Live concert by Bhangra band Alaap
A modern and commercial form of Bhangra music was said to rise in Britain in the 1970s by Punjabi immigrants who took their native folk music and began experimenting by altering it using instruments from their host country. The new genre quickly became popular in Britain replacing Punjabi folk singers due to it being heavily influenced in Britain by the infusion of rock music and a need to move away from the simple and repetitive Punjabi folk music. It indicated the development of a self-conscious and distinctively rebellious British Asian youth culture centred on an experiential sense of self, e.g., language, gesture, bodily signification, desires, etc., in a situation in which tensions with British culture and racist elements in British society had resulted in alienation in many minority ethnic groups, fostered a sense of need for an affirmation of a positive identity and culture, and provided a platform for British Punjabi males to assert their masculinity.
In the 1980s, distributed by record labels such as Multitone Records, Bhangra artists were selling over 30,000 cassettes a week in the UK, but no artists reached the Top 40 UK Chart despite these artists outselling popular British ones; most of the Bhangra cassette sales were not through the large UK record stores, whose sales were those recorded by the Official UK Charts Company for creating their rankings.
The group Alaap formed in 1977 co-founded by Channi Singh and Harjeet Gandhi both hail from Southall, a Punjabi area in London. Their album Teri Chunni De Sitaray was released in 1982 by Multitone. Alaap was considered the first and original superstar Bhangra band formed in the United Kingdom. Channi Singh has been awarded the OBE by the British Queen for his services to Bhangra music and services/ charity for the British Asian community. Co-founder Harjeet Gandhi died in 2003.
The 1980s is commonly known as the golden age, or the age of Bhangra music, which lasted roughly from 1985 to 1993. The primary emphasis during these times was on the melody/riff, played out usually on a synthesizer, harmonium, accordion or a guitar. The folk instruments were rarely used.
One of the biggest Bhangra stars of the last several decades is Malkit Singh and his band Golden Star. Singh was born in June 1963 in the village of Hussainpur in Punjab. He attended the Lyallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar, in Punjab in 1980 to study for a bachelor of arts degree. There he met his mentor, Professor Inderjit Singh, who taught him Punjabi folk singing and Bhangra dancing. Due to Singh's tutelage, Malkit entered and won song contests during this time. In 1983, he won a gold medal at the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, Punjab, for performing his song "Gurh Nalon Ishq Mitha", which later featured on his first album, Nach Gidhe Wich, released in 1984. This album was created with the assistance of Bhangra musician, Tarlochan Singh Bilga. The band has toured 27 countries. Malkit has been awarded the MBE by the British Queen for his services to Bhangra music.
Bhangra boy band, the Sahotas, composed of five brothers from Wolverhampton. Their music is a fusion of Bhangra, rock and dance.
Heera, formed by Bhupinder Bhindi and fronted by Kumar and Dhami, was one of the most popular bands of the 1980s. The group established itself with the albums Jag Wala Mela, produced by Kuljit Bhamra, and Diamonds from Heera, produced by Deepak Khazanchi, on Arishma records. These albums are notable for being amongst the first Bhangra albums to mix Punjabi drums and Punjabi synthesizers with traditional British instruments successfully.
Bands like Alaap and Heera incorporated rock-influenced beats into Bhangra, because it enabled "Asian youth to affirm their identities positively" within the broader environment of alternative rock as an alternative way of expression. However, some believe that the progression of Bhangra music created an "intermezzo culture" post-India's partition, within the unitary definitions of Southeast Asians within the diaspora, thus "establishing a brand new community in their home away from home".
Several other influential groups appeared around the same time, including The Saathies, Premi Group, Bhujungy Group, and Apna Sangeet. Apna Sangeet, best known for their hit "Mera Yaar Vajavey Dhol", re-formed for charity in May 2009 after a break-up.
When Bhangra and General Indian sounds and lyrics were combined, British-Asian artists began incorporating them in their music. Some Asian artists, such as
Mick St Clair, Bally Sagoo, Talvin Singh, Badmarsh, Black Star Liner are creating their own form of British hip-hop.
