Pardesi Pump up the Bhangra And Shake Yer Pants.
Setting The Scene
This week’s Friday flashback features the Pardesi Music Machine. Pardesi came on the scene around the mid 80’s and released a dharmik album and then in 1986 they released “Nasheydiye band bottlay”. The early to mid 80’s had seen the London bands Alaap and Heera dominate the UK bhangra scene. Bhujangy from the midlands had pretty much disbanded and various other groups had spawned from them (TSB Golden star & ApnaSangeet). The dominant record labels at the time were Multitone records and Oriental Star Agency, although Heera were with a smaller label called Arishma at the time.
From the Mid 80’s onwards though the tide turned and there was a gradual shift in power. Malkit Singh joined TSB and blew the scene up on debut with “Nach Gideh Vich” before delivering the block buster “I love golden Star”, he continued to deliver albums annually for the rest of the decade. 1988 was a significant year in terms of the Midlands v London battle for supremacy, as team midlands delivered 3 albums which made the listeners sit up and take note – DCS 123 go, Pardesi Pump up the bhangra, and Sahota beat.
Apna Sangeet had just the year before put Soho Road on the map with their album Tour India which included the “Soho road uttey” anthem. 1989 would see another midlands band Azaad release drum’n’dhol, which would prove to be another win for team midlands. The London bands be it Alaap, Heera, Premi, Holle Holle etc were seeing their supremacy well and truly challenged here. In years to come with the advent of Roma (who would introduce the Safri Boys and then re introduce AS Kang) and nachural records team midlands had complete dominance over the scene.
Personally speaking I was never a huge fan of the UK bhangra scene until I had exposure to DCS 123 go and pump up the bhangra in 88. I had previously heard music from the likes of alaap, but personally it was a sound that didn’t resonate with me. I was more of a 60’s Bollywood music fan especially of Rafi songs.
Pardesi in Awe
I first saw Pardesi at a relative’s wedding (he was the nephew of the landlord of the pump tavern where Pardesi apparently used to practice) just prior to the release of pump up the bhangra. They blasted out songs from the eagerly awaited forthcoming album and kept plugging it saying it’s out this week. So me being a newcomer to the scene and not being fully aware of the concept of Indian timing went to the local retailer with my £2.50 pocket money and asked for the Pardesi album. I was given “Nashey diye band bottlay” as pump up the bhangra was delayed and when Indians say this week they mean next month really. Anyway when I listened to nashey diye band bottlay it sounded nothing like the tracks I had heard at the wedding, I was robbed …
Finally a few weeks later there was light at the end of the tunnel, and I got my hands on a copy of Pump up the bhangra, and my bhangra journey was well and truly underway. So impressed was I that I joined the official fan club, and for the fee of £5 I received a blue plastic membership card and a pump up the bhangra t shirt.
The Sampling Controversy
Prior to Pump up the bhangra I’d probably say Deepak khazanchi who was a producer probably had introduced the idea of using samples in bhangra tracks. He had worked with all the London based bands and also had a successful solo project in Bhangra Fever 1. Pardesi however were a band and they were planning to use this sampling technology for their album and or their live performances – this was very much unchartered territory. It must have been a huge gamble by the record company (OSA) to back the band in their ambitious project. Anyway Pardesi released the album and the rest is history as they say.
The Band of Pardesi’s
Pardesi were fronted by Boota and Silinder who both provided the vocals and they complimented each other. The band members included 3 brothers Surinder, Kam, and Rags (2 of whom would eventually leave to create frantic studios). Harcharan on the keyboards was another prominent member of this band. Pardesi as mentioned earlier had incorporated sampling into their live performances. Their live performances were energetic,innovative, and worth watching. There’s videos on youtube from their performance at town and country club in London which highlight this point. Pardesi live performances include the eve of the 1990 world cup in Italy, and Glastonbury back in 94 when they were the first Bhangra band to do so.
Pump up the Bhangra 1988:
This was the follow up to the debut album “Nashey diye band bottlay”, and the first thing that struck me was the cover art. Now back in them days cover art was pretty much an after-thought. Standard procedure was a picture of the band members in their glittery tops and white trousers on the front cover album with the name of the band and the album title printed on there. The cover was something different for that era and pretty much illustrates that Pardesi were changing the game with this album. The album consisted of 7 tracks, let’s give it a spin.
The album opens with the controversial Pump up the bhangra title track. The track opens with the pump up the volume sample. Other samples include Malkits “naramjehi kurri garamjehi”, and “Holle Holle”. Pardesi then cleverly intertwine some of their own tracks from their debut album with bhangra classics such as rail gaddi, nachdi di guttkhul gayi, dil da mamlahai, and gera dede mutiyaare lambhibaah karke amongst others. The track is a ten minute journey which alone justifies the fee paid for the album. It was one of those racks you could blast out with your non desi friends and they would bop along to the pump up the bhangra bit at the start for sure. The lead vocals are provided by Silinder, Boota, Surinder and Harcharan surprisingly.
The second track “Shuncata penda” slows down the tempo a little, and it’s a decentish track if you can block out the rather annoying female chorus vocals. Both Silinder and Boota do well on this track, and this is a good example of how their vocals worked together.
If you bought the cassette then track 3 would conclude proceedings on side A. This was just a dub mix of “nashey diye band botlay”. Not sure what to say other than it does what it says on the tin.
