When was the last time you ever heard of a Panjabi lyricist that was born and bred in the UK? We’ll let you take your time to think about it. Difficult, isn’t it? To have lyricists born and bred in the UK is something that just doesn’t happen. This could be for a variety of reasons. It may be because their Panjabi is not up to scratch, or that they think it’s not a cool thing to do. Who knows? It’s not as glamourous as the life of a singer or producer, where you’re in the limelight and get all the attention. The public often never hear about the writer of songs, and more often than not, aren’t really bothered about who wrote the track they’re either dancing to or crying to. Funny that, because the words they’re dancing or crying to have been thought of and written by the lyricist. Without them, there is no song.
Dhami Amarjit is an anomaly, and not in a bad way – in a very good way, in fact. Born and bred in Leicester, UK, Dhami has been behind the scenes for quite some years now, working alongside and under the tutelage of his mentor and good friend, Derby based super producer, Sukhjit Singh Olk aka Tru-Skool. Now, the time has come for Dhami to showcase his writing talents to the world – something he never ever planned. He already has songs featured on albums by Ashok Prince (One Time 4 Ya Mind) and Gurj Sidhu (Sentimental Value).
Bhangra Tape Deck sat down with Dhami Amarjit for an in depth insight into his journey from a regular, but passionate fan of Panjabi music to now – a rising lyricist, working with some of the biggest names in the UK Panjabi music industry.
I met Sukh (Tru-Skool) back in Autumn/ Winter 2008. There used to be a Tru-Skool Facebook fan page that he used to manage himself, where he used to post statuses and conversations etc. – basically anything music related. It must’ve been around Summer 2008 when he posted the video of him singing Chamkila’s ‘Gora Gora Rang’. This was the turning point. I was just shocked and mesmerised. I was already a fan of Tru-Skool since 2004, when his debut album alongside The Specialist, ‘Word is Born’, dropped. Watching that video, for me, was something else. This guy has dropped albums like ‘Word Is Born’ (one of my favourite albums ever), ‘Repazent’ (one of my favourite albums ever), and ‘Raw As Folk’ (one of my favourite albums ever). And then, he drops a video of him singing a Chamkila song live, playing the baja (harmonium). He sang it immaculately, just like how Chamkila sang it originally – just as raw, just as desi and just as authentically. I was like wow, Tru-Skool is too good! When that video was uploaded, I must’ve watched it innumerable times – I loved it. I used to listen to Chamkila in my Taya’s car when we were kids, on the way to school. It wasn’t intentional – he just used to play it, because he liked listening to Chamkila. From that, I knew about Chamkila from a very young age, and obviously my Dad had all the old skool music as well, so, we were brought up on that kind of music. Seeing that video clip of Sukh singing live, I just felt compelled to write something. I wrote, “Tru-Skool, you are sick! Can you teach me how to sing and play the baja like you?”
A few days later, I got a friend request on Facebook. Went to check, and it was from Tru-Skool! I was like, oh my God! Tru-Skool has just added me on Facebook. I accepted it (of course), and he was online at the time, so I messaged him saying, “Did the legendary Tru-Skool just add me on Facebook?” His reply was just, “Kidha, boy.” That’s all he wrote, haha! After a while, he asked for my number, and we ended up chatting on the phone about music. He asked if I could speak Panjabi, to which I replied yes. Then he asked, “But can you speak properly? Can you say words properly?” My response to this was, “Yeah. We speak Panjabi at home, all the time.” Following this conversation, we spoke a few times on the phone, and then I lost my phone.
A few months later, I got a new phone and noticed Sukh’s number saved in my contacts, so I rang him, saying, “You’ve forgotten about mans now. Jaada busy ho giyah lagda.” This wasn’t the case. He was busy with preparing the launch of his student, Jit, who is now more widely known to the public as JK. This was around November 2008. Sukh was like, “Why don’t you come Derby sometime?” That is Sukh’s favourite line. I could be anywhere in the world and he’d ask me to come to Derby. At the time, I was quite busy. I asked him when he was coming to Leicester. It turned out he was due to come the next day. JK and Sukh were coming to edit the music video for JK’s debut single, ‘Gabru Panjab Dha’. He asked if I wanted to come. I jumped at the chance. That day, I finished uni around 4pm, and linked on with Jit and Sukh.
