Kuljit Bhamra is perhaps the most influential musician in the British Asian music scene, having recorded over two thousand songs to date. Composer, producer, virtuoso tabla player and pioneer of the Bhangra phenomenon, Kuljit has worked both independently and collaboratively on film scores for over fifteen years, producing soundtracks for award winning films Bhaji on the Beach, Bend it like Beckham, Masala Beans and playing percussion on the soundtracks for The Four Feathers, A Little Princess, Wings of a Dove and The Guru.
He worked on Andrew Lloyd Webbers massive hit musical Bombay Dreams for which he gave a truly breathtaking performance as on-stage percussionist. He also acted as Indian Music Consultant for the musical adaptation of M. M. Kaye’s, The Far Pavilions.
Kuljit has received international acclaim for his phenomenal performances throughout Europe, USA, Canada and Africa with his own band Taala and also with other renowned artists including saxophonist Andy Sheppard and pianist Joanna McGregor.
His talents and interest in all music genres are evoked via three personal albums “Burning at Melting Point” “Himalaya Dawn” and “Suberterfuge Invitro” with Alwynne Pritchard all released on Bhamras own Keda label, now in its seventeenth year.
Keda Records are a dominant platform for new releases in Bhangra, Hindi Pop, Jazz & R 'n' B, Underground Dance, African Indonesian Fusion, Guyanese and Asian Classical music.
Born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1959. Kuljit contracted polio at the age of two which affected his left leg. His father (studying in England at that time) brought his wife and child to live at his flat in Palmers Green, North London in 1961 and where they lived until 1968 when the family moved to Southall, West London.
Kuljit’s mother (Mohinder Kaur), a Punjabi Scholar and graduate of Punjabi/Sikh Literature was also a trained singer and regularly performed in the local Sikh Temples. His father, not as musically adept, struggled to learn to play the tablas (Indian Drums) from his musical brother so that he could accompany his mother on stage, watched with curiosity by the young Kuljit.
His curiosity paid-off to the extent that by the age of six, he was a proficient tablas player and was in demand from local temples to accompany their singers.
Mohinder became a famous singer in England and her family band (Kulit’s two younger brothers playing accordion and mandolin) travelled all over the UK, performing at weddings, birthday parties and religious ceremonies.
By 1976, they were performing at approximately three to five events every weekend in the West Midlands, South East and Scotland. Kuljit recalls, “We were in the process of creating the dance-floor scene for the British Asians which until now had not existed at all.
“Strong demand for recordings of our original songs grew, and although there was no such thing as a UK record industry for local talent, we pressed our first LP in 1978 ourselves and actively distributed it by convincing Indian corner-shops to stock a few on their shelves.
The dance-floor culture was growing and at almost every performance my mother would request that the chairs and tables be moved to the back of the hall so as to make room for people that wanted to dance.
Our very first smash-hit song “Gidhian Di Rani (Dancing Queen)” – not to be confused with Abba, became an international hit – and set a milestone in history for being the first hit to be produced outside of India. Dancing at weddings was fast becoming a regular thing.”
Kuljit’s mother recorded her first album for HMV India which was released and distributed worldwide through EMI. Despite her enormous success and rise to fame, Kuljit’s father became concerned that the family’s social status and development was being undermined.
“He strictly imposed the notion that ‘music is just a hobby’ and that my brothers and I must continue further education in University and train to become a doctor or engineer. I continued studying at his wish, graduated in Civil Engineering at Middlesex University and eventually landed a job at Richmond Council designing speed humps! I hated my job and would spend all day waiting to go home and continue my lover affair with music.
I loved listening to Greek, Arabic, Mainstream Pop, Jazz, Classical, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Level 42, Billy Holliday, George Benson,The Bee Gees and of course India’s Film Music". (later to be branded ‘Bollywood’).
Kuljit was particularly interested in seeing how he could apply western production techniques to Indian music – and in particular, to his own growing repertoire of songs. “Indian songs sounded shrill to me – and you definitely couldn’t dance to them.
