Since we first started collecting bhangra Anjali and I have been focused on the bhangra music being made by producers in the UK. The fact that these producers grew up multi-soniculturally with desi music and Afro-diasporic modern urban dance musics made them the best at creating slamming dance tracks with a desi feel. Most of the producers from India have sounded hopelesly dated and lame, with lots of cheezy keyboards and tinny beats. Over the last year I have encountered more and more Panjabis grumbling online about how washed-up and formulaic the British bhangra scene has become. Many of these same critics are now turning their attention to the highly prolific Indian bhangra scene. While British releases are hampered by endless delays and promises of “coming soon” it feels like India is releasing dozens of bhangra albums a week. As expensive as they are, UK Bhangra releases are easy to find online. (We recommend www.punjab2000.co.uk. Tell Tony we sent you.) I have had zero luck finding any listed source for Indian bhangra online. (Tony says he can get you anything even if it’s not listed on his website.)
Outside of Desi Spices in Vancouver, Washington I have not found a single Indian store in the Portland metro area that regularly stocks new Panjabi releases. My only chances to see what is out there are my trips to Indian stores in NYC and Vancouver, BC. Last Spring I stocked up on mounds of releases in Jackson Heights, but since then I have been assembling a massive list of even-more-current Indian releases I find recommended on various message boards. Anjali and I just got back from BC and I have already been playing out some of many finds. Now Anjali is in NYC and I gave her a massive list of everything I couldn’t find in BC.
However, unlike some, I have not given up on British bhangra (too much good stuff scheduled to drop, and the new young producers are revelations) but I am now equally focused on getting all the best stuff straight from the Panjab. Maybe you will be able to hear the difference in my sets. I loved dropping Preet Brar and Miss Pooja’s “Boliyan” at Andaz, even if Anjali thought the CD was speeding up and sounded awful. I love how the bulk of many of the CDs feature duets with female voices whether they are credited primarily to a male or female singer. British bhangra seems so exclusively dedicated to the male voice except for a few exceptions. I am excited that although the cheezy keyboards still taint many a track, the dhols just keep hitting harder and harder. At least that is something we can all agree on.