We sat there talking about music and everything. It was brilliant. On the way to where the music video was being edited, Sukh played me the track. I switched if off half way through, and he thought I didn’t like the song! I asked him, “Is guy born in England?” To which Sukh replied, “Yeah, he’s our boy from Derby.” Even to this day, Sukh still thinks I switched the track off because I didn’t like it for some reason, haha! This really isn’t the case. I was just shocked that JK was from around here. It was sick.
We chilled in the studio where the video was being edited for a few hours until about 7pm, when I had to go, because my Mum was picking me up. Sukh was like, “Stay for a bit longer. Ring your Mum and say we’ll drop you back off home.” My Mum, unfortunately, didn’t have a phone, so she still came to pick me up. I had to tell her to go back home, as I was going to get a lift back with some friends. Because of this, she had to drive all the way back home. She wasn’t happy.
We were in that studio for hours, and I didn’t end up getting dropped back home until like 1am! It was a wicked vibe chatting to Sukh and Jit, getting to know them better. After that, about a week later, Sukh rang me and said that he was getting married in a couple of weeks and told me to come to the wedding if I could make it. Because we got on so well when we spoke on the phone, and when we met up that day, I knew that Sukh was a good, kind hearted person, and obviously an extremely talented individual, no doubt – we just clicked. With the grace of God, we’ve had that relationship for nearly 10 years now.
We’ve all heard about Tru-Skool’s mad music collection. Being around him for all those years, and being exposed to all this top quality music – has it refined what you now listen to?
It’s an amalgamation of a lot of things. I was always listening to Panjabi folk music from a young age, because my Dad had all the tapes, from Manak, Shinda and Chamkila, to all the UK Bhangra bands as well. We had all those tapes at home. But then when I was at school, I was listening to artists like Mobb Deep, Nas and other rap groups of the time. I rinsed Biggie’s ‘Ready to Die’ album and Nas’ ‘Illmatic’ album. There was so many other albums I was listening to. As I got older, I was rinsing albums like ‘Word is Born’ and ‘Repazent’. For me, they were a perfect blend of the music I loved: Hip Hop and Panjabi folk.
Being around Sukh, he showed me other Panjabi folk records and Hip Hop albums by artists that I hadn’t even heard when I was a youngster; introducing me to other beats and other vibes from back in the day, that I had either missed or wasn’t even aware of. It definitely opened my mind up to more music. Being around him, you get to listen to what he’s listening to, too. He only listens to good music. So, you get to hear even more good music. If you’re already listening to good music, and then you’re introduced to a larger quantity of good music, owned by somebody who’s got the best music collection in the world, you obviously do get massively influenced by that. Sukh has got the baddest collection of tapes, CDs and vinyls. It’s insane.
During the time from when you met Sukh for the first time up until the release of Ashok Prince’s ‘One Time 4 Ya Mind’, did you ever consider being a lyricist then?
Erm, I remember once, I watched a film called Shaheed-e-Mohabbat starring Gurdas Maan. It’s a really good film, I would recommend everyone to watch it. From watching that film, I started writing a vaar (tale). There was no reason, it was completely random, but I just started writing it about the main protagonist in the movie. I didn’t have any intention of showing it to anyone. However, I did show it to Sukh. He’s funny with lyrics. The first thing he said was, “It’s too long.” I must’ve wrote like 10/11 paragraphs. He said, “You can’t have a song that long.”
Throughout the years, I had never considered to be a writer, or even be part of any song for that matter. My first involvement in any song was on Gurbhej Brar’s ‘Jatt Dang’ song, from his debut album, ‘Panjabi Touch’. We were in Kaos Productions’ studio in Leicester. Sukh and Amo were working on the song and they needed some kind of a barakh (vocal shout). If you listen to the song, you’ll hear someone shouting ‘Chaklo!’ That was me, haha. It was a wicked feeling being part of a song, no matter how small the involvement was.
I never ever thought that I’d be a writer or have any songs featured on an album. It just wasn’t something that came across my mind. All of that credit goes solely to Tru-Skool. Everything about me being a writer, writing songs, then having these songs being part of record breaking albums, with accompanying music that I love – it was never something that I conceived.
