Beyond Bhangra

The seventh UK Asian Music Awards are proof that the scene has finally moved above ground, says Rahul Verma

'We started the UK Asian Music Awards because we sat at the Mobos eight years ago and thought, 'Hold on, where are our awards? Who's representing us?' says Jay Shah, co-founder and creative director of the UK Asian Music Awards (Ukama).

The seventh awards take place next Thursday at London's Royal Festival Hall, and you're unlikely to find as eclectic a show anywhere in the British music calender: the evening will feature Bishi's glam sitar-folk, So Solid's Sef and Romeo, singer and producer Jim Beanz (Timbaland cohort behind 2008's Eurovision winning song), hysteria-inducing US R&B boy band Jagged Edge, as well as bhangra heroes past (Alaap's Channi), present (Juggy D) and future (H Dhami), among many others.

"Bishi opening the show this year is a good look – our logo is a sitar and that's the instrument she plays, so she's a perfect fit. We've tried to get more of a mix into programming because people still perceive the Ukamas as a 'Desi' [bhangra] awards show,' explains Shah. "It's a tricky balance to strike because the Desi side is important because of its popularity with the youth but we are broadening it out."

Nihal Arthanayake who with Bobby Friction has been championing contemporary Asian-fusion music since 2002 in their weekly Radio 1 "Asian Beats" show believes the line-up and nominations reflect the scene's increasing strength, depth and variety.

"I'm a Ukama judge and it's really interesting that artists like Fusing Naked Beats, Nitin Sawhney and M.I.A are in the nominations. That shows the breadth of the music there is. Five years ago you wouldn't have had that. And 10 years ago there was the idea that Asians don't listen to alternative music – only hip hop, R&B and bhangra," explains Nihal.

It's the second year that the awards are taking place at the Royal Festival Hall, and its passage from the first show at the Hammersmith Palais speaks volumes and mirrors the growing clout of artists with Asian origins.

"The awards are now at such a high quality level it takes place at the heart of the arts establishment not in a community centre in Slough," says Nihal. "You can't ignore the fact that Asian artists are getting huge respect – M.I.A's made a massive impact, Nitin Sawhney recently recorded with Paul McCartney and Jay Sean has signed to Lil' Wayne's Cash Money Records.

"I was talking to Jay Sean who said Busta Rhymes came up to him at the Grammys and said, 'I love what you do.' Could you name a British artist who could take to the stage with Jay Z, T.I. and Lil' Wayne? Maybe Chris Martin? But that's exactly what M.I.A did," he continues. "These two have achieved more than anyone from the British urban scene – they are absolutely huge developments for British artists, let alone Asian artists. Now of course M.I.A and Jay Sean are poles apart but if you factor in the Slumdog phenomenon, there's definitely something going on."

Everywhere you look Asian artists are making waves, whether actor/rapper Riz MC; rapper Orifice Vulgatron and his Foreign Beggars; Sukh Knight's Eastern-dubstep; singer/ songwriter Bat For Lashes; Glaswegian bhangra stalwarts Tigerstyle being embraced by producers Switch and Sinden; or Yorkshire; RDB, who secured (and produced) Snoop Dogg in the title song of Bollywood blockbuster Singh Is Kinng.

Friction, who as well as his Radio 1 show with Nihal hosts three hours of underground music on four weeknights on the BBC Asian Network, believes the scene is blossoming.

"It's part of the progression from the Asian underground 10 years ago through to the bhangra phase of Panjabi MC to where we are now.Now the hard-drive of my laptop is overloaded with brilliant music whereas 10 years ago Talvin Singh's Anokha – Sound of the Underground (1997) was amazing but was the best 20 tracks in existence. Now I get 50 MP3s a month that I would put out if I had a label."

Nihal agrees: "The scene is absolutely evolving, if you listen to our show you're going to hear grime, d&b, house, electro, dubstep and a huge range of music."

Friction also points out that the UK is the heartbeat of 21st-century Asian-influenced music among the Indian diaspora, and the motherland too. "Indians in Canada and America, and young people in India, all look to Britain to see what's happening, we have the most developed, happening and exciting music scene."

With support from satellite TV channel B4U – widely watched in India, Britain, UAE, America and Canada – Shah's plans for establishing the Ukama brand abroad and hosting international concerts are within reach: "We will be doing a Ukama Winners Tour in Dubai and India and we hope to be established in Dubai, Canada and India over the next three years. So many of our artists are huge out in India already. Trickbaby, who opened our show last year, are doing Bollywood soundtracks and their last video starred Bollywood A-listers, Abhishek Bhachan and Priyanka Chopra.

"If you look at the impact artists like M.I.A and films like Slumdog Millionaire are making on a global level, how Bollywood has embraced our artists, there's a real sense of things happening," says Shah.

The UK Asian Music Awards, The Royal Festival Hall, London SE1, 5 March (www.theukama.com)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

photography
Arts and Entertainment
Adolf Hitler's 1914 watercolour 'Altes Rathaus' and the original invoice from 1916

art
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'