SILINDER PARDESI ON SINGING, HIS AMAZING CAREER AND THE WEST END BHANGRA MUSICAL SHOW by ASJAD NAZIR Bhangra music played an important part in the evolution of British Asian culture and at the forefront were pioneering artists who bridged the divide with super songs. That big British bhangra revolution took place in the 1980s, with bands laying the foundation for cross-cultural commercial music in the UK. One of the key acts that pioneered the change was The Pardesi Music Machine. The heartbeat of the band was Midlands-based singer, songwriter and composer Silinder Pardesi, who went from singing devotional hymns in Sikh Temples as a youngster to helping shape British Asian culture with super hit Punjabi songs. He later carved out a solo career and is now part of an exciting line-up of pioneers who have been brought together for The West End Bhangra Musical, which goes on national tour next month. The exciting line-up includes Shin from DCS, Apna Sangeet, Heera, The Legends Band and young talent making waves right now. Eastern Eye caught up with Silinder to talk about his amazing career and the new bhangra musical show. How do you look back on your musical journey? When I first set out on this journey, I didn’t think beyond doing what I loved and that was singing. I never imagined being so successful and the musical journey being such a long one. It has been an interesting and enjoyable journey, which I look at as one big blessing in my life and by the grace of the almighty, it continues. I am truly thankful for every moment. Which of your achievements are you most proud of? I think doing what you love is an achievement in itself. Having a successful live band and producing so many evergreen albums as well as performing at world music festivals and gaining respect from fans worldwide are achievements I am proud of. Performing at the 850th anniversary of Moscow in Red Square alongside the late great Luciano Pavarotti was particularly memorable. What keeps the musical passion alive after so many years? I think my love and passion for singing have been there since childhood. But it has grown over time, thanks to blessings from the almighty and the wonderful fans, who have shown so much support over the years. Your band The Pardesi Music Machine was huge in the 1980s. How did that success feel? It was like winning the jackpot and an immense reward for all the hard work we put in. It made me so proud and I am grateful to the almighty for getting so much love from the fans. I still look back and think to myself, did that actually happen. What are your fondest memories of those golden days of British bhangra? I think all the live performances around the globe and playing with great artists at world music festivals are amazing memories that will never leave me. Also, the live band scene was at its greatest heights then and it was such an exciting time. Do you remember the first time you ever took to stage and what was it like? I had been singing since a young age, but performing in front of an audience for the first time was nerve-wracking. (Laughs). Believe it or not, I was very shy back then. But I feel a higher power gave me the strength to be in front of a live audience and then they gave me the confidence to believe in myself. How has a solo career compared to being in a band? My solo career enabled me to record albums like Bollywood Seduction, which were away from the commercial bhangra space and that gave me great joy because, growing up, my biggest influence was Mohammed Rafi. As a solo artist, I was able to experience something different and show versatility in my vocals. Which of your many live performances is closest to your heart? Like I mentioned earlier, the best performance was in Russia on the same stage as the late great legend Luciano Pavarotti in front of an audience of more than a million in Red Square. Tell us, which of your classic songs is your favourite? It would be Pump Up The Bhangra because it was so different and path-breaking. What we did was an experimental idea that hadn’t been done before and it proved to be so successful. What led to you getting involved with The West End Bhangra Musical? Live music is what I have loved the most and so will support it. The West End Bhangra Musical is just a different experience altogether and so great to be a part of. It is great working with the best legendary bands and prominent live musicians on what will be a unique experience for audiences, so I couldn’t say no. Tell us about the show? It will be a different live musical experience and one I feel all ages will appreciate. The fans can expect bhangra music presented in a different way and I am really excited to see the audience reactions when they watch it. How is it sharing the same platform as other legends? It is a blessing and honour to share the same platform. We have all known each other for decades and were together during the golden period of British bhangra. Was there any rivalry during that period? From my side, there wasn’t any. I appreciated each band’s differences and respected the musical talents of each. Every band was quite diverse, which made it an amazing era to be involved with. Does it sadden you that there are so few bands today? Of course, it saddens me greatly as I believe in keeping live music alive. But thanks to the amazing Legends Band for keeping live music alive. They are very much part of The West End Bhangra Musical and are amazing on stage. What do you see as the future of British bhangra? Bhangra music will be appreciated. Yes, there is a lull right now, but that flame we ignited will not die and the world will continue to get influenced by bhangra. I hope future generations carry the legacy forward and keep enjoying bhangra music. What is your advice to the new generation? The key to success is working hard and learning your craft, whether you are a musician, singer or a songwriter. Don’t try to get fame overnight, perfect your craft first and remember that learning never stops, which is what makes music so great. What inspires you as an artist? Making great music that appeals to a wide audience keeps me inspired. I enjoy creating songs that will be remembered and played for generations to come. The thought that your music will live long even after you are gone is very inspiring. Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions? Music is an endless ocean, so there will always be new ambitions and goals. I would love to do playback singing for Bollywood movies. What can we expect next from you? Right now, I am preparing for The West End Bhangra Musical, which I am sure will be a landmark show. We are all working very hard on it. Musically, I am working on a few bhangra tracks and some Hindi language projects. I am also working on some religious musical projects. Why should we come to The West End Bhangra Musical? This will be an experience to remember for all with a different kind of live bhangra presentation. It is a family show that will connect different generations, have amazing live performances and will create lasting memories. I am looking forward to seeing you all there. Why do you love music? Music has been a key part of my life from a very young age. It has given me great strength, allowed me to express myself and form connections with people around the world. Visit www.GoWebM.com, and Twitter: @westendbhangra