“Dhami is a very intelligent guy, academically. I noticed that very early on. His understanding of both the English language, in terms of grammar and literature, and the same with the Panjabi language, is very unique. He speaks and writes in Panjabi to a very high level. I noticed that he is very talented in those departments. I tried to push him into this whole writing songs game.
If I’m being frank, he used to hear a Panjabi song and then a write dodgy version, and freestyle it like he was Eminem on 8 Mile. It was ridiculous. He would do it on the spot, and then he would write 3 verses afterwards. He could freestyle a song in under 2 minutes. It’s not normal how he could do that. So, I said to him, “If you can write these types of songs effortlessly, why don’t you try your hand at writing proper songs?” And that is exactly what he did. What he has done with the tracks that have been released, it’s evident that he has a talent in writing, and I think he’s just going to go from strength to strength and he’s definitely going to go places.
Dhami should be very proud of himself for what he has achieved. It is unheard of to have lyricists born and bred in the UK, full stop. I am proud of the fact that he is born here and can do what he can do. It’s a very big achievement – something that should be noticed. His understanding of Panjabi songs is shocking. He also understands Hip Hop culture. The song, Malwa Doaba, on One Time 4 Ya Mind – he actually wrote that track and composed that chorus as if he was a rapper from the 90s Hip Hop scene. He knows what my beats need on them.”
One Time 4 Ya Mind
Meih Keya Nach Nach
I was messing around with a song, changing words, being mischievous with it and making it into a funny version. I can’t remember the original song, but Sukh was like, “I reckon you could write, you know. You’ve got good Panjabi. Why don’t you try?” So, I had a go, and out popped the hook line for Meih Keya Nach Nach. As soon as Sukh heard it, he goes, “Yo, that’s sick! Now, write the rest of the song.” I went home and wrote the whole song. We were originally going to give it to Dippa Satrang, but for some reason, he couldn’t do it. A few months later, Sukh asked me if I had the full song written. He suggested we give to Ashok and feature it on the album. I was shocked! We showed the song to Ashok, and he agreed. He said, “We just need to change a couple of things on the song, and it’ll be a really good song.” I was so ecstatic. For me, I’m not bothered if the singer is well known or not, I just want a good singer to sing the songs I write. This was definitely a surreal moment for me, as one of my songs was actually going to be featured on an album!
Eyo Neh Panjab Deh Dalerh Soormeh…!
Sukh came to my house one day, whilst he was working on Ashok’s album. He had his laptop and was working on the beat and compositions for ‘Lengha’. He turned to me and said, “I’m going to show you a melody for a song, and I want you to write a song around that melody. The lyrics can be on anything you want, but they have to be good and clean.” This is always the case. We don’t want to release anything that isn’t family friendly. Upon hearing the melody, I came up with the line, “Eyo Neh Panjab Dhe Dalerh Soormeh.” Sukh liked that and said to write the song around that topic. This song was written in 20 minutes. All the warriors referenced in Panjabi Soormeh are from old Panjabi folk tales, from different eras. The song talks about Jagga, Udham Singh (he is my idol) and Dhullah. All of these Dalerh (brave) Soormeh stood up for a just cause.
The Chirpy song about in-laws
Ashok rang me for this song. He spoke to Sukh and said he wanted a song on a happy vibe. Sukh suggested that Ashok could ask me to write the song, which was going to be about Saureh (in-laws). I was on the phone to Ashok, and we just started brainstorming ideas, ultimately coming up with the idea for the song, and the direction we wanted to take. I wrote some verses and rang him back. Ashok helped me quite a bit on that song. He’s very good like that – very encouraging and very supportive. We bounced a lot of ideas back and forth for this song. That song has had a lot of compliments from a lot of different people around the world.
Repazent Tha People!
This song was originally meant to be for Baljit Malwa. Sukh was like, “We need a song for Malwa. Do you want to write it?” The idea for this song I’ve had for a while, but I had a different melody for it. Malwa wasn’t originally feeling the lyrics for the song, so we decided to give the song to Ashok. At first, I was struggling with the lyrics for the song. Everything I was coming up with was the generic ‘Doleyan Ch Jaan’ type lyrics. Then one night, I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and sat at the table started writing lyrics to the track. It all came to me in the middle of the night! The whole song was about bigging up Panjabi people around the world. In whatever field, Panjabis have always killed it. The last verse was all about representing us Panjabis that are born and live overseas. You don’t have to be born in Panjab, or live in Panjab, to be proud to be Panjabi. Funnily enough, I actually made the musical composition for the way Ashok sings the chorus. I completely forgot about this until Sukh reminded me.
