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DJ Nihal
Take your pick ~ a hip-hop compilation put together by clueless music executives or an album of brand new tracks carefully selected by a DJ/presenter who has discovered some of Brit-Asian music’s biggest acts?

The album we’re talking about is Bombay Bronx and the man behind it ~ presenter/DJ/rapper Nihal who The Record catches up with in Mumbai. If you can’t get ‘Ek glassy, do glassy, teen glassy, char!’ out of your head, you know who to blame!

The Record: What is the Bombay Bronx album all about?
Nihal: The album is named after a club night that I’ve been running in London since May 2004. It’s like bringing Asian music and hip-hop together, bringing that vibe and funk of the Bronx together with the glamour and style of Bombay. I just wanted to bring the two together and represent what’s going on in the UK.
Also, on the album there are three unsigned acts. By now you know Jay Sean, you know Raghav but you may not know Mentor Kolektiv or Bohemia or Sona Family so we’re trying to bring those kinds of acts through. It’s really kind of saying, ‘Look I’m trying to support new music.’ Hopefully the hip-hop vibe is beginning to take hold in India.

TR: It has been catching on for a while now here…
Nihal: Yeah and I’m not trying to jump on a bandwagon here. I’ve been around hip-hop for 20 years. I was a hip-hop journalist, I was writing and interviewing Snoop Dogg, Outkast, Black Eyed Peas and other such artists over the years. I’m a rapper myself, so I’ve been on the scene since I was around 14 or 15. I was a publicist for various rap acts from America like Mos Def, Gangsta, Beanie Man… so you know I’ve been involved really deep in the music for a long, long time. I hope no one thinks I’m coming in trying to exploit the British thing. I really feel this music and I’m very proud of the fact that Asians are making this music ~ it’s not just black or white people that are making hip-hop. Asians can make it too, whether you’re Pakistani or Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi or Indian, you can do that.

TR: Hip-hop goes well with Asian music doesn’t it?
Nihal: Yeah there are parallels. India has thousands of years of musical culture and music is such a part of life here, much more than it is in the west. If you think about just how old the tabla is and the precision and the discipline that’s needed… If you’re a DJ in hip-hop you have to put eight hours a day in to practice, if you’re rapping full-time, you’re on all the time. You can be a pundit of the turn-tables, you can be an ustad of the microphones…you can do those things and I think there are parallels there.
Bhangra is, I think, the reggae of India, the folk music or dance music, so there are parallels there too. So [I wanted] to bring the two together and do it in a non-cheesy way, in a way that I hope has credibility and that people find ultimately enjoyable. Music is not a technical thing, it’s an emotional thing.

TR: ‘Bobby [Friction] And Nihal Presents’ on BBC Radio 1 is the definitive show for new Asian music. Tell us more about it.
Nihal: It’s about people respecting the music and spreading Asian musical vibes. Our show started in the 3 am slot. They tucked us away in the graveyard shift just to see how it would progress. We were the first to play Raghav, Jay Sean, Outlandish ~ in fact we’ve been the first on many many things because it’s our job to be first and push new music and unsigned acts.
Asian music is still growing and it’s still got a long, long way to go. There are still people that are hating on it and saying, ‘Surely this Asian music thing is not going to last.’ And you say, ‘Well there are 2 million Asians in the UK. We’re not going anywhere, so even if you’re not buying it we’re going to buy it! And we have spending power, we have economic muscle.’ 15-year-old Asian girls in the UK are going to want to see their own pop stars. It’s great to be able to put pictures of Akshay Kumar, John Abraham and all these guys but it’s also nice to have a British Asian who they can relate to like Jay Sean or Raghav who will sing in Hindi but will mix it with R&B. That’s an important psychological step for young Asians.

You can read the rest of our feature on DJ Nihal in the February 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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