There are few artists who can claim credit for the creation of a new genre of music - let alone two.

But Southall-based DJ/Producer collective Panjabi Hit Squad are personally responsible for the Asian-urban fusion styles Desi Beats and more recently Bollyhood that will rock fans at next weekend's London Mela. One half of the BBC Asian Network and BBC 1XTRA presenting duo speaks to web editor Lucy Proctor about mixing flavours, piracy and the future of British urban music.

LP: So Rav, performing at the Mela must be a bit of a homecoming for you and Dee?

RAV: It's kind of like home, we used to have the Southall Mela before and that was the main attraction of the year and now it's moved to Ealing so it gets an even wider audience - I think that is what Panjabi Hit Squad is all about.

The music has changed quite a lot. For the first few Melas it was more influenced by live music, you had to wait around a lot for people to come on, but now it-s got more PAs but the atmosphere is still there. It's mixing hip hop, RnB it shows how far Asian music has come.

LP: Journalists often spell your name wrong - why Panjabi rather than Punjabi?

RAV: Punjab was the name given by the British empire, they thought that Panjabi didn't sound right but the real spelling is Panjabi. In the language Panjab means five and there are five rivers in the Panjab. It is better to be correct and to respect that kind of stuff - I feel much better that we spell it like this.

LP: Do you think Asian urban music will ever be as successful and mainstream as black urban styles?

RAV: I hope it does - it's got the potential to be. But we need to sort out some issues in between. We sell enough music records to get through and get charted, but the record shops don't record the sales with bar codes so the charts don't have the selling information.

The other thing is piracy, it's actually very, very big. I'm not even sure it's from downloads now, it's the people selling it in Wembley and Southall that hits us the hardest.

I think the councils need to take all these little stalls off and give the proper shops a chance to sell music so that they record the sales. It must take about seven or eight thousand sales off an artist. If you are a new artist and you are selling 2,000 you are not going to get a return, so what's the point - people just give up.

LP: How did Bollyhood come about?

RAV: A few years ago we were listening to Bollywood records trying to find beats and samples and Dee comes in and he starts rapping, he was trying to incorporate Indian styles, and he goes; 'Forget Hollywood girl, I'll take to Bollyhood', and it was hilarious. And then we were at 1Xtra and he came out with it again and we all started laughing, but thought, you know what, that is a good description of the mix of styles. Then we signed Alyssia, and we called her the Queen of Bollyhood.

The main thing is that years ago you would be watching Bollywood, but it was just not cool, and you wouldn't tell anyone you were watching it but you got dragged along with your Mum and Dad.

It makes it easy to accept [for a young Asian audience]. Me and Dee were at the Asian Music Awards in March and we saw these four rude boys in a car and they were chilling out the window, their car was barely off the ground and they are pumping their heads and it was the Alyssia album and Deewana - that track is not even meant for them, it's meant for girls. It's like funky house, people really are into house but they call it funky because it's more acceptable.

LP: What's big now in the British Asian scene?

RAV: I think there is some great stuff happening at the moment. Producers are becoming more like producers, they are not just sampling, they are figuring out ways to make new sounds, people like Panjabi MC and Atman Hayer, and people like Jay Sean and Imran Khan. I think we are just all trying something completely new.

LP: What next for Panjabi Hit Squad?

RAV: We are off on a world tour and recording an EP warm up to our album which will have about seven new tracks on it. We haven't released any of our own music for a long time. It's going to have have everything from Asian music to hip hop, RnB and Bollyhood. We might even do our radio shows from around the world.

LP: How do people in the US and India respond to your style?

RAV: We are very popular in the US, among black, white and Asian people. For the most part it was from our radio show, which if you look in Canada or the USA has really set the standard for others.

It's quite hard to get Asian people together in the US, it's not like here when you can be in one huge Asian community and then a couple of hours or so and you're in Leicester in another Asian area. But when they get together they seriously know how to party, they find ways to get together. They have Bhangra competitions that we don't have over here with three or four thousand people.

The problem with India is that is is very film influenced, so being an artist over there doesn't quite work as well as being in a movie.

LP: How has the internet changed the way you do things?

RAV: It's amazing. At the moment I am building a new site. The digital thing is the way you flyer, it's the way you shop, it's the way you find out information. You used to release stuff when there was something going on, but now you can generate hype sitting in front of your computer screen.


Catch Panjabi Hit Squad at the London Mela in the BBC Asian Network Mix Tent from 5-6pm on Sunday, August 10 in Gunnersbury Park - www.londonmela.org

Listen to their radio show Panjabi Hit Squad 'Desi Beats' on BBC 1XTRA Thursday Night 10pm-12am www.bbc.co.uk/1xtra and on BBC Asian Network on Saturday Afternoon from 5-8pm - www.bbc.co.uk/asiannetwork

For more about PHS see their myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/panjabihitsquad


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