POPULAR DJ Nihal has said British- Asian music is “in a whole heap of mess” ahead of the release of a new compilation album featuring talent from bhangra and Bollywood artists.
The Asian Collection, which features more than 50 tracks over three CDs, including Jay- Z’s remix of Panjabi MC’s Mundian To Bach Ke, and Nitin Sawhney’s Homelands, has been released by Sony Music in collaboration with the DJ.
The award-winning record company worked with the renowned broadcaster Nihal Arthanayake, who selected the eclectic mix of tunes to create an album of British-Asian classics.
It also includes mainstream artists who have embraced ethnic sounds in their music. Nihal, who hosted Asian Beats, a late night show on Radio 1 for 12 years before it was axed last September, believes the music scene has become “disjointed” and is hoping to see new young artists emerge to freshen up the scene.
“British Asian music is in a whole heap of mess. There’s not a unified force where people are helping each other,” he told Eastern Eye. “It’s too disjointed, artists aren’t getting together to collaborate. I can’t understand why Jaz Dhami and Arjun haven’t done a track together, for instance. If you look at the grime scene, they are all supporting each other.”
The 44-year-old, whose Radio 1 slot showcased up-and-coming Asian singers, regularly DJs at events across the UK, and currently presents a debate show on BBC Asian Network.
“The problem is there are no A&R people (those responsible for talent scouting and overseeing artistic development of recording artists and songwriters). You need a filter and people to say, ‘that’s not good enough, go back and do something better.’ We need to feel something is happening in the streets. They (artists) need to get out there and make some heat,” Nihal explained.
He has been working on the “alternative soundtrack for the summer” with Sony for the past two years. It includes hits from iconic artists AR Rahman, Anoushka Shankar, Apache Indian, Honey Singh and Jazzy B among others.
Mainstream stars Jay Z, Missy Elliot and the Pussycat Dolls, who have embraced Asian beats in their tracks, also feature in the compilation, as do Bollywood tunes Desi Girls from Dostana and Rang De Basanti from the film of the same name.
“I wanted people to get a sense of all the different type of Asian music that exists. It’s not all bhangra and Bollywood and it can encompass Missy Eliot and pop genres,” Nihal said.
“When you have been DJing on Radio 1 for over 12 years and playing Asian music, that’s a lot of music to think about. Ultimately it comes down to the kind of music that has the broadest appeal. I’m hoping with the third CD, people will try and discover different types of music, which is largely chill.
“It has been years since a label put out a compilation album which caters to the Asian audience in such a large way. The tracks really resonated with me,” he added.
One of Nihal’s favourite songs on the compilation is PBN’s Aaj Me Peeni – a huge crowd pleaser which transports the DJ back to Bombay Bronx, a club night he used to run. “Whenever that track was played, the place would go nuts,” he said.
In an unusual move, supermarket chain Asda will be selling the CDs in its World Foods aisle for the first time. The Asian Collection is being billed as “a timely tribute to the amazing phenomenon of the Mela,” which is an important live platform for the plethora of Brit-Asian artists and bands.
Nihal, who is at the heart of the music scene, is a big fan of the annual London Mela which showcases top talent. “It’s the brown people’s mini Glasonbury. All these guys – Navin Kundra, Mumzy Stranger, Junai Kaden – that’s how they get to their audience in big numbers. London Mela is outstanding. I love what used to be call the mixed tent and then became the new music stage. That was amazing,” he said.
The Asian Collection will be released on Friday (31).