Sights and sounds: A musical A-Z of 2017



IT HAS been another musically rich year in the UK, with everything from big song releases and moments of genius to incredible live performances from world-class artists.

This has resulted in plenty of highlights, and with that in mind Eastern Eye went back into the past 12 months to compile a musical A-Z of 2017…

A is for Abida Parveen: The greatest female Sufi singer of all-time made a triumphant return to the UK with an incredible concert at Southbank Centre in London. A headline performance from the annual Alchemy Festival was a blockbuster show in front of a multi-cultural audience, including many celebrities. Award-winning actor Riz Ahmed summed it up best when he said: “As Islamaphobia and misogyny rise, iconic Sufi singer Abida Parveen is more important than ever. Blessed to witness her greatness at Southbank Centre.”

B is for Bollywood: Whether it is on the radio, television, the big screen, the live circuit or at club nights, Bollywood once again served up a healthy dose of music for UK audiences to enjoy. British artists also delivered Bollywood songs and remixes. Eastern Eye’s Bollywood track of the year is Mere Rashke Qamar from Baadshaho, which has clocked up well over 100 million views on YouTube.

C is for Charli XCX: The half-Indian British pop princess continued her amazing musical rise and regularly sent social media into meltdown with her eye-catching photos. She released the single Boys along with a self-directed music video, which clocked up just over two million YouTube views in the first 24 hours alone. She also lit up the live circuit with her performances and set herself up for an even bigger 2018.

D is for Dr Zeus: The hard-working British producer has had another incredibly busy year loaded with hit songs and interesting collaborations. He teamed up with British singer Rameet Sandhu and Dr Dre’s son Curtis Young on the song Talli Hogaya. Yaadan Supne, his collaboration with Kulwinder Billa, clocked up 17 million YouTube views in the first month. Dangey, a track with Zora Randhawa, racked up six million YouTube views in less than a month. Other songs produced by Zeus in 2017 that generated millions of views on the video-sharing sites included Yalla Yalla, Party Nonstop and Gediyan.

E is for Echobelly: In the early 1990s, Sonya Aurora Madan was one of the first British Asian artists to make it big in the western mainstream with Echobelly. Sonya and the band made a comeback earlier this year after a gap of 11 years with their acclaimed sixth album Anarchy And Alchemy. The British band showed they have lost none of their magic, releasing brand new singles and hitting the live circuit to great acclaim.

F is for Fabulous Forty: Music legend Channi Singh celebrated 40 years in the industry this year. The pioneering singer, songwriter, musician and composer helped change the face of British Asian music with his iconic band Alaap, and inspired an entire generation. His epic 40 year journey has included an OBE. He said: “The journey has been incredible. Forty years is a long time to have remained at the top of our career as a bhangra band and I am truly grateful to our fans who have supported us throughout.

G is for Ghazal: The classical genre of music found a new lease of life in Britain this year with some surprisingly grand concerts. A standout moment was a three-city tour of the UK featuring world-class talents Anup Jalota, Ashok Khosla, Jaspinder Narula, Radhika Chopra and Jazim Sharma, which paid tribute to the ghazal greats. Another superb ghazal concert featured Kavita Krishnamurty, Suresh Wadkar, Shailendra Singh and Anup Jalota at the English National Opera, along with the Grand Philharmonic Orchestra.

H is for Hookan: The first big bhangra anthem of 2017 marked the comeback of terrifically-talented singer Mehsopuria after a long hiatus. Hookan became a global success and showed Mehsopuria had lost none of his magic. He followed it up with the song Ranjha Jatt Jogi.

I is for India: The country continued to open its arms to talented British Asian artists. Many performed across India, delivered songs for Bollywood, and shot music videos there. Plenty of artists also released songs through major labels in India and clocked up huge numbers on video-sharing sites.

J is for Johnny Kalsi: The dynamite dhol player continued his incredible musical journey with one of the most artistic album releases of the year. He collaborated with world-class vocalists and musicians on his amazing album Basant, which feature percussion-heavy songs that each tell a story. The Dhol Foundation frontman also delivered his trademark explosive live performances. “Every track on this album has a story to tell. Each one is a memory or a situation that may have happened to lead to what you’re listening to,” said Johnny.

K is for Koka Silver Da: British bhangra princes Mona returned after a gap of seven years with the hit song Koka Silver Da. She teamed up with her legendary father Channi Singh on the track, which showed that she had lost none of her magic or immense appeal.

L is for Link: There were plenty of hit duets between artists linking up and releasing big songs, with five in particular standing out. British singer Arjun teamed up with American sensation Vidya Vox for the song Diamonds, which has clocked up over 10 million views on YouTube. Another song that gained over 10 million views was Zack Knight and Jasmin Walia’s hit song Bom Diggy. Jaz Dhami and Kanika Kapoor combined for a great cover version of classic folk song Kurti Mal Mal Di. Zayn Malik delivered two blockbuster duets with Sia and Taylor Swift respectively.

