Guest Article by Nandeep Singh
This week’s Friday flashback features a band from Walsall (God’s Special Town) – Bhangra Band Anakhi.
Anakhi popped up on the nachural records label during the early ’90s. Nachural records were the brainchild of Ninder Johal, who doubled up as the tabla player for hit band Achanak.
Nachural records were very innovative in their marketing, I still remember the leaflets they had in each new release which advertised the upcoming releases. No other record label did this, in fact, you would find out about releases in the Des Pardes. Nachural records had a good crop of artists signed up, Achanak were the big guns, but they also had PMC. They introduced amongst others Saqi, Anakhi, and Eshara to the Bhangra scene. Shaktee after delivering the blockbuster album “Powered Up” on the OSA label came across to nachural to deliver the somewhat different “Something old, Something new”. Ninder and nachural played a big role in taking Bhangra music to the mainstream shops such as HMV.
Lets talk about Anakhi – the name of the band was a play on the Punjabi word Anakhi (Pride) and Anarchy (was this their way of saying they rejected hierarchy In the Bhangra industry??).
Anakhi were headed by Surjit Rai – previously lead singer for Walsall Bhangra group The Diwana’s. Anakhi was a young and energetic band. I recall seeing them at one of their first gigs prior to the release of their debut e.p., it was at Bradford University and they performed alongside Achanak and Apache Indian. I could see that these guys had the energy to succeed in the live band circuit. I saw them again at the Bradford Mela, where let’s just say their version of Putt Jattan De caused a few pangay in the crowd, Bowling park would never be the same again.
Their debut EP – The Anakhists was released in 1991, and it immediately got listeners to sit up and take notice. The EP contained one new song – “Do Jattian” written by KS Bhamrah. This was a dance-floor track and proved to be a hit. Then they had the traditional folk song “Meh Nai Jaana Saurey Bapu” with a modern twist. As with all tracks during this period, there were plenty of “hoye hoyes”. For me the best track on the EP is “Sun Mundeya”, the lyrics are traditional folk, but the reggae treatment this old classic has been given is brilliant. Just for good measure, we get a dub version of sun mundeya to conclude proceedings on the EP.
The debut album – Total Anakhi was released in 1992. The opening track is “Gidhey Vich Aaja” – this is musically very similar to A.S. Kang’s “Lutt Ke Lehgayi”. The track is fast, upbeat and full of the energy that was a trademark of Bhangra tracks back in those days (the good old days). Next we have a cover version of Kuldeep Manak’s “Amb da Boota”, it’s a tall order to emulate Manak but this is a very good effort. “Sun Sun Goriye” – is another quick upbeat track. Next up is another cover version of a cult classic “Putt Jattan De”. Most likely every band has performed this track at a wedding or other function. Anakhi have given a pretty unique treatment to this cult classic for sure. “Dhol Vajdeh” is a typical dhol centric track. Anakhi finish off the album with the reprise of “Meh nai jaana saurey” which they had appearing on the debut EP.
Anakhi went on to release Albums such as Scream and Ouch on the nachural label. Its safe to say that the boliyaan on the Scream album is one of the best for a UK based band. I also rated the “Kurti” track on the same album, it had a reggae vibe on it which was very similar to the “Sun Mundeya” track. “Umbhi” was the stand out track from the Ouch album. The track was later remixed by Amar (of Shaktee fame) on his “Visions” album. DJ Swami also remixed the track on his “Desi Nu Skool Beatz” album. Both remixes are great and worth a listen.
Anakhi then moved over to Kiss Records and released further albums such as 2nd Nature. Surjit also collaborated with producers such as Simon Nandhra (for Dil Mangdi) and Tarli Digital (for Akheeyan). I also saw him on the Legends band DVD where he performed some of his classics.
Anakhi won’t go down as the greatest band in Bhangra history, and Surjit won’t be known as the greatest vocalist, he did have a very distinctive sharp voice. But what these guys bought to the scene was that youthful energy, and opened the door for other UK born artists to try their luck. People like Jassi Sidhu quite openly admit that Anakhi were a band he listened to and was inspired by. I thoroughly enjoyed listening back to the classics by Anakhi and I think most people will agree they were a very decent band back in the hey days of Bhangra.