“I began to study tempo, instrumentation, production, composition, arrangement and lyrics. My bedroom was cluttered with recording gadgets, synthesisers, drum machines and a reel to reel tape recorder, which I used to slow down recordings so that I could analyse the songs.”
In 1983 the opportunity arrived to arrange and produce an album for Southall-based singer Premi. Kuljit completed the album in three days in a small local recording studio to the delight of Premi who played the songs to singer-colleagues Kumar and Dhami, themselves in the process of setting up a band called Heera. Kuljit recorded the band’s debut and both albums were played back to back, twenty four hours a day on the new Asian pirate radio station Sina Radio (now Sunrise Radio).
The local community would tune in to hear Kuljit’s songs and within a few months both albums had become mega hits.
Bhangra was born!
The Southall riots of the late seventies and early eighties had the effect of pulling the local Indian communities together. They had their own 24-hour radio station, a burgeoning music industry and the Bhangra club scene.
Buckingham-based entrepreneur Pran Gohil had his eye on developing musical talent in England and set up the very first UK Asian label Multitone in the early eighties.
Over the next ten years Kuljit Bhamra became a sought after producer and composer. He opened his own 24-track studio ‘Red Fort’ in Southall and launched Keda Records to record artistes of his own personal choice.
He began to tour with western jazz artistes including renowned saxophonist Andy Sheppard and pop band The Auteurs.
The studio became known for creating overnight Bhangra Stars and Kuljit was featured regularly in the musical press and on television. Kuljit gave up his ‘boring civil engineering career’ to become a full time musician, composer and producer.
Today, with over two thousand songs to his credit and contributions to mainstream film scores and with mainstream artistes as a featured percussionist, he enjoys a prime place in the UK Bhangra and Bollywood explosion.
About The Kuljit Bhamra Band
Fronted by virtuoso tabla player, multi-percussionist, composer and record producer, the Kuljit Bhamra Band consists of up to eight musicians from different cultural backgrounds performing a variety of music styles including Bhangra, Hindi film, Bollywood, Latin American, Western classical and pop.
Bhamra himself has over 15 years experience as a performer with appearances at venues and festivals in the UK, Europe, USA and Canada. The UK-based band makes numerous appearances at Asian culture events and world music festivals.
Kuljit Bhamra also lectures on various styles of Indian music including Ghazals, North Indian Classical, South Indian classical, Hindi film music, Bhajans, Qawalis, Bhangra, Hindi Pop and British Asian Fusion.
The band Taala were formed after an impromptu performance at an album launch in October 2003 and have been together since.
The band is led by legendary bhangra producer and composer Kuljit Bhamra and includes his on-stage compatriot from ‘Bombay Dreams’ Shan Chana. Together with renowned club percussionist Ameet Jugnauth and Dhol Foundation’s Dilraj Bhamra, taala presents a percussive wall of Asiatic, African & Latin rhythms which attracts listeners from all walks of life.
Individually, each member of Taala is highly respected in their own specific genres - both as percussionists and as multi-instrumentalists. The band’s unique sound comes from their ability to combine instruments that would otherwise not be heard together. Tabla, dhol, snare, djembe, tuned percussion, harmonium, toombi, dhad and dharabukka sounds are made to fuse together in a hypnotic polyrhythmic dance.
Kuljit opens the set with delicate tabla sounds sourced from Punjabi and classical beats. The rest of the band wait impatiently before joining him one by one, powering out beat after beat. With each beat comes a new emotion in which you will find yourself on another journey.
Dance grooves and rhythms from around the world are drummed out with a passion and energy described by Radio 1’s Bobby Friction as “an unstoppable eclectic powerhouse”.
