UK's 'unknown' pop star outsells Robbie Williams

Yvonne Ridley
Sunday 05 September 1999 00:02 BST

HIS NAME is Tas. He is one of Britain's top pop stars; he has a bigger following than George Michael or Robbie Williams, but he has never appeared on Top of the Pops. He has more than a dozen platinum discs and his current album, Nasha, is the best selling CD in the UK - but it does not appear in the "official" charts.

Whenever this "second generation" British Asian tours India up to 100 policemen have to protect him from frenzied fans; his latest album has topped the UK Bhangra chart for eight weeks. But as far as the British media are concerned he might as well not exist.

Bhangra - a highly danceable blend of western and Indian musical styles - barely registers on the Chart Information Network (CIN) figures (the "official" best selling list) because Bhangra records are largely sold through independent shops.

Simon Douggall, managing director of Birmingham-based Sub Dub records and a co-producer of the latest Tas album said: ''The Asian music industry generates millions of pounds and the stars regularly outsell those who make it in the British charts, but we don't get the recognition we deserve. The few chainstores which do sell Bhangra music shove it in a corner with 'world music'.''

Tas, 32, who was born in Coventry as Tarsame Singh Jarnail, has produced three albums. Nasha is expected to outsell the previous two, both million sellers. Fellow artists B21, Malkit Singh and Bally Sagoo enjoy similar recognition, but not in the British charts.

Aisha Naseeb, editor of Eastern Eye magazine, said: ''We have known for a long time that the majority of Bhangra records sold far exceed the sales of mainstream releases.

''It is only recently that actual video sales are being officially registered and now we have two Asian films which have gone straight in to the British top 10 video charts. Tas is extremely well known on an international level but is not recognised in the official British music charts. We monitor record sales in Eastern Eye and the charts show he has produced a best seller for the last eight weeks.''

A spokesman for the British Phonographic Industry which provides an awards platform for the music business said: ''The issue of Asian music and its popularity has been raised before and it is probably true that, in some cases, it does outsell mainstream hits, but it is a really a charts issue for CIN.''

A CIN spokeswoman said: ''I'm not convinced it's the massive genre of music people say it is - we collect data from barcodes and catalogue numbers from record stores registered with us and Bhangra music has not really emerged. If the product was there it would be riding high in sales and it is not. Perhaps efforts should be made to get the music into the mainstream record shops.''

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