May 4 2016
There has probably never been such a diverse line up brought under such a banner but did it work, as our correspondents assess…
BY Suman Bhuchar & Tasha Mathur
IT WAS BILLED as a historic evening and it certainly had that sense of occasion.
There was a great atmosphere for the very first BBC Asian Network Live, a concert involving around a dozen musicians performing in front of a live audience gathered at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, London and broadcast on the station simultaneously last Saturday (April 30).
The line-up was varied and eclectic with standout names such as Naughty Boy headlining and well known performers such as Preeya Kalidas and Raxstar among the audience-drawing acts.
In between you got to hear from a host of the station’s DJs with Tommy Sandhu more or less acting as the master of ceremonies.
There was also the highly creative Inkquisitive adding to the sense of occasion with a fantastic mural of the acts.
Among the surprises – and there were a few – were TOWIE reality TV star Jasmin Walia making her live stage debut, comedian Paul Chowdry defying our expectations and doing a live grime song and appearing in a video too singing. You go, Paul! We loved it!
It was great to see and hear new collaborations and feel the instant chemistry – Ghanian rapper Fuse ODG, fresh from playing in Mumbai, mixing it up with crooner Zack Knight; Badshah from Mumbai itself hitting it with Raxstar and Bollywood cover favourite Kanika Kapoor with Naughty Boy. All wow!
There were other highlights too – dancers from the local Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (an Indian cultural centre) performing Bharatanatyam (a classical Indian style) to Naughty Boy’s track, “Running” – which surprisingly worked! We would all love to see more of that!
Fuse ODG showing that cross-cultural can work both ways as he emphasised.
“Thanks for making it okay to represent my culture. “I represent Africa but we’re one people,” he declared.
TV Soap star Nitin Ganatra made a surprise appearance and announced to great laughter: “I’m the last Asian standing on the BBC! (A reference to the dwindling numbers of Asian actors who have appeared in the popular soap “Eastenders” and have disappeared more recently).
Singers Knight, Imran Khan and Kanika Kapoor came across as the most consummate of performers, exuding charm and grace and making the audience feel totally at ease too.
Many of the top performers sung cover versions – Arjun replayed Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”,and Kalidas did Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” – but we were really not sure why. It would have been so much better to have heard original songs.
Bombay rapper Divine and his sidekick, Nuclear, tried just a little too hard, announcing: “The Boys from the Naka, making a Dhamaka”, and claiming they did not do soft rap and their Hindi lost some of the crowd – but nevertheless, it was good to see and hear from the next wave making top music in India itself.
One or two acts were slightly long and there were not enough female performers full stop. It would have been good for some of the women to have the floor to themselves for longer.
Rekha Sawhney accompanied Arjun for one track, while Avastha Gill did a song with Badshah.
Leaving aside the odd lame joke – like “So many brown people in the house, let’s call Immigration”. Honestly.
All in all, it was a terrific evening and well worth the effort.
Before the concert got under way, Mark Strippel, head of the BBC Asian Network told the assembled media the concert was an opportunity to showcase Asian music talent, bring it further to the mainstream’s attention and show the strength and diversity of the British Asian music scene itself. Wah! Wah! To all that. This is what he said the station did best.
Bravo to that also! The concert was certainly a showcase and many of the performers lived up to the hype.
Some older listeners might wonder at the direction of travel – will the station in time become more music orientated than it is at present and do discussion programmes and documentaries, have a future at the BBC Asian network?
Whatever you think, a lot of people thoroughly enjoyed the concert and those questions are really for another time and place.
So well done, musicians, and Mark and the gang… roll on BBC Asian Network Live II!
ACV rating:****(out of five)