Kuljit has composed music for various film soundtracks. He appeared as on-screen percussionist in Spielberg's blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and also in Oliver Stones Alexander The Great (2005)
The Four Feathers (2003)
A Little Princess (1995)
Wings of A Dove (1997)
The Guru (2003)
Halifax Building Society TV commercial (2003)
Bond pop video (2002)
Madu Jaffrey’s Christmas Special
Masala Beans (2005)
Bend It Like Beckham (2003)
A Quiet Desperation (2004)
Bhaji on the Beach (1993)
Burger King TV Commercial (2003)
Halifax Building Society TV Commercial (2004)
A Nice Arrangement (1991)
"He has been able to blend both Eastern and Western music without sacrificing the roots of either” Asian Times
Kuljit's unique ability to translate western scores to include Indian instruments has made him one of the most sought after Asian musicians. His inspiring and outstanding performance as on-stage percussionist in the hit Lloyd Webber musical Bombay Dreams opened doors for other Indian musicians to work in West End theatre orchestras.
The Far Pavilions The Shaftsbury Theatre (2005)
The Ramayana Birmingham Repertory Theatre (2000)
& The National Theatre (2001)
Layla Majnun Midlands Art Centre Birmingham 2003)
Mapping The Edge The Crucible Theatre Sheffield (2001)
Cloud Watching Half Moon Young Peoples Theatre (1998)
A Song for a Sanctuary Kali Theatre Company (1991)
The Far Pavilions The Shaftsbury Theatre (2005)
Bombay Dreams Apollo Victoria Theatre (2002 to 2004)
Kuljit is a virtuoso tabla player with over 30 years experience performing to audiences in the UK, Europe, USA, Canada and around the world. His own percussion band Taala performs a varied repertoire of music styles including Jazz, North Indian Classical, Bhangra, Bollywood, Latin American rhythms.
He has performed with many other artistes and bands including:
Andy Sheppard (House of Commons, UK, Istanbul, France, Malta)
Kuljit was requested by The Agha Khan to play at his most prestigious Silver Jubilee banquet, following his weighing-in-silver ceremony in Paris. Since then, Kuljit has entertained his Ismaili communities around the world in Canada, USA, Virgin Isles, Las Palmas, Tenerrife, Africa, Andora, Spain, Portugal and France.
Kuljit's own performers' agency The Bollywood Institute supplies quality entertainers for corporate events, commercials, launches, parties, receptions, recordings, theatre, festivals, concerts, weddings, private functions and TV/Radio commercials.
TV Personalities Seminal Twang /Closer To God (1992)
Luke Haynes (Auteurs) Baader Meinhof (1995)
Andy Sheppard Dancing Man and Woman (2002)
Mike Lindup (Level 42) Conversations with Silence (2004)
Sarah Brightman Harem - Love's Never Easy (2003)
Ringo Starr Ringo Rama (2003)
Anne Dudley A Different Light (2001)
The Four Feathers Film soundtrack (2002)
A Little Princess Film soundtrack (1995)
Wings of A Dove Film soundtrack (1997)
The Guru Film soundtrack (2003)
Bend It Like Beckham Film soundtrack (2004)
Masala Beans Film soundtrack (2005)
Platinum Disc Awards
Chirag Pechan Rail Gaddi (1989)
Premi Group Nachdi Di Gooth Khulgayee (1986)
Heera Jag Wala Mela (1984)
Mahendra Kapoor Bhabi Gal Na Kari (1987)
Jag Wala Mela Heera (1984)
Gold Disc Awards
Sangeeta Flower in The Wind
Gurdas Maan Peer Tere Jaan Di
Mohinder Kaur Bhamra Giddha Pao Haan Deo
Bali Brambhat Patel Rap (1989)
Hans Raj Hans Doli Wich Bhagaey Heere
Masala Beans Film soundtrack (2005)
Sultan Khan & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Pukaar (2001)
Maqbool Sabri Awargi (1995)
Pandit Jasraj Pandit Jasraj
Anup Jalota Classical Mood (1995)
Singh Bandhu Gavo Sachi Bani
Anu Malik Eyes
Bittu Dhol Attack (1992)
Azaad Group Nachdi Jawani (1986)
Reshma & Mangal Gentle Touch (1993)
1986 Asian Pop Awards - 'Best Musical Director' 1987 Asian Pop Awards - 'Best Musical Director' 1987 Platinum Disc for record sales 1988 Two Gold Discs for record sales 1989 The Mrs Kaur Trophy - 'Top Musical Director' 1992 Nominated for 'Men Of Achievement Award' 1993 The Music Industry Accolade UK 'Most Consistent and Prolific Producer' 1996 The Movie International Appreciation Award 1995/1996
2000 First British Asian to play in House Of Commons
2001 Outstanding Contribution To The Music Industry-Matra Annual Award
2002 Ramgharia Sabha Appreciation Award
Accredited Media: Contact Pat Tynan for the following,
All nineteen tracks on “Burning at Melting Point” are collaborative performances with well-known artistes and personalities who have touched Kuljit’s life.
