Let’s take it down a notch. Let’s step away from the dancefloor for a second. Hang on. What? We’re not on the dancefloor anymore? Weird, isn’t it? Panjabi music isn’t just about the dancefloor, you know. Even if that may be the case these days. It takes guts to go against the grain and produce a body of work, and that being an album, especially if you’ve got no track that could potentially do damage on the dancefloor and carry the album’s success with that one dancefloor, video worthy single. Unless, you’re outspoken producer, Desi Dark Child.
Hailing from the streets of Coventry, Desi Dark Child has produced and released quite a lot of material over the years, since his humble beginnings in the band Parwanna Sangeet, but really found his break and deserved success, with the award-winning album, Reggae Feast, which released in 2015. The album went on to sell just under 5000 hard copies, which, in this day and age is something not of the norm. Given the shift in listening habits has gone from buying hard copies, to illegal downloading, and now streaming; selling in that quantity, especially as an independent artist, is a commendable achievement. These sales figures aren’t a fluke, by any means. Desi Dark Child is now a brand, and he knows who is core audience is. His ever popular Facebook Live videos, as well as his enthusiastic, lively nature have all played a part in creating his brand.
2017, however, sees the release of the sequel to Reggae Feast – REGGAE WISDOM. Bhangra Tape Deck sat down with Desi Dark Child for an insight into him as a producer and his brand new Panjabi Reggae album, Reggae Wisdom.
Is it fair to say that Desi Dark Child has a sound?
“Yes, I think it is. The sound you hear today, was born during the production of the 34 track album, Captured. The reason it was called Captured, was because I tried to capture a lot of different sounds, genres, what have you. That project was a massive investment for me, finding myself in terms of sound, and creating a sound which is instantly distinguishable as being what I’m all about. That’s why it ended up being a 34 track album, haha. To date, that has been my biggest sound investment project.
What you hear on Reggae Feast, and will hear again on Reggae Wisdom, is a result of that journey, and struggle, at times, I had with the Captured album. Reggae is something that has been with me from the beginning. If you listen to my 3 albums previous to ‘Reggae Feast’, you’ll hear tracks on that Reggae vibe. Reggae Feast was just the album everyone heard me go all out on that vibe. With the whole Reggae vibe, I’ve found my niche.”
A lot of people who have heard Desi Dark Child’s previous offering, Reggae Feast, will have noticed there were a lot of cover songs on the album, with the original piece work re-recorded around the Reggae vibes. Reggae Wisdom, on the other hand, features all new original songs, with original melodies and vibes, with the exception of one song.
Apart from the obvious being on the Reggae vibe, you say your album is different. How so?
As you’ve mentioned, the previous album featured a lot of cover songs, which meant I could only do so much with the tracks, whilst trying to retain the essence of the original classics. Reggae Wisdom is basically me being let out of the cage, making proper Reggae beats and original melodies. What we have in the Bhangra Industry is a lot of tracks are made around the recorded vocal, meaning, when you try to put a western beat around the vocal, it doesn’t sound as authentic. Panjabi vocals are usually recorded on a click beat, in a certain key, and of course, in a certain way. With Reggae Wisdom, I made the beats and the rhythms first, and composed and recorded the vocals to fit around the rhythm and groove of the beats. The swing of the vocal, pronunciation, spacing and aerodynamics, are with the rhythm; not the other way round, with the rhythm fixed to the vocal. Reggae music is on a totally different vibe to traditional Panjabi music. So, to make a Reggae track around a traditional Panjabi vocal, it would be more difficult for one, but also, you wouldn’t get the same feel as you do from authentic Reggae tracks.
Looking at the cover, you’ve got 13 songs on the album. 1 being a cover, and another an instrumental. Could you give us a run down of how the tracks came into fruition?
1. Vangha – Manpreet Akhtar (Lyrics by Davinder Magrala)
For those that don’t know, Manpreet Akhtar is the sister of Legendary Panjabi Folk vocalist, Dilshad Akhtar. Master Saleem introduced me to Manpreet at his studio, in India, a good few years ago. They were recording some stuff for the Bollywood market. I mentioned to her that I had some compositions I’d been working on, but didn’t even know if she would like any of them. The only vocals I had heard from her was her song in ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, and the stuff they were recording in the studio that day, so I didn’t really know what her vibe was. I said to her, that the beats I had made were Reggae beats. I was surprised when she said she knew about Reggae! She said she liked that sort of stuff! Crazy!
I came back to the UK and had a think about how I could get her involved in the Reggae stuff. That’s when I came across a lyricist in Dubai called Davinder Magrala. I said to him that I had come up with a concept to the song, and asked if he could write the rest of the song, but with only hints of the concept; not the whole thing. He went away and wrote the song for me, and we tweaked it to have 3 verses and a chorus. There was one problem though. I made the composition but couldn’t get the words to blend in with the melody. I went back to Manpreet and put my hands up. She told me to leave it with her.
