Bollywood meets Beyoncé: 'Brown artists can be mainstream too'

February 17, 2024 4:55 pm

[Source: BBC]

Scroll through TikTok or go for a night out at the weekend and you could easily be left with the impression that South Asian music is booming. But despite seemingly being so popular, it is struggling to make an impact on the mainstream.

It is a Saturday night in a club in west London, and sounds, cultures and beats are being fused together by South Asian DJs who are going head-to-head in a musical showdown.

“This isn’t just music, this is a celebration of my culture and identity,” one young man shouts over the music.

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As revellers dance to remixes of global chart-toppers, iconic Bollywood songs, bhangra beats and a whole host of other sounds, DJ D-lish says she is “pushing the boundary of what south Asian music means”.

The 25-year-old, real name Alisha, is just one of many South Asian artists trying to make their music mainstream.

Despite an underground music scene that has a cult-like following, Asian artists continue to grapple with the challenge of breaking into the charts. This is despite the fact that almost 10% of the British population are Asian.

While other musical subcultures such as Grime are having their heyday, Asian-influenced music seems to have been left behind.

In 2002, Panjabi MC released his bhangra hit Mundian To Bach Ke. It sold 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.

However, what could have been the start of a boom for Asian artists turned out to be little more than a one-hit wonder.

Two decades on, the problem persists – only a handful of British Asian artists have had top 40 singles and even fewer songs with an Asian-influenced sound have made it into the charts.