Why great British hero Bally Sagoo stepped back in time


TRAILBLAZER: Bally Sagoo
TRAILBLAZER: Bally Sagoo

THE MUSIC LEGEND DISCUSSES HIS AMAZING CAREER AND TOP NEW TRACK

by ASJAD NAZIR

GREAT British music artist Bally Sagoo ruled the charts and found global success throughout the 1990s, as well as inspiring a generation with his unique brand of cross-cultural commercial music.

The history-making hero toured with Michael Jackson, did path-breaking collaborations with artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and took south Asian music into the western mainstream. With an incredible number of hits to his name, he recently made a return with new song Kinna Chauna, which has that old-skool vibe that turned him into a huge global star and is taken from his forthcoming album.

Eastern Eye caught up with the legendary Bally Sagoo to talk about his remarkable journey, latest song, what he thinks about the industry now and future plans.

Firstly, you don’t seem to age, what’s your secret?
(Laughs) I don’t agree! It gets more difficult each day. Enjoying life, being happy, lots of good music, oh, and a good moisturiser always helps.

How do you look back on your amazing journey?
I think it’s fantastic that I’ve achieved and received so much love from fans for so many years in over three decades of music. I’ve touched so many people globally through my songs, which makes me happy looking back at my catalogue; so many tracks that have and will always be very special, in so many ways.

Would you have done anything differently? 
Not really, as it all worked out in the end. I am glad I didn’t take my parents advice to be a doctor or solicitor because I definitely would have failed in life.

What is the biggest life lesson this journey has taught you?
That there will always be ups and downs. You just got to soldier on and enjoy each day. Always remember where you came from. Hard work, dedication and years of crafting will, hopefully, pay off.

You have an incredible number of achievements and influenced a generation, but is there one that is most special to you?
So many to mention! Touring with Michael Jackson, performing on Top Of The Pops and making music with the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Being invited by the president of India to congratulate me for my achievement of taking Indian music into the mainstream charts, will be a special moment for me.

Which among your legendary tracks is closest to your heart?
That is a very tough one to answer! Chura Liya, Kinna Sohna (with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan), Dil Cheez, Ajaa Nachle, Aap Ki Nazaron and so many more!

What led you towards your latest song?
Well, it’s been quite some time since my last release. I’ve been working on my new music for quite some time now and finally, it’s ready. The latest song Kinna Chauna, released on my label Fresh Dope Records, is taken from my brand new album, which will be out soon. The song is written by Bollywood actress and lyrics writer Devshi Khanduri, who also directed, wrote and starred in the new music video to Kinna Chauna, shot in Uttarakhand (North India). I wanted to go all out on the music video, so made it into a mini film with a big crew and setup.

Tell us more about the song?
I loved the song composition immediately by Vicky Marley, a new guy from Jammu. I then asked him to sing it. I knew I wanted to make this song with a 1990s’ feel, similar to many I produced back in the day. My new album is also leaning on the 1990s’ vibes. I gave Kinna Chauna a similar treatment to my song Jhoole Jhoole Lal from Magic Touch (1991) with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Gunjan track Kinna Sohna, which I produced in the early 2000s. The whole Enigma break beat vibe was always prominent in the 1990s, with so many UK songs, including Soul II Soul and Lisa Stansfield. I have featured the vibe on several of my early songs, including my Amitabh Bachchan Kabhi Kabhie production. The main idea with Kinna Chauna was a chillout track, but one that still hits hard when played loud.

Tell us more about why you leaned towards a retro vibe?
I think the 1990s were special. So many of the songs and sounds where amazing. A lot of today’s music sound the same to me. I think people love hearing retro vibes, and hence my new album leans towards retro sounds!

Tell us about your forthcoming album?
The new album is ready. It has so many amazing songs that I’ve been working on for some time. There is some bhangra on it for my fans. Some retro vibes, club music and the normal power ballads I enjoy making. Some new voices too. There are also a few surprises for my fans.

What else can we expect from you next?
Some new music videos and new music from the new album. However, with the current lockdowns, life has become so difficult. So, getting things done is not quite as easy as we would have liked, but I promised my fans an album and it’s done!

You have achieved a lot in life, but do you have an unfulfilled ambition?
I would like to open a few bars and restaurants. It’s on my to-do list. Music wise, I’ll always do it more for myself first. I don’t feel that it is right to make music if you don’t enjoy it or rush it for the sake of it.

Does it sadden you that pioneers like you built such a strong British Asian industry, but that it has collapsed?
I think it’s good we laid a foundation and got through the struggles. People today don’t really understand how much time and effort it was with no social media and technology to get the music out. Buying records, tapes and getting artworks done was part of the exciting times of music-making and collecting. Today, people have a collection on their phone – not at all something that can ever come close or compete with physical records and CDs.

What advice would you give new artists?
It’s very easy to make music today, but it’s not easy to stay in the music scene long term and have your music last the test of time! Many people are more concerned with quick fame and a music video rather than the actual music itself or a long shelf life. Lots of artist won’t stand the length of time. Relying on software plugins and producers to make them sound decent, not worrying about how they will sound live! There will be too many coming and going.

Today, what is it that inspires you musically?
What I hear globally is more exciting than here in the UK! I always listen to a lot of foreign songs, which is always refreshing.

What music dominates your personal playlist?
Music from the 1980s and 1990s, including Punjabi and Bollywood.

What does music mean to you today?
As always, not a single day goes without it. It’s always with me, on me and inside me. Just like my family, it’s my life.

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