A month later she came back to me with a rough idea for the vocals. But, it wasn’t what I was looking for. So, it was back to drawing board. This time round, I put all my energy into getting the composition right. But, this was only after taking a break from the track. I needed 6 months away from the track, so that I could come back to it with a clear mind. I made a guitar riff for the track and played it to Manpreet over the phone. She took the riff there and then and went back to her studio and laid down the vocal. When she sent it back to me, I was jumping for joy! It was everything I wanted, and more! The swing was right, the key she sang it in was bang on. She captured the Reggae vibe on it perfectly!
2. Lack – Amar Singh (Lyrics by Joni Chakmuglani)
Amar has only been to the UK once. He found that a lot of people here were surpressing him, because at the time, Lembher was the go to vocalist, due to his high-pitched voice. This meant that Amar’s talent was being overlooked, thus struggling to release tracks as a result. I actually worked with Amar in 2008, producing some undercover tracks in India for him. As time went on, I lost his number on my phone, and only recently retrieved it. I contacted him and explained the concept of this album, and the whole Reggae vibe. He agreed to it. I sent the beat over and he dropped the vocal. We had to change the lyrics slightly, as I wanted to make the track a bit simpler, but also more hypnotic. I’m working on a lot more material with Amar, so watch this space! We have a good understanding of one another, and he is definitely one singer I want to get recognised in the UK market.
The reason why Lack stands out to me is because it reminds of the Coventry song, ‘Ghost Town’. I remember the flutes in that song. That song used to always get me. I always used to tell myself, I’m going to make a song like this, but on a slightly faster tempo, keeping that ‘Ghost Town’ feel with a solo flute piece.
3. Sahiba – Sukhwinder Panchhi (Originally sung by Kuldip Manak. Lyrics by Pyara Kulaam Singh)
Sahiba is the only cover song on the album. For those that don’t know, Sukhwinder Panchhi is the very first student of Kuldip Manak. He learnt how to play the vaja (harmonium) and tumbi directly from Kuldip Manak himself. He was the only one that was allowed to sing Manak’s songs on stage. No one else was granted permission by Manak to sing his songs. This was because Sukhwinder Panchhi learnt how to play the vaja and tumbi exactly like Manak. Different tones of voices, granted, but there was something about Sukhwinder Panchhi that shone through to Manak, which allowed him to sing his songs. It was much more than a standard teacher-student relationship. Manak used to say, “He’s my boy”. Goes to show the type of relationship they had. Sukhwinder and I are very good friends. We’re like brothers. I’ve got quite a few vocals recorded by him, and have been releasing them slowly into the market.
Sukhwinder made it very clear to me that he didn’t want to sing any other song on the album other than Manak’s. And that song is ‘Sahiba Da Khayal’ from the album, Jugni Yaran Di.
The reason we chose that track was because of this one mehfil we had at the house of the Late Pyara Kulaam Singh, from Coventry. I’m a very big fan of Uncle Ji. I had the honour of being at his house when he had people like Manak, Mohd Saddiq, Ranjit Kaur, Panchhi, you name it. He used to have everyone round. We used to have regular jams at his house. With Panchhi, he would jump on every instrument. During that mehfil, Panchhi sang ‘Sahiba Da Khayal’ in front of Manak, and he was saying to everyone, “He’s my boy”, and proper bigging him up. I remember that day very well. That’s why we chose to go with ‘Sahiba Da Khayal’ as the track Panchhi sang on the album.
4. Roosi Nu – Bawa Saini (Lyrics by R Jassal and Johni Chakmuglani)
This was originally a song I wrote, but I got stuck half way through. I knew a few lyricists in India that I could’ve contacted for help, but there was one I’ve always wanted to work with, but was really struggling in finding him. And that was Johni Chakmuglani.
I was working on a few songs with another singer at the time, but there was one song that really stood out to me, lyrically and flow wise. I got in contact with John and told him about my vibe and style, sent him some beats, along with all the ideas I had written with regard to that particular song, and said that I wanted to make it more hypnotic. It was difficult at first, because I had to make Johni think like me, in order to understand where I was coming from with my ideas. The first part of my melody for this song was inspired by one of A.S. Kang’s bolis.
Now, we just needed a singer. Enter Bawa Saini. Bawa has featured on ‘Reggae Feast’ too, on the tracks, ‘Akkiya’ and ‘Puthloor’. With ‘Russi Noo’, he was initially struggling with pronouncing words the way I wanted and matching the beat, as I always had this idea of chopping the vocals up and doing stuff with them. This went on for around 4-5 months, but we got there in the end.
