjabi movie of the same title. The movie might be crap, but the song is entertaining. I also like Sukshinder Shinda’s “Shinda Around the World,” sort of a Punjabi equivalent of those hip hop songs that shout out fifteen different cities. (Except, this is the only song I ever heard that shouts out Fresno!)

  3. Although I find Miss Pooja and her one word songs entertaining (the only except I can think of though is “Cha da Cup”, she’s turning T-Pain/Lil Wayne – esque in that she’s got TOO many tracks out and is on EVERYbody’s track.

    I love Punjabi MC as a producer, but I still can’t take him rapping. The only line of his I ever loved was “249 MC’s on horseback”.

  4. i think this is old song but hadnt heard until recently but is really catchy – bhabi meri gut – amanpreet kaur remix version

  5. Why has no Punjabi film ever won at Cannes?


    But not sure if that award is all it’s cracked up to be old chapati. Read an article in today’s paper that there is a very strong misogynistic and violent streak through all the films at the show this year. kitanay has graphic scenes of rape, assault and dismemberment. another one has a woman cut off her clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors. almodovar and cruz are also ripped for their most recent collaboration. gaspar noe is also chastized for the same rehash of violence. i usually read opinion pieces with the view that the writer picks facts to suit his thesis but he seems to be on the money here — casual brutality seems in vogue as is general cynicism at the world. auteurs are out to outdo each other in grossing the audience out. punjabi films, whatever their flaws, at least wear their hearts on the sleeve – and to me that’s a good thing – and let’s hope they never make it at Cannes.

  6. Miss Pooja is great! Nothing to be embarassed about liking here. I love the tracks she did with PBN.

    Thanks for the reviews Amardeep.

    You know Jay Sean (real name Kamaljit Jhooti) just signed a deal with Cash Money Records and is recording with LiL Wayne in America at the moment.

  7. Khoofi, you’re after my own heart. I still have Maula Jatt on VHS and a t-shirt with the movie poster on it! I was so sad when Sultan Rahi passed away.

  8. Rachel Maddow interviewed Kavya today.

    I’m amazed at the poise and confidence in this 13 year old, who’d like to be a neurosurgeon (no surprises there)

    How many ppl can spell or pronounce her last name? S.h.i.v.a.s.h.a.n.k.a.r. My theory on why Indians excel at spelling bees : our long and twisty surnames.

  9. New Album is hot…Punjaban, Snake charmer and that slow song Bhet ke ro are all good. and to think he has …wait for it…20 new songs on an reason enough to get this CD ASAP

  10. and seriously u couldnt find a song to play after mundia?? u r jokin right?? cuz no offense but thats a limited playlist u got…

  11. All these years I’ve been spelling Panjabi wrong in ‘Panjabi MC.’ Also in regards to “Why has no Punjabi film ever won at Cannes? ” There’s a Punjabi film industry? In terms of Bollywood movies which feature Punjabis, all I’ve heard of ‘Singh is Kinng,’ which I”ve never seen but am assuming employs the usual gross stereotypes. How come nobody told me? I’m Punjabi! Darn you media!

  12. Phillygrrl, you’re not missing anything with “Singh is Kinng”; it’s pretty silly.

    But yesh — there is indeed a Punjabi film industry. It’s mostly low-budget stuff, with cheesy, unconvincing acting so-so music. Some of it gets a little more interesting — there was a series of movies a few years go with the singer/actor Harbhajan Mann that were all shot in Alberta, Canada — but with dialogues and music entirely in Punjabi, for release in Punjab. I think the one I saw was called “Jee Aayan Nu.” It still wasn’t great filmmaking, but it was interesting to see how they were using Canada as a backdrop.

  13. I woul dhave more pride in UK based music from the likes of Panjabi MC, when they stop remixing, learn to read and write real punjabi and start wrinting their own lyrics and singind them…I was proud in the 80s when us brits led the Bhangra we have a bunch of d***head kids who can’t speak or read or write the language, churn out bakvaas and call it its the Candadians and American Desi’s that are leading the way..

    Mundian Ke Backke is not Panjabi MC’s hit,,,its a cover..

    True western raised Punjabi Singer Writers, like Amarjeet ( Rana) Bolla are ignored, cos their music is actually meaningful..

  14. Sukshinder Shinda’s collaborations is actullay very good..and transcends Indian and Pakistani politics,,as he has two famous Pakistani Punjabi singers with him..This is what we should be producing

    We also focus too much on Music Shinda, in Literature in Native Indian Languages there are good Western writers, such as the Punjabi Brit Roop Dhillon ( Real name Rupinderpal Singh ) google him.. and yes there are good Punjabi films, really Khamosh Panni or Heaven on Earth ( Videsh) with Pritty Zinta set in Canada..way superior to Harbhjan Maan nonsense..

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  16. “Every single time i close my brown eyes, i can feel the heat of the desi sun.” .. Panjabi MC

    Probably the single most relevant line for me in all of Bhangra-HipHop !