The royal touch


ROOTED IN INDIA Malkit Singh   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: AFP

Bhangra singer Malkit Singh says he will concentrate more on India

Malkit Singh is an elated man. Ever since he was awarded the `Most Excellent Order of the British Empire' by Queen Elizabeth II, the original king of Bhangra hasn't stopped smiling. And why shouldn't he be happy? After all, he is the first Indian artiste to be given this honour. "I was shocked when I came to know I was in the list. You see, for any tourist, a visit to London is incomplete without seeing Buckingham Palace. I too went to see the palace and even clicked photos with the guards outside during my first visit to the U.K. in 1984. But I never thought I would get to enter the palace and receive such an honour from the Queen herself," says Singh, who is settled in the U.K.

With pride

He brims with pride, as he talks about the process that got him the award. "It starts fourfive years before the actual announcement is made. The criterion is that the person should have made some valuable contribution to a particular field or a community. It is friends and fans who recommend your name to the list, on the basis of which the award committee does its research and takes the final decision. It feels good to know that people think I am worthy of an MBE. It shows their affection for me," explains Singh in his Punjabilaced Hindi.

Despite living abroad for two decades, Singh is strongly rooted in India and his language gives away the fact. He speaks English, without a British accent, but switches to Hindi and soon to Punjabi. "In the years that Punjabi has grown in the U.K., it has declined in India. that's sad," he says.

Singh has nothing encouraging to say about the music scene in India. "Frankly, I don't listen to Bollywood music any more. I think they are getting far too repetitive and too westernised."

The same holds true for Bhangra music, a trend he set off with his "Gud Naal Ishq Mita" and "Tootak Tootak Tooti ya" in the '80s. "I had to remix Bhangra with modern instrumentation and beats because I was catering to a different audience altogether. Woh toh majboori thi. But I never thought it would spoil things back in my own country. Why do we need to remix our own culture for our own people? What I remix in the U.K. is better than what I hear in India. No one seems to be using Indian instruments these days. I think it would be easier to find original Punjabi music and folk songs in the U.K than in India now," says Singh who went into the millennium edition of the Guinness Book of World Records in 2000, as the highest selling Bhangra artiste in the world.

Though active in the U.K. and elsewhere with shows and albums, Singh has been a lowkey presence in India, of late. "I have so many shows lined up abroad that I don't have time. Also, it is not easy to bring my band, Golden Star, down to India for shows, as it becomes too expensive. But now, I have decided to form a band in India as well and have met musicians in this regard. From now on, I will concentrate more on India," he promises.


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