5. Lal Lal – Balbir Mastana (Lyrics by Zora Takowalia)
This song has been sang by a guy called Balbir Mastana, son of Panjabi Folk singer, Mohan Mastana. Balbir has featured on the Captured album before, lending his vocals to the Sohelian track, again on that Reggae vibe. In the 80s, whilst I was still a kid, Mohan Mastana came to the UK to do some shows with his band. This was before Balbir was even born. 4 days after they landed, two members of his band did a runner, and left Mohan uncle without a full band and an angry promoter. This is where I came into the picture. The promoter knew my Dad and was enquiring about a Dholki player. My Dad mentioned my name, but Dholki wasn’t really my speciality. I was more into the drums. In the end, I agreed, and my Dad took me to the house to rehearse. As soon as Mohan uncle heard me play, he fell in love with my playing. From that point, Mohan uncle was like, “You’re going to stay with me now”. As in, he wanted me to play Dholki at all his gigs. We did a lot of gigs during his stay in the UK. Over the years, we lost contact, but we managed to rekindle. This is how the whole Balbir hook up came about. When I went to visit Mohan uncle, Balbir showed me some of his stuff and I was quite impressed, and therefore got him to feature on my projects.
6. Havah – Sabar Koti (Lyrics by Deep Choriawala)
I met Sabar Koti back in 2007 when he was in the UK with Mohd Saddiq. This was when the big package going around was Saddiq, Shinda, Ranjit Kaur, etc. I met Sabar randomly at a restaurant. I think it was a birthday party or some function. The rest of the legends walked in later too. We had a Dholki and Vaja, jumped on their table, and had a mehfil. I later found out that Sabar had relatives in Coventry and was staying with them. I went over and showed him my ideas and songs I would like him to sing, should he accept it. Luckily, he did, and that was that! Havah was one of the songs he recorded for me back in 2012. The track is written by Deep Choriawala. I’ve worked with Deep on tracks before, on the Captured album. Deep usually writes tracks of a political nature, and this struck a chord with Sabar.
7. Jaan – Master Rakesh (Vocals and Lyrics)
I’ve known Master Rakesh for years, from back in the day, when he was in the UK. We used to have regular jams. He knew I was doing music, and added me on Facebook. He had this one song that he had written and composed, but no proper music on it. He showed me the music and it was terrible. I said to him to scrap the song and the music, and we’ll start again from scratch. I sent him some rhythms, which he sang on top of them beautifully. We ended up tweaking the final song slightly to get everything to fit. That’s Jaan. Vocaled and written by Master Rakesh. It’s literally as simple as that!
8. Surmaa – Adeep Kaur (Lyrics by R Jassal and Malkit Ghumait)
The melody for Surmaa was inspired by a classic Panjabi Folk track by Narinder Biba called ‘Teriyan Mohabbtan’. Usually, when I’m listening to music, I’ll have a Vaja or a Keyboard nearby and start adding additional chords on top of the tracks. I always had this lyric about Surmaa in my head and knew it would work with the melody. I called Malkit Ghumait up and gave him the concept for the track, but made it clear to him to think of the way ‘Teriyan Mohabbtan’ was written when writing Surmaa. The next problem was finding a female singer that would fit this track. I have a lot of links in Panjab where I can dig up undiscovered badboy talent. This is how Adeep came into the equation. At the time, Adeep was working with a guy called Bhupinder Khanpuri. When I heard a rough dummy of her voice, I said to Bhupinder that I wanted this girl, because she sounds like Miss Pooja, but back when Miss Pooja was a hungry vocalist.
The singer, Adeep, is only young. She’s only 22. But, she understood everything I wanted in terms of style of singing on this track. She rehearsed the track in 4 days after her exams, and bam; she recorded and sent the vocal over. Perfect. On the music side, however, I went to see Ariana Grande in concert with my daughter. Everyone knows her ‘Side to Side’ track. The track starts on that Reggae vibe with the guitar. I was sitting at the concert, and my daughter turns around and says to me, “Dad, you know that Surmaa track you’ve got, why don’t you make the music like this?” My daughter was practically involved in the direction this track took, musically. She guided me. This song is for her. My daughter is only 12, and she loved Adeep’s vocal, but said, “If you want people my age to listen to your songs, then you need to change the style on this one, because Adeep’s vocal is a clean vocal.” So, Surmaa’s music has been inspired by Ariana Grande’s ‘Side to Side’, and co produced by my daughter, haha. Who would’ve thought?
9. Shudia – Lovepreet Lovi (Lyrics by R Jassal and Johni Chakmuglani)
The whole drum pattern for this song was done on my D5 drum machine.
