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DJ Markie Mark on chasing the mainstream music dream
5th December, 2005

The debate on the 'mainstream' development of British Asian music continues this week as Mark Strippel, aka DJ Marky Mark of Panjabi Hit Squad, presented his documentary on the subject.

As a well known DJ and artist he has closely followed the British Asian music industry since buying his first Bhangra record in the late 80s. After spearheading the first Bhangra club night, Bombay Jungle, in the early 90s, he rose to prominence as part of Panjabi Hit Squad, who were eventually signed to Def Jam in 2003. He also DJs for BBC 1Xtra and Asian Network.

Mainstream Dream was broadcast on Asian Network today at 6:30pm, but is available to listen again from the radio station's website. He told AIM that the documentary pulls together more industry-focused views that have not been heard before.

"I think previous documentaries have been too quick to place blame with the music industry and major labels but the documentary is a bit more honest and self-examining, pointing to the lack of transparency and irregularity that pervades throughout the Asian music industry," he says.

"Nihal talks about how the major labels really view the Asian record industry, Dillon Khan of MTV Base says the standard of Asian videos needing to be raised, and Nyrone Persaud, manager of Raghav, speaks about his experiences of taking an Asian artist along the Pop route."

It has a wide range of other contributors including: Rishi Rich, producer Dr Zeus, Sunny Hundal (AIM), rapper Hard Kaur, Dillon Khan (MTV Base), Mango Saul (Smash Hits), DJ Adil Ray, singer Sabrina, Ninder Johal (Nachural Records), producers Kray Twinz, musician Mukhtar Sahota and Pravin Gohil (Multitone Records).

So how does he see the industry coming together and progressing?

"The first thing we need to do is stop grouping all Asian artists together, thinking that there is one simple route for all Asian artists to take. We need to recognise that our scene is multi-genred, from Asian rappers to Panjabi singers, Desi D'N'B heads, R'n'B Diva's to exponents of Indian Electronica."

Set your standards high, he adds, and learn about working within the industry. "If you're an Asian rapper then be everything you can to get to the top in the home-grown Hip-Hop scene, don't just stay focused on the Asian scene. Hit the stage at 'The Jump Off' as well as 'Bombay Bronx', get play on 1Xtra, Radio One and Asian Network, battle the best and get to the same standard of your peers."

During the making of the documentary however, he found not many Asian artists seeing the British charts as a huge priority. "Rishi Rich said that success in India now meant more to him than another appearance on Top Of The Pops, and that seems a popular sentiment right now, with many of our key artists, including Dr Zeus, constantly moving between Birmingham and Bombay."

There were other issues he wanted to cover but did not have the time for, including the low number of Asian music retailers not having machines installed for chart registration, and Bhangra being in a "state of crisis" with piracy out of control.

But he remains optimistic. "I have strong hopes for a number of Asian Hip-Hop acts breaking through in 2006 Sunit & Raxstar, Dutty Skilla, aka The Gundah Bacha, and Dialekt are three that we're giving radio support to right now and reaching the right level to force their way onto playlists."

But the "priorities" need to change he adds. "Playlists on Asian radio stations need to start reflecting more home-grown Asian talent, Asian TV stations need to impose a quality bar for videos, and the press need to get more behind progressive British-Asian acts."

The DJ now wants to look at other topics of interest, marking how British Asian music has evolved.

"We don't document what we do - there's been so little material documenting the emergence of Asian street culture since the 80's and we need to capture this period, especially the early days of Joi Bangla, Bombay Jungle, Daytime Bhangra raves, Nation Records and the transition of Bhangra from community halls to the club-scene.

"Most people don't realise that throughout the 80's arguably the most influential guy in UK Hip-Hop was Asian. Morgan Khan used to run the Street Sounds label and his Electro Crucial compilations were one of the few sources for Hip-Hop music, way before Hip-Hop got released here and imports were scarce. This information just gets lost over time."


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