This is a series where we look at some of the most iconic Bhangra albums released in the UK and we ask Bhangra artists who grew up listening to those albums, their thoughts, and to share their memories upon first listening to the albums. This edition features the unforgettable album by Jassi Sidhu, Bally Jagpal and Bhota Jagpal (B21) titled By Public Demand. For this edition we captured the views from GV, Rajeev B, and Shaan & Verinder.
Having released their debut album just 2 years prior called The Sounds of B21, the trio were fresh into the market and were quickly growing as the Bhangra industry’s next big thing. The album featured 6 tracks and featured some iconic tracks such as, Putt Sardaran De, Deor Da Viah, Chandigarh and Din Raat. The album was released in 1998 at a time where Bhangra bands were in full flow.
The album fittingly titled ‘By Public Demand’ was instantly different to anything out in the market at that time. Having turned some heads around and gained a niche following with their debut album; By Public Demand was something that really needed to shine and cement them in the industry; and oh it did that and then some. The first track titled ‘Chandigarh’ had that famous introduction with Bally Jagpal as we begin to hear the iconic B21 ‘Woop Woop’ sound. Chandigarh was a track that was ahead of its time; the production and vocals were on point. There were a few other versions by other artist’s but nothing would come close to this particular version.
Deor Da Viah was up next and this was as you would expect by the title, a wedding track. Jassi Sidhu delivers a great performance alongside funky production and that distinct Bhota Jagpal Dhol beat. It was a classic Bhota Jagpal produced track and Jassi delivered on the vocals as usual.
The next track featured a sample of the Bee Gees’ track ‘Stayin Alive'; leave it to B21 to be able to successfully integrate a Bee Gees sample with Punjabi vocals. Overall the dynamic production and crisp vocals made this cover a great listen. The track was originally done by Narinder Biba titled Chitiyan Kippa Dia.
Khote Te switches things up and was a mellow track, with subtle production; it had more of an atmospheric sound. Din Raat flipped the switch again and had a garage vibe going on. Filled with a few samples, this cover again hit the mark thanks to Jassi’s incredible vocal ability and range. At a time where garage was not heavily popular within Punjabi music; this was a refreshing thing to hear in a Bhangra album. The album was noticeably different to the other albums at that time; which had more of a traditional vibe to it.
I can confidently say that B21 saved the best to last with ‘Putt Sardaran De’. As far as intros go, that was clearly the best from that album. Jassi sings a few lines as we hear the Dhol intro leading into a hard hitting beat coupled with a cool sounding and distinctive Tumbi piece. There was a nice use of the Red Rat – Cruise sample on the track as well. The lyrics were different and unique from the majority of tracks out at that time; written by Dev Raj Jassal. They were easy to understand, follow and sing along to. The mid track sample was a nice touch and my favourite part. The album although short left you satisfied at the end. It had a great mix of dancing tracks; slow and chilled out tracks as well as some garage thrown in there as well.
Two key things were surprising when the album first released. 1 that it only had 6 tracks and 2, that it did not have any accompanying music videos to go with the album. Some will say that an album needs to have more than 5/6 tracks, however when the quality is that good; having that many tracks doesn’t really matter. B21 would go on to release two more albums / EPs however they fell slightly short as a complete package compared to By Public Demand.
When did you first hear the album?
GV: Walking home from school, listening to the tape on my Walkman.
Rajeev B: My older brother bought the album and was playing it at home, I remember hearing the tracks and being hooked!
Shaan & Verinder: Memories of going down to Southall to visit family as a youngster always involved going down to Southall Broadway and buying the latest bhangra tapes/CD’s. Hearing this album being blasted from the shops is a memory that is embedded in my head. Songs like Deor Da Viyah and Putt Sardaran Da were always played at weddings around that time. Actually I’m quite sure Putt Sardaran De still gets played today! Shows the longevity of B21’s music.
What was your favourite track from the album and why?
GV: Putt Sardaran Da, because of the production and brilliant song writing by the late great Dev Raj Jassal Ji. The lyrics and melody are incredibly catchy, and production very edgy for the time. I love how they didn’t really use a bass line, but used other sounds to compensate. I also like the change-ups. Bally Jagpal’s ideas were ahead of the time, and Bhota Jagpal executed them amazingly.