Silinder and Boota kick off side B with “Pardesi Pind Vich Aageya”, this is great track, and both lead vocalists excel in this type of song. This tempo was ideal for both of them.
The dance number “Balle Balle” is next up and again both lead vocalists come together to deliver a solid track
Silinder is on solo duty next with “Telephone”. This track tells the tale of pre mobile phone times, and how it took a whole week for Raano to pick up and answer the poor man’s phone call. 7 days to answer the bloody call, look what Craig david had achieved within 7 days. This is the Punjabi watered down version of Craig davids 7 days for sure. Silinder is in his element on this track.
Boota and Silinder re unite to close the album off with the popular “kach var gi mutiyaar”. It’s another fast upbeat track, not one you can change the light bulbs to though me thinks. Again without saying the vocals are delivered by both.
Pump up the bhangra went on to become one of the best selling albums of its time, and it still stands the test of time. Artists during that period would regularly shift tens of thousands of units, which would possibly equate to a top 20 or 30 position in the mainstream charts. So we have to give the bands of that era a lot of respect for what they did for the scene and Punjabi music.
Shake Yer Pants 1990
2 years after the colossal ground breaking PUTB the boys were back with shake yer pants. Could this 9 tack album be a worthy successor of PUTB? Again the cover art was something very different and featured cartoon figures of all band members, with kam and rags shown as the men pulling the strings in the puppet show.
The album starts off with a cover version of the cult classic “Putt Jattan De”, however Pardesi have added a few bonus add-ons to their version, in their own innovative style. It works, and again both Silinder and Boota deliver vocally.
Next we have Pardesi’s version of Bhujhangy’s classic “Bhabhiye Akh Largayi” written by TSB. This is another good track.
The track seamlessly merges into the next track “Peelai Ghat Ghat “, a drunkards anthem talking about a good boys night out with booze and food.
The next track pretty much sticks with the same subject – daaru – seems to be a common theme here. “Peeni eh valeti” sees both vocalists together convincing us to drink the imported stuff.
Next up we have the cover version of Surinder Shinda’s “Balbeero Bhabhi”. Now the PC brigade will try and tell us how this track is glorifying honour killings and should be banned. The original was phat, and this is a great effort by Boota to reboot the folk tale of how Sucha Soorma took his revenge. Boota is in his element on this track.
Akhiaan is a very Bollywood type romantic song. This is the ideal type of track to showcase Silinders vocals. He is suited to this type of track, as the rafi influence shines through.
The next track is labelled as “Peeni eh Valeti – drunken remix” but the track actually playing is “hath Yaar Da Farhke” – someone was drunk when creating the inlay for sure. It’s an average track to be fair.
The next track is the “Peeni eh valeti – drunken remix”. I’ve given up with the inlay at this point.
To finish off we have “Lak tunu tunu” a fast paced track with both Silinder and Boota again. Another solid track. So another slickly put together album by Pardesi draws to a close. This is another album that went onto break records in sales.
Pardesi pretty much never went onto scale the heights of these two albums again which was unfortunate. The frantic brothers left to concentrate on production and nurturing the talent of new bands such as Saqi. Pardesi released the EP just Badmashi – which featured a cover version of Surinder Shinda’s Badla (featured during the title sequence of Cult Punjabi movie “putt jattan de”) with a slight twist, and a track from Bulleh Shah di kafi (worth a listen if you haven’t already) and the album Full badhmashi(a very good album in its own right but we were comparing it to the previous two albums) on their own Pardesi record company label before Silinder went onto do solo projects and part ways with the band.
Silinder appeared on various compilation albums such as Partners in Rhyme’s House of all nations, Planet Earth, on a dance tip, King of kings, Death jamm 3, Death jamm 4.5, before doing his whole Bollywood seduction series on the Roma music label. Whilst signed with Roma he also released the “Pumpin up again” album, but it failed to create the magic the original many years ago had done. Silinder then had a short stint with OSA again and released “Exposure” and “Memories”. Another Birmngham based label Hi-tech Music then signed him up and he used producers such as Zeus, DJ Chino, Rishi Rich, and Frantic to produce albums such as “Destiny”, “Firing on all Silinders”, and “Hey Sohniye” (Tips India had head hunted him for this one).
The remaining members of the Pardesi music machine (namely Boota and Harcharan), carried on with albums such as Party on, Eat the wallpaper, and Boota also had tracks on kamlee 3 and eclipse amongst others. They tried recruiting another lead singer (Harjit) and released an album called Bhangra Punjab Da on the Moviebox label. The new singer didn’t last long to be fair, and Boota was going solo too soon after with albums titled “Prophecy” and “Milestone”.
It wouldn’t be harsh to say that the success of PUTB and SYP was never replicated by the two individuals in their individual projects. PUTB and SYP were seen as iconic albums of their time, and were instrumental in the midlands establishing itself as the hub of UK bhangra. Boota and Silinder have appeared together for the legends concert in the more recent past. I can’t see there being much appetite in todays market for a comeback for this duo though.
Bhangra connoisseurs are often arguing over which was the better album – PUTB or SYP. From a pure innovative angle and game changer you’d have to say PUTB edges it. It was a risk they took and it paid off big time. SYP was a very good album too, but for me PUTB is the winner.