M is for Meltdown: British Asian artist M.I.A curated the Meltdown Festival at Southbank Centre in London in June. The rapper put musical diversity at the heart of the festival, which has previously been curated by big names including Patti Smith, David Bowie, Yoko Ono and Morrissey. She bought together forward-thinking music acts in what were beautiful boundary-less shows.

N is for Newcomers: There was a lot of shining British Asian newcomers breaking through and showing that the musical future looks bright. The standout debut was a stunning turn from super-singer Manny Kooner, who teamed up with hit-making producer PBN for superb Punjabi song Mere Vargi. Manny is a big talent to look out in the months ahead. A special mention also goes out to music-producing duo MasterClass, who released their very good debut single Ajj Nachna.

O is for Oriental Star Agencies: The legendary Birmingham-based shop closed its doors after 50 years in business earlier this year. The birthplace of British Asian music blazed a trail for all others who followed. World-class artists discovered by the pioneering musical brand included Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Bally Sagoo and Malkit Singh. Some big names who passed through the doors of the shop over the years were Nazia Hassan, Sabri Brothers, Jagjit and Chitra Singh, Mohd Rafi, Hadiqa Kiani, Abida Parveen, AR Rahman and so many more. Founder Muhammad Ayyub MBE said: “I think that our greatest achievement was bringing Asian music into this country. We are proud to have opened the doors for subsequent generations, who are now carrying the legacy forward.

P is for PunjabTronix: Internationally-acclaimed music producer DJ Swami has consistently crossed frontiers throughout his career with interesting collaborations and by thinking out of the box. He did that again with his 2017 project PunjabTronix, which fused technology with traditional music. The interesting partnership with folk musicians saw cutting-edge live electronica and digital technologies combine with the sounds rooted in the heart of the Punjab. DJ Swami turned the project into a live show and toured it around the UK. “PunjabTronix is the next level of my musical development as Swami. I always wanted to make a live collaboration with electronic music and the real Punjabi musicians that have influenced me throughout my career,” he said.

Q is for Qawwali: The ancient Sufi genre continued to power on with performances from various qawwali acts around the country. The standout moment was another tour from Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, who paid homage to his late great uncle Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

R is for Rescore: One of the most magical moments of the 2017 BFI Film Festival was a premiere of the restored print of 1928 Indian film Shiraz with a brand new score by composer and musician Anoushka Shankar. The sitar maestro and her ensemble performed the new music live while the silent classic played on the big screen. They received a standing ovation at a sold-out Barbican Theatre and followed it up with a four-city tour of India. Shiraz will screen around the UK in January 2018 and be released on Blu-ray by BFI.

S is for Shreya & Sunidhi: Bollywood superstars Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan both delivered blockbuster British tours. They delivered their greatest hits at amazing concerts and showed just why they are the two biggest female stars of the modern era. While Shreya clocked up the highest ticket sales, Sunidhi arguably delivered the best live performance of the year.

T is for The Black Prince: Punjabi singer Satinder Sartaaj had the premiere of his UK-set historical drama The Black Prince at the London Indian Film Festival. His acting debut saw him portray Maharaja Duleep Singh and featured his music. He said: “It was a huge honour to be cast as one of the leading lights in Sikh cultural history.”

U is for UK tours: The live market in Britain remained as vibrant as ever, with concerts happening right across the country. The biggest of these featured popular international artists, including tours from Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal, Shaan, Vishal-Shekhar, Adnan Sami, Nooran Sisters, Shazia Manzoor, Abida Parveen and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. The massive number of ticket sales showed that the UK audiences are hungrier than ever for live music.

V is for Vishal-Shekhar: The dynamic Bollywood duo delivered two standout UK performances, including an amazing show at the Royal Festival Hall in London as part of the annual Alchemy Festival that was filled with power, passion, dancing and fun. They had the entire auditorium on their feet with a set that had something for everyone, from their contemporary hits to stunning tributes to the golden era of Indian cinema.

W is for Weddings: One of the best places to find top British Asian singers, musicians and DJs was at weddings around the world. The British acts were very much in-demand to deliver a musical touch by couples celebrating their nuptials.

X is for X-rated: Whether it was saucy music videos, suggestive lyrics or artists sharing some daring online snaps, there were plenty of X-rated moments from music acts. This is a family paper so we won’t go into too many details.

Y is for Yesteryear: The fact the UK is nostalgic was illustrated by countless moments where singers paid tribute to past masters. Pretty much all the major Bollywood singers touring the UK, including Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shaan and Sonu Nigam, paid a musical tribute to the golden age of Indian cinema. Some concerts specifically concentrated on singers delivering golden greats for audiences. Meanwhile, some artists did cover versions of classics for video-sharing sites and others remixed songs from the past.

Z is for Zayn Malik: Last but not least, British superstar Zayn Malik generated the most social media heat and news headlines throughout the past twelve months. Fans, media and pretty much everyone else tracked the chart-topping singer’s every move. In between, he managed to release some great music. His Fifty Shades Darker duet with Taylor Swift, I Don’t Wanna Live Forever, collectively clocked up well over 500 million views on YouTube. Dusk Till Dawn, his duet with Sia, generated well over 270 million views too.