What do you get if you mix real Punjabi folk music thrown in with a taste of contemporary music? Harmeet Virdi meets the duo of brothers Raj and Pops, better known as Tigerstyle
BY HARMEET VIRDI | MAR 16, 2009
A whole decade has passed and these guys are not letting up on their taste for mixing old school classical Desi flavour with today?s music. Let?s meet and take a bow for the current King?s of Scotland.
Q. What does Tigerstyle stand for and what does it represent?
A. Tigerstyle represents when realness meets complete fantasy, when true authenticity is torn to shreds and weaved into an ornate masterpiece.
Q. Your latest album is eloquently titled ?Mystics, Martyrs & Maharajas?, what?s the reason behind this?
A. We took the concept from a verse by Gusai Tulsi Das, who?s a celebrated sage in India from ancient times. He wrote ?A woman should give birth to a saint, a king or a warrior; otherwise she should not waste her beauty on such an act as bringing a child into this world?. We are the greatest humans when we possess the spirit of a saint, the vision of a king and the passion of a martyr. The songs which formed the body of this new album had this recurring theme running through them and so we decided to code Gusai Tulsi Das?s verse in the title of our album.
Q. What?s the vibe on your new album and what artists have you got involved?
A. The album is made up of 17 songs; each song is collaboration with at least one if not two or three vocalists. The styles range from Folk Bhangra, to Asian Hip Hop, RnB to fusions with Dance and Drum n Bass. The artists are all great musicians and singers whom for all we have a great regard for. We were lucky enough that whoever we approached to work with us did not turn us away. You?ll hear the voices of Vybz Kartel, Labh Janjua, Iceberg Slimm, Blitzkrieg, Bikram Singh, Raghav, Lembher Hussainpuri, UK Apache, Surinder Shinda, and Gunjan as well as new up and coming talents.
Q. Your roots hail from Glasgow, what?s it been like growing up in Scotland and how does it compare to the Asian music scene in London?
A. Glasgow is a pretty small place. We ran a series of club nights in Glasgow in our Uni days and even now we still perform in Glasgow at least once a year. There is a small but healthy scene in Glasgow being nurtured by the local DJs here and they?re doing a good job. It?s very different to the Asian music scene elsewhere; the lack of media makes it hard to educate the public on what the latest material is, so usually the DJs play a huge role in championing the latest sound.
Q. You guys grew up being influenced by a lot of classical music. What you have been trained in when it comes to music instruments?
A. We?ve both learnt Tabla classically. We?ve also learnt Gurmukhi and are fluent in reading and writing Punjabi from a young age. We?ve trained in Indian classical music and understand the basics of Indian Raags. Recently I (Pops) have started learning to play the Dilruba which is an invention of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. This string instrument is a variation of the Taus, a cross between the Sitar and Sarangi.
Q. You?ve once described as having a traditional upbringing. How has, if any, this influenced your personal style of music?
A. By traditional upbringing we mean to say that we have been educated in music through the rich music tradition of learning directly from an Ustad. Becoming a student gives you the humility to accept direction and learn with an open heart and mind. It?s definitely influenced our personal style as we make music from our own emotional experiences.
Q. How do you both differ from one another?
Raj: I?m tall!
Pops: I guess that makes me shorter.
Q. Are either of you boys married? Any Glaswegian ?lassi? on the menu so to say?
Pops: Raj has been married for two years now, his wife is from Bristol. I have recently come back from getting engaged in Ludhiana, Punjab so no Glaswegian lassi I?m afraid.
Q. Ok, so tell us what was your role on ?Britain?s Got Talent? in regards to Signature?s track ?Billie Jean??
A. The song was ?Nachna Onda Nei?, a mash up of Michael Jackson?s ?Billie Jean?, Vanilla Ice?s ?Ice Ice Baby?, with Kaka Bhania Wala on Punjabi vocals. We had released it back in the year 2000, however Signature used the song in their performance and the whole world got to hear it. We later ended supplying them with the remix of ?Thriller? which got them through the semi finals and into the final where they again performed to ?Nachna Onda Nei?.
Q. You?ve even spread your wings as far as Bollywood, what was it like working on the movie soundtrack for Akshay Kumar?s ?Singh is Kinng??
A. We remixed two songs for the ?Singh is Kinng? soundtrack, ?Bas Ek Kinng? and ?Bhootni Ke?. It was a completely new experience for us to be answering to a hot shot music director like Pritam. There was definitely pressure there to deliver! Luckily he was so impressed with our work that he flew us to Mumbai to work with him further on some projects, which are still to be released.
Q. Where are Tigerstyle looking to head towards now?
A. We?ve recently completed a remix for Scottish band Franz Ferdinand. That?s definitely something to look out for! We?re happy to just randomly work on new exciting music. We?ll be promoting the new album throughout the year and also starting production of our next album at some point this summer. As well as that we have further Bollywood work in the pipeline and increasingly we?re getting enquiries for the live band.
Q. Any plans to hit the States with your music?
A. We have toured the states quite a bit in the past few years. We?re planning our next trip this April.
Q. Scotland or England?
A. Scotland! (Both say in unison)
Q. Finally, any last few words?
A. Do take some time out and check our website, MySpace and YouTube pages. Also grab a copy of the new album ?Mystics, Martyrs & Maharajas?, which is out now on CD and available on digital download.
Tigerstyle?s album ?Mystics, Martyrs & Maharajas? is available as a digital download on www.nachural.co.uk. You can also keep up to date with what the brothers are up to by checking out their official website www.tigerstyleonline.co.uk.