I kept hearing about this guy from Voice of Panjab, Series 7, and he sounded really nice. He was young, had a Master Saleem touch to his voice, very mellow kind of attitude, and I really wanted someone with that style. The song, Shudia, how it came about was, I was working on this beat, and I had lyrics written around the beat. With the track being a Reggae vibe, I had to do a love song.
I gave my concept and story to Johni, and he wrote the track around that. With every song, I’ve got to have a story in my head. That’s part of composing as far as I am concerned.
10. Lara Luppa – Ranjit Mani (Lyrics by R Jassal and Malkit Ghumait)
Again, I wrote the hookline for this song. The way the Ranjit sang it, however, was totally different to the way I had it in my head. With this one, I had no beat. All I had were the lyrics and the singer. I told Ranjit to sing it which ever way he chose, but, I insisted he kept the tempo on 85 BPM. He busted his gut and sang the song in 3 different keys, and I took the highest key.
As time goes by, and through wear and tear, a singer doesn’t sound like he used to when he was in his prime, and with this track, Ranjit Mani’s vocal wasn’t any different. I had to pitch it up slightly and tune it in places, amd then built the track around it. This track was a difficult one to produce, because it just wasn’t going anywhere. I nearly took it off the album! But, we got there in the end.
11. Gidda Vich – Ashok Gill feat. Eliza Jackson (Lyrics by Malkit Ghumait)
I actually made a track called ‘Patlo’ on Reggae Feast, which was sang by Bawa Saini. But, I wanted to try something different with the word ‘Patlo’ this time round, so I called up Malkit and asked him to write a song around that word, and include the words ‘Gidheh Vich’, or something like that in the track. I gave him some conditions for the song that he couldn’t cross, which he agreed to. This album is a love album, and it will remain being about love.
Last September, I had Ashok Gill sitting in my house. I showed him the song, and said it needed to be sang on the slow vibe, and not in the normal Bhangra style. I had made the beat and had him listen to it to understand the vibe I was going for. He got a Vaja out and was like, no problem. Kid you not, within 15 minutes, we’ve laid the vocal down, spontaneously! I had the urge to put an English hookline on the track. So, I put an advert out on my Facebook, looking for a singer would sing on that soul swing, with a soft, mellow voice, but hard-hitting wording. I ended up talking to an old friend of mine, Eliza Jackson. She’s got a beautiful voice. She came down to the studio for 5 hours, went through the track around 8/9 times, laid down 3 vocals, of which I picked two to include in the track. This track became very western, with all the live drums and instrumentation. No drum programming done, just purely LIVE.
12. Keel Kha – Pappi Gill (Lyrics by Ranjit Pakhowal)
This song is written by Ranjit Pakhowal, and features the one and only Pappi Gill, of ‘Rang Kaala Ho Gaya Ve’ fame. ‘Keel Kha’ was already sang by Pappi, and was on Chamkila’s ‘Yaar Ne Gali Chon Laghna’ melody. I wanted to do a Dub style on that track, but that required for the track to be sang slower, which Pappi was refusing to do. Somehow, I don’t even know how, I managed to persuade him to sing the song slower.
13. Reggae Wisdom Instrumental
This track was just inspiration for my guitarist.
So yeah, there you have it. That’s the album. That’s Reggae Wisdom.
Evenings are the only times where I get a bit of peace. It’s these times where I go in to weird zone. Making this album, did just that. It took me into those zones. I don’t know why, but listening to this album, makes me tear up. There has a been a few personal shake ups in my life during the making of this album, and at times, I’ve had these tracks playing in the background. So, for me, this album is a special one, from an emotional connection perspective.
Any final messages?
The entire album has been mixed and mastered at my studio, Coffin Studios. All musicians came in to record their pieces at Coffin Studios. A massive thank you all the musicians involved in Reggae Wisdom. Big shout out to Ethnic Vibes, who have pushed and supported the album.
Last, but certainly not least, I just want to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my career, and I hope you all keep supporting me, because I, for one, will always try to do something different to the market out there. I may not have the financial backing as, say, some artists do, but I always make music from my heart – it’s genuine. I’m not out there to make money. My music is an expression and an extension of me.
Watch out for future singles coming from me, Reggae festivals in Europe, and DDC merchandise to be launched soon! Watch this space!
Album Purchase Links
‘Reggae Wisdom’ is out now on Desi Dark Child Records via all the usual digital outlets, not forgetting the mighty physical CD, so make sure you get a copy, legally!
PayPal £10 to email@example.com. UK Postage and Packaging included in price. Album price might vary if purchasing the album outside of the UK.
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Bhangra Tape Deck would like to thank Desi Dark Child for taking time out in giving us an insight into his latest album, Reggae Wisdom.