OPINION: The problem with ‘Asian’ music – Nerm

Nerm is a BBC broadcaster, DJ and underground muso

I’m in a bar or club and get introduced to someone. Sometimes in the paranoid gulf that is the entertainment industry, sometimes not. Wherever, whenever, the conversation often goes like this:

“What do you do?”

“I present shows for the BBC, mainly music ones. I also run a record label.”

“Oh yeah, what station are you on?”

“Sometimes Radio 1 and until recently the Asian Network.”

“Asian Network? So you do all that Bhangra stuff then?”

I grit my teeth,..

“No, not Bhangra”

“So that Bollywood stuff”

“Not quite Bollywood”

“What then?”

“Mainly Electro, Punk, Drum & Bass and Dubstep”

That’s when either a look of confusion comes over their faces or they burst out laughing. But it’s this conversation, repeated over and over again, that gives my eyes a sparkle. I love challenging perceptions. There are a few of us that do.

UK acts like Engine Earz, Sukh Knight, Nila Raja, Foreign Beggars and Riz MC are making waves outside of any usual ‘Asian’ scene and straight into the mainstream consciousness with award winning performances, supporting slots with The Prodigy and remixing Basement Jaxx.

And it’s feeding back out of the UK. In India there are electronic music producers, bands and lyricists that, when you hear their music, you have no idea where they’re from. Go check out Shaair & Func, Mental Martians or Nucleya and you’ll see what I mean.

The point is that ‘Asian’ music can be more than bhangra and sitars.  Just as ‘British’ incorporates more than just Madness and football chants. It’s an obvious message, and one you were probably told by your Mum. Not “brush your teeth”, or “eat your greens”. It’s “never judge a book by its cover.” Get online and explore. I promise you won’t regret it.