*INTERVIEW* Harvey Sahota (The Live Crew)

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Every so often, a release will come along and without warning, quite literally break the internet. We had that with Jazzy B’s ‘Londono Patola Reloaded’ last year, and now this time, it’s Harvey Sahota’s turn, with his cover version of the living legend Gurdas Maan’s ‘Sajana Veh Sajana’.

Remakes/ covers in general have notoriously been tagged with the rep of somehow destroying the original. On the flip side however, they can breathe new life into a classic. ‘Sajana’ has done just that. The best thing about it all? This cover version bleeds the true essence of the UK scene in sheer abundance.

There is a link between ‘Londono Patola Reloaded’ and ‘Sajana’. This may just be a coincidence, but hear us out. The reason these two tracks have done the damage they have and left that lasting impression, is because they both represent the UK, through and through. You only have to go on social media and see the comments the public have made regarding the two tracks to realise we might be on to something here. They both evoke something which is becoming rare – an emotional connection. Should more UK artists be creating music for the UK, that represents who we are, and what we’re all about? Hell yeah they should!

Bhangra Tape Deck sat down with Harvey Sahota to talk about new track, and the new live band on the block, ‘The Live Crew’, for which he is lead vocalist.

Harvey Sahota as an artist

Can you give us a bit of a background to yourself?

So as an artist I’ve been around for a while now. I released my first album with a friend of mine, who is now a part of The Live Crew – Amit V (The Pianoman), under the joint production outfit, ‘Punjabi X’, many years ago. That album also featured my vocal debut on the song, ‘Kurri Punjaban’, which did very well at the time. It was an amazing time and I got to meet so many new people in the industry. On that album, I also got to work with Surinder Shinda and Master Saleem which was huge for me. 

After that album, I worked mostly behind the scenes on several productions with artists such as Adil Hashmi, Faze Black, Shin Cobra and Gin n Rees to mention a few. Some of whom I still work with today.

I also felt I had a lot more to learn with regard to the whole production process, including mix engineering, video production and directing etc. I’ve spent many years honing that craft and additionally wanted to explore the whole live band thing, as that is what I love best about music. I guess it was because the sound I was looking for I wasn’t getting wherever I went, so had to control each stage and aspect of it myself. Once I felt that I had everything in place I began working on a number of songs with my band and production – one of which is the track ‘Sajana’.

Where did it all begin?

I’ve always been into Panjabi music as far back as I can remember – my first experience of  it was watching Alaap perform ‘Bhabhiye Ni Bhabhiye’ on BBC2 late night as a young child. Growing up, I listened to the Bhangra bands such as Heera, DCS, Sahotas, Pardesi, and the Bhangra Fever albums Deepak Khanzanchi came out with. Another notable artist I loved listening to was Johnny Zee (Taz Stereo Nation). This is all in addition to the western music of the time including Michael Jackson, who was a huge influence in that he was so different and innovative. That era was a real magical time in music for me – East meets West and Bhangra went to new level in terms of the fusion sound that was being created. I did become a huge fan of one certain fusion – Reggae and Bhangra. It really is the ultimate fusion music for me – perfect balance of the rhythms and grooves. The band that led this style was The Sahotas and I became a huge fan!

My musical journey started with Dhol when I was around 15. This was when Dhol wasn’t featured in any recordings and was more of a live instrument in Bhangra dance groups, but I was fascinated with the energy and sound it created. The Jugnu Bhangra group of Gravesend (in particular Steve Hayer) gave me mentoring on that instrument. My interest in music developed and it wasn’t long before I was looking at the Tabla and Dholak, due to their sweeter sound, being more controlled and intricate. I then learnt how to play those under the tutelage of Guruji Kelly Kalyan (father of Sunil Kalyan who I also spent some time with learning too as a result). I kept learning whilst I continued life’s other commitments such as Uni and work. During Uni, I had the great opportunity to spend some time with The Sahotas on the road during their live performances so learnt a great deal from all of them. After Uni is when I really went into producing with my friend at the time, Amit V. Together we produced a few tracks and were able to get signed to record label in Birmingham who gave us our first opportunity to release our music.

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The Live Crew

As a band, The Live Crew have gained a lot of traction over the last year. How did the band formation come about?

Yes, it has been a phenomenal journey so far with the band. We’ve only been together as a band for about 8 months. Can you believe it?! The idea for the band came about when Amar Be (Band Manager and Dholak Player for The Live Crew) approached me asked how I would feel about putting a team together to perform live. It just so happened that Amit V (Pianoman) and I had been toying with the idea of doing something in the live realm. So the foundation for the band was laid and after that the process of filling in the other slots happened. We contacted musicians we had previously worked with, and within a matter of weeks we had a band and we were rehearsing. So although as a band it’s only been 8 months, we have all known each other for years, so it really feels like a family. To launch the band we did a press launch in which we performed the new single (‘Sajana’) live on Facebook. That went down really well, and based on that performance we were nominated for ‘Best Band/ Group’ at the UK Bhangra Awards 2017. The public were to decide who would win, so part of our campaign included a 2 minute trailer for the awards, which went down spectacularly well. We eventually won the ‘Best Band/ Group’ award on the night and this sort of catapulted us into the limelight and gave us the drive we needed to move forward with a single and here we are. In a way, an event like the UK Bhangra Awards that invests heavily in promoting new talent and live music is the reason we are here today. If it wasn’t for that platform then we probably would still be in the rehearsal room or studio hoping to perform somewhere to showcase our music. So a big, big thank you to Bobby Bola for the platform and opportunity that the awards provided.

The Track!

What made you choose to do a cover on such an iconic track, and why this particular style?

