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UK Bhangra band comes home 

BELLA JAISINGHANI  
This is one band that has gone down very well with the Asian community in the UK for more than 10 years and has only just come to India. London-based Asian boy band, The Sahotas, has blended East with West in an appealing manner combining innovation and talent. Times Music has introduced the brothers to India and their debut album is titled Teri Meri Gal Ban Gayee.The Sahotas consist of Mukhtar and Vijay on the keyboards, Surjit on the vocals, Raj on the tabla and dholak, and Parkesh on the drums. They describe their music as a "fusion of roots, Bhangra, reggae, dance and meaningful ballads".

They named the band The Sahotas, simply choosing their surname as their identification. The brothers have made a significant contribution to the mainstream Bhangra market in the UK with the six albums they've brought out in Punjabi. Their sound knowledge of Bhangra has culminated in Teri Meri..., an album whose USP is rhythm and dance.

There are nine tracks in the album that has been composed and arranged by Mukhtar and Surjit Sahota, and sung by Surjit. The songs reflect Western influence on the traditional Bhangra style, giving a new flavour to a genre already popular with Indian audiences. The brothers have tried to keep the video for the album trendy, slick and pacy, they say, in keeping with British influence. It has been directed by top-of-the-line creative company Colossus.

The atmosphere at the Sahota home had always been musical. "Our father played the tabla. We listened to all kinds of music at home, and were hooked on right then," says Surjit. "I used to sing in school. Raj started to learn the tabla and Mukky (Mukhtar) was learning the keyboards. This was before we even thought we would form our own band."

Well, the band was formed in 1986 when Surjit was still in his final year at school. "Raj, Mukky and I used to play together in the school music room. One day, the head of the music department, John Biddulph, said we had talent. He suggested we form a band and represent our school at a national competition. We did as he said and won the event. After that, we got a chance to perform at the most prestigious venue in the UK, the Royal Albert Hall. This is where we received the award for Outstanding Music. From then on, there was no looking back," he says.

Two other brothers, Vijay and Parkesh, joined the band. By now, Bhangra music had hit big time in the UK. And the Sahotas produced their first album, Gidda Pao, in 1987. This was a blend of Bhangra rhythm with contemporary sounds. After which, they went on to release a hit album almost every year. Surjit says, "After enjoying the success of our first album, our record company signed us on for four more albums. But it is our love for music and the support of our family, friends and fans that has kept our band going all these years."

The Sahotas signed up with Multitone Records in UK and released Sahota Beat in 1988. This album was placed at No. 1 on the Bhangra charts, and rallied a considerable fan following for the band in the UK. In 1989 came their third album, Aaja, which they claim influenced other Bhangra artistes, too. Then came Are You Feeling (1990), Ishq (1991), Hass Hogia (1993), Out Of Reach (1994) and The Right Time (1995). Decade, launched in 1997, got to the top of the charts in no time. A single titled Maa Da Pyar was written in their mother's memory.

Despite achieving major success in the UK, they did not enter the Indian market for a good many years. Why didn't they cash in on the Bhangra boom that began a couple of years ago? "Well, we have always wanted to release our music and perform in India, where our roots are," says Surjit. "But we were really busy in Europe. Lately, we felt it was time we made our mark in India, so we have tied up with Times Music. The company discovered us through our UK label, Envy Records. Our album Brotherhood was played to them, and they felt we were good enough to sign up."

The brothers look to different genres for inspiration. While Raj is into Indian classical music, Mukky likes Prince. Parkesh listens to a lot of film songs, while Vijay is into Bhangra. The Western influences would be European dance music, reggae, Bob Marley, George Michael and soul music. Surjit says he loves the music of Bob Marley.

"We only write music that we love to play. We don't follow any trend. British Bhangra is great, but I feel British bands need to experiment more so that the younger generation can learn more than just one rhythm. Bhangra in India has a lot of variation," he says, comparing Indian Bhangra with its British version.

Well, the Sahotas are almost veterans as far as boy bands go. The fact that the band is all within the family must be a big help? "I think we are the only UK band that is still running with its original members. I wouldn't say it has been easy because we were brothers, rather it has been difficult. But our thumb rule is that business is business, and we never mix our personal lives with our work. Each is dealt with in its own court," says Surjit.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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