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Tigerstyle: The Tiger's Roar

Tigerstyle are a pair of young Glaswegian Sikhs. Two brothers who have become Glasgow's answer to Orbital's Hartnoll brothers, orchestrating their own asian dance flavas. Rajah and Pops Singh have been mixing trip-hop and two-step garage with desi sounds, their first album 'The Rising' broke all sales records for their label, Kismet Records. Stories are running around about Southall record shops being completely sold out, whilst taking orders three days ahead of time. Coming soon is a new album entitled 'Virsa'. They've been running the Glasgow bhangra scene since they came onto the market. The following is an interview with the brothers.

Do you think the Scottish media caters properly for the Asian community?

Rajah Singh: Asians need to stop looking at their petty differences and do something constructive. That's the problem with Asian media in Glasgow. You can't play ring a ring a roses and push yourself into the middle. Why has every major city in England got an Asian radio station? Why? They stick together and demand it. You know what happens? All these RSLs (Restricted Service Licences) crop up and everyone climbs over each other to get them. Kranty, Awaz, Bubble, Apna... for one month?... they could all pool together and get one big fat licence.
Pops Singh: They'd have the advertising, they'd have the quality presenters, the music...
Rajah: You know what their problem is? They all want to be on top. Everyone wants to be on top. They don't want to be the average worker. They all wanna be the boss.
Pops: You gotta prove that you're the Don before you can sit in the Don's chair.

How did you prove you were the Dons?

Rajah: We were a couple of boys at the gurdwara, one of us played tabla and one played bajja1. Then I got into hip-hop, we both mucked about with some decks and that. Then we were at this wedding and the DJ was pathetic talking for 10 minutes between tracks as he changed records. We knew we were better than that. We started DJ-ing, doing weddings and birthdays, then we put on these bhangra gigs. We were playing the back room in Yang and then putting on these gigs. Others use CDs and DATs, you can't do windbacks and mixes with CDs. We play bhangra off vinyl. We did this show one time with Malkit Singh2 and filled the place up. The following week they had a show for 400 people and they ended up having to promote it as a family event just to fill the hall. Little kids coming in and that... We knew we were good at what we were doing. It progressed to such an extent that we started looking at production. We hooked up with Panjabi MC on numerous occasions and let him hear some simple compositions we'd been working on. He told us there was a record company looking for producers, gave us the number. We recorded the album in our bedroom on a PC in the New Year. We've always been doing these underground gigs for art school crowds as well. We just go and we hang around and chill. Then when we get up, first of all its a visual thing for them, a novelty. Two guys with turbans on the decks. Then the novelty wears off, because we MC and hype it up proper. The crowd love it, they're more up for a bhangra than asians.
Pops: Promoters are now asking how the gigs are going in Glasgow... talking about sending coaches up from Newcastle and Birmingham to Glasgow. They reckon Glasgow is where its at now, friendly city and all that.

Have you ever thought you're being discriminated against?

Rajah: People think we're TP's (Typical Pakistanis)... I walked into a shop today. This guy comes up to me and goes;
'Have you got this magazine in stock?'

I tell him I don't work there and he's begging me;
'I'm sorry, please forgive me.'

Every club man, you go to a club with two other apnay and you have to split up to get in. There was that case with the people at Archaos. The only places that let people like us in are the experimental nights, the no dress code night, places like the Arches.
Pops: We don't go out clubbing, yaar. It gets boring unless its quality.
Rajah: For guys with cut hair and that, brand new, you might get into a club or whatever. If you've got a pagh (turban) you are screwed if you try and get into a club. I can't get into these clubs. Once I was coming out after doing a gig, I was on Sauchiehall Street. This guy was walking past, started giving me verbal abuse... slapped him about a bit.

Do you think there's bigger problems in the Asian community?

Rajah: Look at it this way... you take the average 21 year old Asian male. All he is seriously concerned with is his mobile, his car, his clothes and how many women he can pull. He doesn't care about anything else... there's a lot of girls that don't take their education that seriously. They don't take socialising seriously either. They don't wanna sit with a bunch of Asian guys. Why? Because Asian guys are too sleazy. They just hang around a bunch of girls and try to pull at least someone. No-one thinks lets have a one-to-one conversation on a particular level, about an issue. It is not a language barrier, it is just an attitude that too many people are born with. I'm not one to talk; I did all that before, I did optics for a year and then engineering for a while. I stood back and thought, what the f*** am I doing here? I made a change and took a step back. I'm doing a HND in music technology. I wanna wake up and go to those classes.

People need to think about who they are?

