(mmm) Raj and Pops are better known as Tigerstyle – a UK Bhangra formation that has earned much appreciation in the scene for combining traditional Punjabi and Indian tunes with danceable western beats. Their remix of 50 Cent’s “In da Club” club hymn is just one example of their impressive talent. Recently they performed at “The Sounds of Taj Mahal II” party in Heidelberg where we had the chance to talk to them about their music and their view of the desi scene.
You’ve got your own style of mixing India, Desi tunes with western beats, what are your mucial influences?
We’re coming from a folk background, with the tradititional upbringing of a Sikh family. Our roots are Indian, Punjabi folk music. People like Kuldip Manak and Surinder Shinda, basically Punjabi music from the late 70s early 80s. And of course the usual stuff like Bollywood stuff, but only because it’s somehow part of your life and our Indian culture.
On the western side it’s Rap, HipHop, RnB and DrumNBass, We’re more towards conscious music like Dr Dre and Ice Cube and how they are talking about they experiences as Afro-Americans and how they can deal with their community and society on a political level. But actually we’re influences from wherever and whatever is happening at the time.
Don’t you have a classical background?
It’s not really a classical background, but more a folk background. Indian classical music goes all over India, whereas folk from whatever state you’re from. So we take the majority of our influences from Punjab, Punjabi culture, Punjabi language and music.
Is there a certain “political” message you wanna get across?
Actually we have only done one political track and that was on our first album. We raised a certain issue that haven’t been raised before in any music that has come out from India. A lot of information on the Punjab crisis has been controlled by the Indian media. Indian authorities and government have no control over Bhangra music in the UK. A lot of the feeling of the Sikh community outside of India has always been and will be negative towards Indian government. But that’s the only political track we’ve done.
We’re working on some other “political” projects with other artists, but there won’t be a commercial release.
The tracks about are not so much “political tracks”, but more to bring Sikh modern history, more contemporary History. The Sikh youth get taught Sikh history from centuries ago, but they never get taught about recent history, stuff they can relate to. We want to bring that to them, so that they can make up their own mind about certain situations as a lot of stuff that came out of India was all propaganda.
But right now is not so much about politics, it’s more about the integration of our music and culture in modern society. It’s more like a youth movement. Mainstream media has it’s own stereotypes of Asians and it has it’s own way of looking at Asians. Because of certain situations in Afghanistan and the Middle East issues like racism crop up again. So until we actually get rid of the ignorance in the mass education of the mainstream society we’re not gonna progress, and that’s what we’re leading. We’re leading a progression from just being a suppressed society that got it’s own underground culture to become truly a part of the culture of whatever country we’re living in.
Germany seems to be leading the way. Punjabi MC’s “Mundian to back ke” track has broken a lot of barriers. It came out in Germany first. And even now – just look at the Snap track “The Power of Bhangra”. To most people that might seem weird, cuz the UK is the home of Bhangra, but still these tracks get released somewhere else before. It’s basically because Germany is used to get music that is not in English language, so they are a lot more accepting of the languages and cultures whereas in the UK it’s like “if you can’t speak English, we don’t wanna hear you”.
How do you position yourself? Are you a British, a Punjabi, a Scottish band?
It’s best to stay without definition, cuz when you’re being defined your’re pigeon holed and people expect certain things from you. We’d rather be not defined and let our music do the talking. Whatever you think our music is, that’s what it is.
Why do you call yourself “Tigerstyle”? Where does the name come from?
Just look at Sikh history, Sikh heritage. We come from a martial, a warrior clan and Sikh warriors have they own martial art, they have Gatka. If you look at Kung Fu, Shaolin Kung Fu, they have their different styles based on animals or nature. One of those styles is called Tigerstyle. And only because the name Singh means lion, you can associate that with us, so it makes sense to call us Tigerstyle.
Many US and UK artists are currently working with Indian/Desi artists. Shabba Ranks is collaborating with MC Thanebad from New Jersey and rumours say that you are also involved somehow. Is that true?
We haven’t been approached by any of them, but there are a lot of rumours about a lot of artists these days just to get your attention. The only project we’ve got going on now for sure are the 50 Cent Remix “In Da Club”, a remix for an artists on G-Records called Lamia, which is gonna be an album track, and a remix for Lisa Mafia.
Talking about your album. When will it be released ?
It should be released end of this year, early next year. We actually split of with the label we were working with cuz they weren’t promoting us as they should have.
Finally, what kind of music are you personally listening to ?
Well, techno, blues, basically everything. Nothing specific, as long as it’s banging. But all I’m saying is “50 Cent” is just the biggest thing right now!!