Mike Lindup (Level 42), Barb Jungr, Michael Garrick, John McCoy (Gillan), Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo), Eduardo Niebla, Henry Thomas (Rock School),
Julian Clary, Lol Gellor, Gary Crosby, Henry Thomas, Martin Lee Stephenson, Stefan Hannigan, Russell Churney and John McCoy,
Kuljit Bhamra and Shan Chana thrilled and captivated audiences as the on stage percussionists in the Andrew Lloyd Webber hit West End Musical Bombay Dreams. They continued their partnership working together as leading musicians in the orchestra of Michael E Ward’s musical adaptation of The Far Pavilions for which Kuljit Bhamra composed the Indian music. Inspired by the shows unique images of snow capped mountains and the deserts of Afghanistan, the duo present their debut album of electrifying and energetic percussion based music. This album includes the famous Bhangra version of ‘Staying Alive’.
Hard on the heels of Bhamra's critically acclaimed Himalaya Dawn with its extraordinary Bhangra version of the Bee Gees ‘Staying Alive’ comes his collaboration with one of the most energetic and provocative presences on the British ‘new music’ scene Alwynne Pritchard.
Composer and musician Alwynne Pritchard is also BBC Radio 3’s ‘Hear & Now’ presenter and teacher of composition at Trinity College of Music London.
Alwynne’s music has been performed by numerous European players and ensembles including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Arditti String Quartet and The London Sinfonietta.
Subterfuge Invitro makes the staggering journey from haunting counter tenor melodies to a fierce and exciting new version of Gershwin’s Summer Time – as you’ve never heard it before! The music is playful, raunchy, at times dark, and always unpredictable.
The Society for the Promotion of New Music (spnm) creates new music to move the head, heart and hips with Bhangra Latina. www.spnm.org.uk
Bhangra Latina is a new musical phenomenon combining elements of Bhangra and Latin music, developed as part of Kuljit Bhamra’s groundbreaking Artistic Director Series at spnm. The project, featuring a band led by Bhangra producer and percussionist Kuljit Bhamra and Latin pianist Alex Wilson in collaboration with emerging British composers and multi-award winning singer Sangeeta. This melding of talent has explored how composers and musicians from different traditions can work together to create new music from these two musical forms.
The six-month devising process culminated in the production of the CD Bhangra Latina featuring one of the most popular and successful figures of the British Asian scene, legendary singer Sangeeta who returns to the scene after a break of several years.
The idea for Bhangra Latina was born when Kuljit Bhamra and Alex Wilson met for the first time in 2004 at the opening of The Sage, Gateshead, as they experimented with Punjabi rhythms and Latin piano riffs and discovered that a new style of music was possible. Alex subsequently released a track ‘Oh Kuri’ on his album Inglaterra which was hailed as "a very appealing mix that doesn't sell either ingredient short." (John L Waters, The Guardian). However it was Kuljit’s appointment as Artistic Director at spnm in 2007 which enabled the musicians to work intensively over a period of several months with some of the best emerging composers in the UK, under the guidance of Alwynne Pritchard from Trinity College of Music, to create Bhangra Latina.