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Noughties Flashback

A few highlights from Bhangra and Bollywood’s brief encounter with Hip Hop in the early Noughties:

>> Missy Elliot – ‘Get Ur Freak On’

You have to hand it to Missy and Timbs for being first out the blocks, with this absolute monster of a track. A track that actually INTERPRETS Asian sounds into an urban template rather than just SAMPLING them in- Next Generation producers take careful note of that distinction!!

>> Panjabi MC feat. Jay-Z – Beware (Mundian To Bach Ke)

So let’s get our history right… First There was the Night Rider theme tune. Then Busta Rhymes used the sample on ‘Turn It Up/Fire It Up‘. Then Punjabi MC put the sample under Labh Janjua’s ‘Mundian To Bach Ke‘ and single handedly put urban Asian music on the world map. And last (by several years) but not least J-Hova himself (not to be confused with the actual Jehova) jumped on the galloping bandwagon and crowned the whole enterprise.

How do you top that?!

>> Erick Sermon Feat. Redman – ‘React’

Hmmmmmm.

Very hmmmmmmmmm.

Erick Sermon and Redman drop a load of gangsta bollocks about ‘Scooping up an Arabic chick’ over a Hindi sample that they clearly do not understand. ‘Whatever she said then I’m that’… only what she said was actually some really poignant stuff about contemplating suicide. Not that anyone involved with this track gave a shit!

>> Truth Hurts – ‘Addictive’

A genre classic, this has all the elements: Dusty old Hindi sample, black girls in bindis, gangsta lyrics from The Soul Brother himself Rakim… It’s a lovely tune, but by this point in late 2002 the buzz around the Asian Hip Hop crossover was starting to die down…

Asian lyrics need English subtitles

Watch any Indian-made film in a British cinema and you will find it subtitled in English.

The business case for subtitling is a complete no-brainer: it makes the film accesible to all English speakers, as well as speakers of the film’s original language, and so guarantees higher takings at the box office.

Now watch any video for a track by a British Asian artist that features Asian lyrics. Despite the fact that all British Asian artists are at least bi-lingual, nobody is bothering to take the simple step of subtitling in post-production.

Despite all the effort that goes into recording songs and producing videos, most of the potential audience for these tracks is excluded from understanding what the song is actually about. So why should they care?

One of the worst side-effects of not subtitling videos is that it perpetuates a myth: that all Asian people can understand all Asian languages. The truth of the matter is that (for instance) Gujaratis don’t understand Punjabi songs any better than English speakers, and so on with all the different regional languages of India.

It would make English-only audiences a lot more comfortable to join in and show interest if they could see that everyone needs a helping hand to understand Asian lyrics now and again.

Hard working artists and producers should recognise the obvious benefits of subtitling videos.