This era also brought about Bhangra art, which, like the Bhangra music it represented was rebellious. Unlike folk music art, which consisted of a picture of the folk singer, Bhangra recordings had details such as distinctive artwork, logos, clever album names and band/musician listings (who played what).
In the mid 1990s, however, many artists returned to the original, traditional folk beats away from Bhangra music, often incorporating more dhol drum beats and tumbi. This time also saw the rise of several young Punjabi folk singers as a backlash to Bhangra music. They were aided by DJs who mixed hip hop samples with folk singing.
Beginning around 1994, there was a trend towards the use of samples (often sampled from mainstream hip hop) mixed with traditional folk rhythm instruments, such as the tumbi and dhol. Using folk instruments and hip-hop samples, along with relatively inexpensive folk vocals imported from Punjab, Punjabi folk music was able to cause the decline of Bhangra music.
Pioneering DJs instrumental in the decline of Bhangra were
Mick St Clair, Bally Sagoo and Panjabi MC. As DJs who were initially hired by Bhangra labels to remix the original recordings on the label's roster (OSA and Nachural respectively), they along with the record labels quickly found that remixing folk singers from India was much cheaper than working with outsourced Bhangra bands.
A pioneering folk singer that was instrumental in Bhangra's demise was Jazzy B, who debuted in 1992. Having sold over 55,000 copies of his third album, Folk and Funky, he is now one of the best-selling Punjabi folk artists in the world, with a vocal style likened to that of Kuldip Manak.
Other influential folk artists include Surinder Shinda - famous for his "Putt Jattan De" - Harbhajan Mann, Manmohan Waris, Meshi Eshara, Sarbjit Cheema, Hans Raj Hans, Sardool Sikander, Anakhi, Sat Rang, XLNC, B21, Shaktee, Sahara, Paaras, PDM, Amar Group, Sangeet Group, and Bombay Talkie. Late Alam Lohar contributions of notably Jugni and Mirza Sahiban. A DJ to rise to stardom with many successful hits was Panjabi MC.
By the end of the 1990s, Bhangra music had largely declined and been replaced with Punjabi folk singers. The same folk singers which Bhangra bands had replaced a decade earlier were being utilized by DJs to make relatively inexpensive non live music on laptops. This "Folkhop" genre was short lived as records could not be officially released due to non clearance copyrights on samples used to create the "beat". This continued until the end of the century. Folkhop record labels such Hi Tech were investigated by BPI (British Phonographic Industry) for copyright infringement by way of uncleared samples on releases by Folk DJs such as DJ Sanj.
Toward the end of the decade, Bhangra continued to decline, with folkhop artists such as Bally Sagoo and Apache Indian signing with international recording labels Sony and Island. Moreover, Multitone Records, one of the major recording labels associated with Bhangra in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s, was bought by BMG. A recentPepsi commercial launched in Britain featured South Asian actors and Punjabi folk music.
This section does not cite any sources
. (February 2013)
Punjabi folk remixed with hip hop, known as Folkhop, is most often produced when folk vocals are purchased online to be remixed in a studio. Folk vocals are usually sung to traditional melodies, that are often repeated with new lyrics.
Some South Asian DJs, especially in America, have mixed Punjabi folk music with house, reggae, and hip-hop to add a different flavor to Punjabi folk. These remixes continued to gain popularity as the 1990s came to an end. This movement was established and proliferated by DJs such as Mick St Clair, Punjabi MC and DJ Rekha. DJ Rekha, originally from the UK, now resides in New York City running a club event series called Basement Bhangra. These monthly events exhibit house and hip hop bhangra remixes.
A notable remix artist is Bally Sagoo, a Punjabi-Sikh, Anglo-Indian raised in Birmingham, England. Sagoo described his music as "a bit of tablas, a bit of the Indian sound. But bring on the bass lines, bring on the funky-drummer beat, bring on the James Brown samples", to Time magazine in 1997. He was recently signed by Sony. Daler Mehndi, a Punjabi singer from India has a type of music known as "folk pop". Mehndi has released tracks such as "Bolo Ta Ra Ra" and "Ho Jayegee Balle Balle". His song "Tunak Tunak Tun" was released in 1998.