Friday, 14 August 2015

Oliver: Bally Sagoo featuring Cheshire Cat and Rama - Mera Laung Gawacha (28 December 1991)

If pop culture is destined to recycle its various stages of development every 20 years or so, we can't be far away from seeing a clutch of British Asian acts grabbing mainstream attention and wearing the dubious label of Next Big Thing.  Around 1991 several bands/artists of British Asian descent started musical journeys which would quickly see them become a mix of musical hot properties and the faces/voices of British Asian youth culture.  I'm thinking of the likes of Apache Indian, Cornershop and Fun-Da-Mental who in their different ways married together Eastern and Western music styles and achieved unprecedented commercial success as well as critical acclaim.  These acts achieved the holy grail of crossover appeal without compromising their identities. They should have been the first of dozens given the number of potential musicians in the British Asian population, the widespread appeal of bhangra/Bollywood/ragga within the communities and the ease with which these styles could be worked into reggae/hip hop/indie frameworks.

Why there weren't more breakthroughs is difficult to say.  Certainly the acts previously mentioned found themselves just as disposable within the mainstream as those within any other culture (though to be fair, all had built up enough support when they were emerging to cushion their falls from Top of the Pops appearances and NME front covers).  A lack of outlets on national radio didn't encourage the flood either.  At a time when Bobby Friction and Nihal were but a glint in Andy Parfitt's eye, the responsibility for airing anything from the British Asian community rested squarely on John Peel's shoulders (we can only assume that Andy Kershaw was going direct to sources in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka for his Bhangra fix).  Peel played the artists already mentioned as well as many others including dub producer, Bally Sagoo, whose debut album Star Crazy included this gorgeous update of a traditional Indian tune featuring Sagoo's contemporary, reggae singer, Cheshire Cat providing his smitten commentary in a track that fuses dub bass lines with tablas and flutes to stunning effect.  Only two things let this track down:
1) the "of their time" squelchy saxophone stings.
2) the cultural cringe lyrics - "From the moment that I saw you.  I was most definitely interested in you"

But these are only minor criticisms.  Sit back and let yourself be drawn into a track that unfolds as luxuriously as a thick sari enveloping you into an embrace with the wearer.

Musharrat Nazir with the non-dub version in a video featuring some lousy attempts at subliminal advertising.

Videos courtesy of Sahil Budphal (Sagoo) and Harpreet Kaur (Nazir)

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