RDB: Mastered the northern desi sound at the turn of the century and continued to do so for well over 10 years. Growing up in the same community as these three brothers from Bradford, they were an inspiration and were the first artists within British-Asian music to market themselves as a brand. RIP Kuly Ral.
Jay Sean: Starting his early days as a rapper and beatboxer, he met producer Rishi Rich and reinvented himself and became the biggest British Asian RnB singer during the height of the ‘BrAsian’ music era. He then broke internationally and went on to sign with one of North America’s biggest record labels and created a catalogue of over 50 songs and four studio albums so far, something which is nothing short of heroic.
Nitin Sawhney: Probably one of the most understated British Asian composers, producers and musicians in the world. He’s not just revered for his own music, but collaborating with the likes of Paul McCartney, Sting, Ellie Goulding and Anoushka Shankar, to name a few. Nitin is most definitely an icon and a pioneer within British music.
Romesh Ranganathan: As a Sri Lankan comedian in Britain, Romesh has truly shown how British Asians can step outside the boundaries of ‘south Asian stereotypes’. His dry sense of humour, combined with his inspiring passion for hip hop, is why Romesh is one of our inspirations for the Roots & Rhymes Podcast.
Sukh Ojla: Sukh has very quickly become one of our favourite personalities, not just on the comedy stage or in front of the camera, but on social media too. Her comedy and narrative are both relatable to cross-generational British Asian audiences as she confidently delivers with bags of personality. We featured Sukh back in season one and her episode is a real contender for our favourite. And of course, it also has to be said that she is inspiring as an advocate for positive mental health.
Bobby Friction: A pioneer and longstanding cheerleader of the British Asian music scene, Bobby Friction is a huge hero of ours. He has thrust British Asian music and culture into the national spotlight and is the voice of urban desi music. His influence on us and his work as a TV presenter, documentary maker, radio presenter and journalist, continues to inspire and educate generations of British Asians, old and new.
Anita Rani: We both share our hometown of Bradford with one of the most recognisable faces on British TV. Anita Rani has done Yorkshire proud as an award-winning journalist, TV and radio personality. She has most definitely made it into our top 10 for not only breaking through into the national spotlight, but heroically remaining there too. A true hero for all British Asians, especially women of colour – who she has paved the way for.
Kulwinder Ghir: Growing up, we have both been left in stitches by this multi-talented actor and comedian. A hilarious entertainer who has helped pave the way for the new wave of British Asian comedians. Kulwinder makes it on our list of heroes because he broke barriers when he and three others brought Goodness Gracious Me to BBC television. He gave us comedy that hadn’t been seen before, something that we, as British Asian youths, could connect and identify with.
Moeen Ali: The ace all-rounder has to make our list as an elite sportsman and for breaking barriers and inspiring young cricketers by captaining the England cricket team. On his way to the top, he’s had to fight against racist attitudes towards him and has now become a role model for Asians everywhere, showing that young kids from under privileged ethnic backgrounds can also make it within professional sports.
Fauja Singh: How can our list of British Asian heroes be complete without ‘the Sikh superman’. 109-year-old Fauja Singh made his debut at the London Marathon aged 89! Fauja has beaten the huge odds against him and overcome medical challenges, and the stigma of society, on his journey to becoming the world’s oldest marathon runner and world record beater. He continues to be a true inspiration to us all.
Roots & Rhymes, hosted by Chunz and Makh, is an innovative British-Asian podcast, drawing from the experiences and stories of iconic artists and creatives in Asian popular culture today.
Visit Twitter & Instagram: @RootsAndRhymes and Facebook: @rootsandrhymespodcast