Swami gives Hyderabad a dose of British-Asian bhangra
If we introduce the Swami team as a British-Asian band, you’d probably give this piece and them a miss as one of those many UK-Indian bands out there belting out Punjabi rock numbers. But if we tell you that they are refreshingly honest and unpretentious groups of British-Asians, you might be interested. ‘So Who Am I?’ The abbreviation of this existential question that has plagued and is plaguing many NRIs lent itself to the naming of the band – Swami.
Diamond Duggal, the lead guitarist, rechristened himself as DJ Swami and founded the band along with his brother Simond (or Subs) in the late 90s. “We brothers grew up in England. Our parents are from India, retaining every bit of their Indianness, while we grew up mingling with British and Indian children. Every Indian who has lived outside the country and every Indian who works in India for a multinational company is faced with this question of identity some time or the other. Recently we performed in Vancouver and I met people who shared similar thoughts… Am I a Canadian or an Indian?… Our music too is a blend of Indian and international music,” says Diamond.
The group is soaking in the atmosphere of a lazy Sunday afternoon, hours before performing in the city at Bottles and Chimney. “We just performed in Delhi, at Elevate. It’s our second performance there,” says Duggal. “Playing in India is challenging,” he explains. “Because people here are progressive in their music and at the same time in touch with their Indian side; they like it when you play Indian numbers. Our music is multi dimensional, catering to people who love Punjabi, Hindi and pop music. We play a blend of Punjabi and Western music.”
With each of their albums –– Desi Nu Skool Beatz, BhangraDotCom, Desi Rock, So Who Am I and Equalize, says Diamond, the band has tried to blend in new sounds. “In Equalize, we incorporated beats from South Africa, Australia, South America and India.” Some of their “bhangra-fied” versions have premiered on BBC Radio 1 and BBC’s Desi DNA.
Subs is on the vocals along with S-Endz, Baba Stormz on bass guitar, Rocky Singh on Drums and Bobby Panesar on dhol. Panesar, now a name to reckon with among British Asians for his dhol, is the latest celebrity addition to Swami. While in India, the band is working out the logistics for collaborations with Bollywood composers. “Singers Atif Aslam, Sonu Nigam and Rabbi Shergill have approached us for collaborative albums,” says Diamond. The group has already had a taste of Bollywood with Madhur Bhandarkar’s Corporate. “Collaborative work is interesting, but people should step out of their comfort zone and try something different.”
Like most boy bands, this one too has had a floating population for its members. “The idea was never that of having a permanent band. We’ve also had well-known players like Stereo Nation playing with us for a few compositions.”SANGEETHA DEVI DUNDOO