Rajah: Down south, there's a big divide, its like Sikhs and Muslims. Its not like that up here, its more about your area... the whole idiot mentality to be something that you're not... everyone wants to be Tupac or Biggie Smalls. People need to think about who they are not, to be someone else. There is no point being Tupac and in debt because you wanna drive a BMW. Are you seriously gonna benefit? Its not what you look like. When you are dead... when you burn and become the ashes that are put in the river. It will all be about what you have done and not what you look like. Does anyone know what the prophet looked like? Even the Gurus, they're just artists impressions... Why do apnay wanna be Tupac Shakur? Think about it, because of the gold chains, the big cars, the flash suits. I respect him for his music and only for his music. It is what is achieved that matters. You have to find what you believe. What you truly want to achieve... If you look good while you're doing it that is a side effect, that is not your main objective.
Pops: We haven't even got a car.
Rajah: You think after puttin out this tape we would have some cash? I catch a bus to college every morning. Your Tupac and Biggie Smalls are dead, shot up in some car park. No regrets... I could gel my beard, wear designer clothes, all of that... but I get more out of making a tune in my studio space than I ever got out of all that.

What was the story behind 'Warcries'?

Rajah: We had a lot of criticism from the community over that track. A lot of people said we were disrespectful. They don't see the message we were putting across. This person gave his life. In 1984, when the Indian army attacked the Golden Temple, he and his followers gave their lives in protection of the holy place. The best way we could pay tribute to them was that track. We put out a track that everyone heard, no matter who they were and what they did. If this was on a totally religious tape no-one would have noticed. I had to explain that to BOSS (British Organisation of Sikh Students). In the song he says that this is the time to grow strong and come together. We put it in that style and that context to reach more people. To spread the message. Come together. Our contribution to establish human rights in Punjab. We got that played on Radio One. People say that this track was a PR stunt. We are not in this for the money. In fact, we are under on this project... the record label were not happy with that track.

If you're not in this for the money, why don't you just go mp3? Publish free music on the net, you probably make enough money from gigs.

Pops: You've gottta have a way of funding yourself. You gotta pay for the equipment. You gotta pay for the studio time. You gotta pay for all the work that you put into the music.
Rajah: When we went down to Kismet Records to make our tape we didn't ask for any money. When they sell your tape they're gonna make most of the money.
Pops: When you've dropped out of uni. You've got all the s**t from your maa pae, from your community... You want the money. You have to make all the money that you can.
Rajah: You have to get a lot of gigs all the time. They're just beginning to pick up on us down south now. The only reason they want us is because of our tape. We've lost a lot of money to get that recognition... we've got a career made. We're going out there and doing something, not getting dragged into all the other rubbish... standing on street corners getting into trouble, or driving about posing in BMWs! That is the community, they will diss you if you do something different. You have to prove to them that you can do something and make it work.

Does that mean Tigerstyle will make a break for the mainstream?

Rajah: We're gonna make our own mainstream.
Pops: You talkin' about Top of The Pops? F*** Top of the Pops, we're gonna make our own Top of The Pops. Bally Sagoo was on Top of The Pops, he was on the National Lottery. He got dropped by Sony and started up his own label, Ishq. People watch Asian Flava, Network East. White people walk into my dad's shop and say they watched Network East... If you get Top of the Pops, brand new, but you want to hit your niche; marketed, high profile Asian programmes. We don't need the mainstream to sell our tapes. We sell them ourselves. Make money for ourselves and our apne businesses. Then when it comes to the point when the mainstream is begging for your music. When you make the money. Then you think about it.
Rajah: I want my own record label with my own studio of artists. Look at Bally Sagoo, he started off doing little remixes, then went on to make big hit albums, to producing Bollywood soundtracks. We used to joke about recording an album. We used to joke about getting to number one. Then, when we truly thought we couldn't do this, when we had put all we had into to it. That is when it started to come together... the world is an amazing place. Now we got people askin' how to set up productions, other people asking us to work with them. This guy called Phil Ferns and a man, Gordon Gaudy. They had this idea of putting together Asian music, Celtic music and dance music. Coming out with a completely new sound.You look at Celtic music, it started off very folk orientated... just like bhangra started with a man on a street corner in the Punjab, singing a song and flexin' the dholki. We just finished work on a track for them, Jengaheads are doing the other mix. They're setting up an independent label and the track's called 'Universal'. Its gonna be out in about a month, its a wicked sound.


03.05.01. Front Page

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1Indian musical instruments: Tabla=Drums, Bajja=Wind Instrument.2Bhangraheadz July '99

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