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”  a Panjabi MC track from five years earlier , which itself used a Busta Rhymes hip hop beat  (that was itself a remix of the original album version of “Fire it up” ), which in turn sampled a 1980s television show called “Knight Rider” . 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).