How did it feel for you, as a lyricist on the album, when the album’s success hit unprecedented heights?
I’m going to be completely honest here. I’ve been with Sukh for nearly 10 years now. Every time when one of Tru-Skool’s products does well, I feel elated. I’ve seen the blood, sweat and tears, first hand, that go into the making of these albums. The innumerable hours in the studio, the sleeplessness and not eating properly. When the public take to the releases and say they’re bangin’, it’s all worth it.
With ‘One Time 4 Ya Mind’, when the album won the awards and hit the success it did, I didn’t even think that I had 4 tracks written on the album. But now that you’ve asked the question, that’s a brilliant achievement for me. However, the biggest award for me was having my lyrics on top of those beats, and having them sang by that ferocious animal of a vocalist. Just because I’m around Tru-Skool a lot, that doesn’t give me automatic rights to feature on his projects. How many people are lucky enough to have a song featured on a Tru-Skool production? It’s an honour. You can’t put a price on that kind of stuff.
Album Purchase Links
Sukh mentioned to me that he was going to work with Gurj on a song. Sukh mentioned that they were looking for lyrics for a song. I then asked if they wanted me to write a song. He gave me Gurj’s number so I could chat to him etc. Gurj used to work late at night at the time. I was off work then with the flu, and he rang me at like 2am. We discussed the collaboration between him and Sukh and he gave me an idea of the melody to the write the song with. 20 minutes later, I rang him back with an idea for a song, and his reply was, “Bruv, I’m not gonna lie. It’s sick!” It was quite loud where Gurj used to work and I thought he said it was s***, haha! Everything was done for the song, but then after looking at the market, we collectively came to the decision that the song was outdated. Instead, they chose the version of Putt Sardaran De that Gurj’s Taya wrote, which is a wicked song in its own right – a throwback to ‘Putt Sardaran De’ by Skillz Inc.
Gurj Sidhu (@igurjsidhu)
I was introduced to Dhami through Sukh. I didn’t know he was a writer at the time. I just thought he was one of the boys. Going back to around the time when Sukh and I were working on the now ‘Putt Sardaran De’, Dhami wrote a track on the ‘Gidheh Vich’ vibe, which was initially meant to be for this track. Back then, there was so many songs that came out on the ‘Nachna’ flex. We went with the song – Sukh did the music and everything was completed. But, in the end, we collectively decided against the track. The final track was written by myself and my Taya.
When ‘Hounsla’ came about, I again had a track that was on that same vibe – the dancing flex. The melody was the only thing making that track work. When I rang Dhami and told him about the whole collaboration with Atul Sharma. He said, “Let’s see what we can come up with.” He went away and wrote the lyrics, and the end product is what you hear today.
I was sat in the car with my cousin once. Dhami, at the time, was in Canada. We were chatting on the phone. ‘Patta Lagg Ju’ was something he had written. The minute I heard that hookline – it was something that stuck in my head. This was a song that I was going to take and was going to do it. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the composition, everything. I worked all that out whilst I was on the phone to him. The end product was really good.
‘Village Madness’ was something I never planned to ever do. Dhami rang me up with the concept for the track. I don’t like Jago tracks, but the idea of doing the track on a different raag was something that hit me, because I like doing things different. The concept behind that track was madness. To do a Jago track in that raag – that is definitely what killed it for me.
With Dhami being a young lad from the UK, I think it’s a big deal that someone like him is standing up and writing good songs. I want to wish him all the best with what he is doing. There are a few things we’ve done together that will come out in the future. I’m not going to say when, but there is definitely stuff in the pipeline. I just wish that he keeps doing what he’s doing, stays focused, and keeps gets better and better.
Check out the full article on ‘Sentimental Value’ by Gurj Sidhu:
Album Purchase Links
Why are UK born lyricists so uncommon? Why is that there is an abundance of lyricists from India? It can’t just be because their Panjabi is top notch?