I chose to cover this song for so many reasons, and there are a few, haha. The first and foremost is that if you are going to cover a Panjabi track then pick one that is done by one of the greatest living Panjabi music artists of all time – the great Gurdas Maan. With so many tracks to choose from, I chose ‘Sajana Veh Sajana’ as it was my late father’s favourite Gurdas Maan song. He was a big fan, so I felt I could bring that emotion to this song. During my musical journey, it has also become a favourite amongst my friends who always request that I sing it live when I’m with them.  It is a beautiful song lyrically that promotes love and true friendship, and the bond that comes with that. Additionally it’s different than the norm.

Moving onto why this particular style – it’s because this song has been covered many times in the past, and I wanted the sound and vision for this song to represent the kind of music The Live Crew perform, which is fusion. So in this cover, we have fused a Reggae feel with just the right amount of Panjabi grooves. It’s a delicate mix as you will hear where both genres sit equally. That is essentially what the band is about. This vibe of the cover was actually conceived in a rehearsal studio, and it is the band that drove the production forward. We wanted to give this song a completely different and fresh perspective, which I think from the response we have had, has worked. It’s East meets West. But that would be an oversimplification.

We’ve seen on social media that the public have really taken to the track. How does that feel?

The band and I are truly humbled at the response that the listening public have given to our debut track as a band. It feels unreal reading some of the comments people have left on social media and the love it has been given. People are playing it on repeat. And for an artist, this is the best feeling and outcome you can get from the many hours spent working on a song like this. The part I am most happy about are the social media comments stating this being the best cover version of this song ever. Nothing can be bigger for an artist than to hear that praise. Additionally, we have had some great comments on how this track represents the true sound of UK Bhangra, which I am really humbled at. It is a great first step in the right direction.

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The Scene

New live bands and the UK scene in general have taken quite a substantial hit over recent years. How do you, as a band, plan to help change this?

Actually, I believe the Live scene has picked up over the last couple of years. We still have what I like to call the ‘Super Bands’. The likes of ‘The Legends Band’, ‘Scope Events Live Band’ and Tubsy Paaji’s ‘Live Experience’ Band who have the most talented and experienced musicians the UK has to offer from the great bands of the 80s and 90s. Due to many artists coming from India and of course UK legends who are still performing today, this gives these bands the platform to perform and live music will continue as result.

I do believe that public perception and requirements are now changing as they want to see more and more live performances as it gives the audience a different experience as opposed to a DJ. Additionally, we have also now seen the emergence of fresh UK based bands e.g ‘Brotherhood’ and of course ourselves, who are bringing back the permanent singer/ band combos that were so popular in the 80s and 90s. I think this will give the audience a fresher look at Live music, as we will sound different to one another due to the fact we are using different musicians with varying styles. By producing music as a band, as we have done, I believe this will reinforce the live performances, as now a listener can hear the songs recorded and then watch the same band perform it pretty much as it is on the tape, but with the added advantage of the live experience. This is how we drive the live scene forward in my opinion. It’s about satisfying the audience’s demands that will lead to ours being met eventually.

What do you bring differently to the table?

Well firstly it’s the sound that we, as ‘The Live Crew’, create on stage. It’s very different to what exists already – and they are all fantastic, of course. We are more about fusion rather than all out Desi beats, and every song we perform has our own spin and take on it – similar to what we have done with ‘Sajana’. We take a song and break it down to its core personality then build it back up with our style. If you listen closely to the original ‘Sajana Veh Sajana’ and our version, you will notice that the music pieces match those of the original but have been completely redesigned to suit our sound. This also applies to the vocal melody. I have sang it completely different with a few key changes to give it our signature. This is what I believe a true cover version is. This is what we pretty much do to all the songs we perform live.

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What’s the plan now for yourself and The Live Crew? Can we see some original releases on the horizon?

***BTD EXCLUSIVE***

At this point, as an exclusive to Bhangra Tape Deck, I would like to say that I am very very pleased and proud to announce that ‘The Live Crew’ and I have just signed a 3 single deal with Kiss Records. Although ‘Sajana’ began as an independent release, Kiss Records loved the track so much and the vibe of ‘The Live Crew’, that they wanted it. They have been very keen to help promote this sound of ours and it’s amazing news. The single is now going to be available on all major digital distribution platforms including iTunes.

There will be a further 2 singles coming from ‘The Live Crew’ for sure very soon, and if the audience continues to love what we do then there will be several more. I do really feel humbled at the love we have received from all the public since starting our journey – a personal big thank you to you all for your continued love and support. Please support our single ‘Sajana’ so that we can bring you more of the music you have shown us you love.

Before you go, you have to answer the one question that everyone’s been asking. Are you related to the Sahotas?

Haha! This one constantly comes up. I have been blessed to have spent some time with The Sahotas, learning about music and in particular, the fusion style of Bhangra that they used, and vocally, I just happen to sit in the same range as their lead singer. They are an influence no doubt  – similar to how Kuldip Manak’s folk style of singing inspired Jazzy B, and then JK further down the line. We are not related, although we have the same surname, which only adds further to the confusion. Similarities will always be made, but when listened to closely, we are different. Going forward with the music we are doing, it will show that. Ultimately, it is fusion – that is what ‘The Live Crew’ and I are about – what UK Bhangra used to be about.

Support the track!

Harvey Sahota & The Live Crew’s debut song, ‘Sajana’, is available as on all major digital outlets via Kiss Records! This is definitely one for your collection. This is a track that encompasses the true essence of UK Bhangra. Something that has unfortunately become a rarity as time has gone on…

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Bhangra Tape Deck would like to thank Harvey Sahota for taking the time out to talk about the new track, the band, and his plans for the future. Harvey and The Live Crew are definitely a unit to look out for for the future. A fresh group of individuals from the UK bringing the true essence of the UK vibe back.


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