BBC Radio 4 to broadcast ‘The British Bhangra Explosion’ documentary

Lakh Baddhan

Senior Editor


BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting a special documentary on the “explosion” of British Bhangra.

Presenter Anita Rani authors the story of the British Asian Bhangra music scene of the 1980s and 1990s recapturing the boom period of when Britain reinvented the genre and became the global epicentre for Bhangra music across the world. The subsequent cultural, musical, and social impact provided a lasting legacy for generations of British Asians including Anita who has “Bhangra in her DNA”. This programme reflects the era through music, story and song.

The Punjab is the ancestral home for Bhangra Folk music which in turn was fused with western pop and electronic influences through the new wave of Asian immigrants arriving in Britain from the 1960s onwards. Through new cultural commentary from broadcaster and music consultant Londoner DJ Ritu, academic and Bhangra historian Hardeep Singh Sahota from Huddersfield and Manchester based Kiss Records CEO Shahzad Sheikh alongside archive, we relive this important historical era through the main musical players involved over the years and the dedicated music fans who attended in huge numbers. Anita from Bradford looks at this scene from a UK wide perspective.

With archive contributions from the early British Bhangra bands including The Bhujhangy Group and Anari Sangeet Party to the pioneers of the 80s and 90s such as Alaap, DCS, Heera, Premi, Apana Sangeet, Safri Boys and Achanak; we hear how the bands provided entertainment at weddings, (even Anita had Bhangra at her own wedding) events and across the live circuit including the infamous ‘Day Timers’ where school kids would play truant for the day by swapping the classroom for a club which turned night into day to see their favourite bands perform at these day time discos.

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The 1980s into the 1990s was the golden age for British Bhangra with its birth and in turn, reincarnation through western and eastern fusion which was championed by people like Radio 1’s John Peel and the most popular kids TV show of the day – Blue Peter! Into the 90s we hear how Bhangra influences started to crossover to the British mainstream with artists like Apache Indian and Bally Sagoo achieving chart success with appearances on Top of The Pops. Bally Sagoo talks about supporting Michael Jackson in India after outselling The Spice Girls, and Glasgow Bhangra outfit Bombay Talkie remember the unexpected reception they received in rural Ireland.

This documentary gives an insight into Britain’s Asian community and culture through the roots music they have listened and danced to, and for a generation of British Asian kids it will evoke memories of teenage rebellion, listening to LP’s and Cassettes, Asian music appearing in mainstream media all whilst balancing the tricky transition of identity between being British and Indian alongside both peer and parental pressures.

It will air on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds on Saturday 8th April at 20:00.