In terms of the UK, and there being very limited Panjabi lyricists; the reason being that most of us are born in the UK, and our mother tongue is English. But, there are some exceptions: my friends, family and I being a few of them. We’ve all been brought up speaking Panjabi first, then we’ve learnt English as we’ve gone to school. Some people aren’t fortunate in that sense, or that their parents were too busy working hard trying to sustain and provide for their families, meaning they don’t focus on their kids’ Panjabi, with the hope that they pick it up anyway. Sometimes this isn’t the case. Not many youngsters in the UK are confident in speaking Panjabi as it is. For example, if you’re not confident in speaking English, you wouldn’t try and write a poem. Same applies here.
For me, I had a lot of formal tuition on learning how to read, write and speak Panjabi properly. 4 out of the 7 days, I would be learning Panjabi. I hated every second of it, but looking back it, I am so thankful that my parents literally forced me to go, because it has given me a good proficient command of the language. Speaking Panjabi in the house, even to this day, is mandatory.
Is there anything in the pipeline? Anything for the JK or Kaos album?
In terms of having lyrics on albums etc, I don’t just get them opportunities because I’m Tru-Skool’s student or friend. They have to be up to the standard and the benchmark set. Obviously, there are a lot of talented writers in the market right now, that are better writers than what I can write, in my opinion. For example, with the JK album, he’s got some of the best writers from Panjab on that album. Hopefully, there will be two tracks that have been written by myself, that will be featured on the album as well, that have made the cut. Again, that could all change. Because, if they’re not suitable or if they’re not to the level they need to be, then they will be removed. But, I’ve worked extremely hard on those tracks. There’s one song that me and Tru-Skool co-wrote together. He essentially directed the vibe of the song, with regard to how he wanted the song to go, verse by verse. It is one of my favourites songs I’ve written. I think that has a lot of potential.
There was a song that was meant to be on Gurj’s album. The chorus for that song was written by Gurj’s cousin, Ginder Sidhu, from Panjab. Gurj wrote Verse 1 of the song, and then I asked them if I could write the rest of it. I wrote 3 verses for it, but then Gurj and Amo changed the direction of the song completely. I don’t know how many verses are on the song now, but they’ve now shot a video for it, and it will be released very soon as a single. That one is Gurj Sidhu and Kaos Productions.
There is another song that was never meant to be part of the album. Gurj had the chorus idea in his head, and I wrote the verses for it. That’s going to come very soon too.
I’ve been approached by a singer called Jagz Kang, from a group called D.S.I. He has a song called Bhangre Vich, with DJ Stin. That was a phat track. Good beats, and his vocals sounded badboy on that. We’ve been talking about ideas for the song, and I’ve said to him that I would like to have it on the Bhangre Vich vibe – bit raw, bit desi. Hopefully there will be a track with him coming soon.
Also, there’s a friend of mine from Leicester. He’s going to be directing a song. He’s approached me for a song. There’s a few other people who I’ve got in touch with about lyrics. Again, it all comes down to if the music and the vocals are right, and if they are to a high standard. If so, then I’m happy to work with people.
Hopefully, I’ll have some tracks on the Kaos Productions album too. There’s nothing set in stone but I’d like to have some songs on that album as well. I think they’re very talented. They make some fantastic music. Very underrated.
Finally, is there anything you want to say to the people that have supported the tracks you have written?
I have been inundated with messages on social media, text messages, phone calls. I really honestly want to say this from my heart – thank you so much to every single person who has supported me. I really did not expect the response. I’m truly overwhelmed. Out of everybody though, I want to thank Tru-Skool for EVERYTHING; for every single opportunity, for all the time we’ve spent together, for all the people I’ve been blessed to have met throughout the year, and for giving me the opportunity to become a writer. Without him, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing; not in my wildest dreams.
Above everything, thank you to the divine creator, God, for bestowing so much on me that I don’t even deserve. I feel extremely blessed in so many ways.
People, keep supporting good music. We’ll do our best to present good Panjabi music to the Panjabi people. Repazent Tha People!
Bhangra Tape Deck would like to thank Dhami Amarjit for taking time out to talk about his introduction to the world of music and his beginnings as a lyricist. Special mention to Tru-Skool for his input too.
Watch out for future songs by Dhami Amarjit. He is a rare talent from the UK. A talent that should be supported!