Rajeev B: My favourite track was Putt Sardaran Da, the lyrics were very catchy and it had a energetic desi beat that made people want to dance! The track instantly worked on all dancefloors.
Shaan & Verinder: Chandigarh – it’s a quintessential B21 track, you can’t hear that track and not want to move your shoulders and dance (and shout out Woop Woop). Jassi Sidhu has a very unique voice and you know when its him singing, it gave B21 a signature sound which was different to everybody else. Also in a time where singles were obsolete, you would have to wait and anticipate for an album to come out to hear any music from B21, having 6 tracks on an album made listeners value the music a whole lot more, definitely a case of quality>quantity. B21 were truly ahead of their time and hearing Chandigarh and the rest of the album today, it still sounds fresh and unique.
Being percussionists this (Putt Sardaran De) was the number one track to practice to/play out, The dhol on this track is energetic and powerful, I remember playing the dhol to this track at a school assembly (Shaan), the intro was something which stood out at the time and had that wow factor!
Garage was not that big in punjabi music; what did you think of the garage influenced track Din Raat?
GV: I thought it sounded different, I liked it. I personally didn’t like garage music as a movement, but thought B21 were one of the few acts that could pull it off in a cool way. I wasn’t aware that ‘Din Raat’ was a cover version, although there were several cover versions on this album, including Chandigarh – originally recorded by Intermix.
Rajeev B: Din Raat was massive in the beginning of the Bhangra-Garage era! Using the popular beat from Tina Moore – Never Gonna Let You Go. The fusion of two cultures worked perfectly.
Shaan & Verinder: Garage bhangra is something that doesn’t really appeal to us. It had a massive following and so many tracks of that style were coming out after Din Raat, our preference naturally swayed towards the UK Bhangra Dance style tracks (Or slow jams in Verinder’s case). Nowadays it’s quite the opposite as we listen to quite a wide variety of different music, but not Garage Bhangra.
How much of an impact has this particular album had on your professional career?
GV: A lot. I was heavily inspired by every B21 release. ‘By Public Demand’ was a great album, B21 raised the bar with this one. The production was unique, youthful and vocals by Jassi Sidhu stood out from the norm. B21 were phenomenal!
Rajeev B: Not sure about impact but I’m grateful to be around when it was released as it was definitely a game changer!
Shaan & Verinder: This album amongst many others definitely had a big impact on us. Bhota Jagpal is one of the best UK Punjabi Music producers; anything with his touch on there is going to grab our attention, especially with him being the man behind The Safri Boys. He is one of the few senior producers who helped form and shape the UK Bhangra scene as we see it today. Add that to one of the best Punjabi vocalist’s to emerge from the UK- Jassi Sidhu – with the creative mind of Bally Jagpal, B21 were destined for greatness. It’s a team effort and the music quality and longevity of their music definitely shows it.
Do you still listen to this album today?
GV: Occasionally, when listening back to various 90’s classics. When I listen back to it, I just think it still sounds so well produced, programmed, and mixed. Back then they wouldn’t have had the production tools that are available today, it just shows how good B21 really were.
Rajeev B: Put it this way, when I’m doing an event I am guaranteed to play at least 3 tracks off that album, it’s timeless! It was amazing then and it’s still amazing now – an album that has stood the test of time, that every Asian person knows and every person will dance/sing along to!
Shaan & Verinder: Back then ‘Khote Te’ wasn’t a track which appealed to us much – Chandigarh, Deor Da Viyah and Putt Sardaran De on the other hand were massive, I had my fix of UK Bhangra just from those three tracks on the album. Listening back now however I do enjoy Khote Te. It is originally sung by Surinder Kaur (Chan Kithe Guzari Ayee) and it’s a great cover (I have actually got this on repeat at the moment); you can really appreciate the vocal ability of a young Jassi Sidhu… It’s not an easy song to sing either!
Let us know what your thoughts were when you first heard ‘By Public Demand’ in the comments below. Stay tuned for the next instalment which features the album Word Is Born by The Specialist & Tru Skool.