Exclusive Interview with lyricist Amarjit Dhami
We recently caught up with UK born lyricist Amarjit Dhami to talk about his start in the industry alongside his recent success as a writer on Ashok Prince’s and Gurj Sidhu’s respective debut albums. Check out a small excerpt from that interview below. The full interview is coming soon:
What songs did you write on Sentimental Value and were any songs changed at all in the final release?
Talk us through the song writing process on Sentimental Value – Did you work alongside Gurj Sidhu on the lyrics or did you hand him a list of completed lyrics that you had worked on prior?
For Gurj Sidhu’s debut album ‘Sentimental Value’, I had the pleasure of writing three tracks that made the final cut. These tracks were namely ‘Hounsla’ with music produced by the legendary music director Atul Sharma (credited for the careers of the maestro Surjit Bindrakhia & Harjit Harman) and ‘Patta Lagg Ju’ / ‘Village Madness’ with music provided by the deadly duo Kaos Productions.
This is a great set of questions as a number of subtle things were changed with the tracks and my involvement as a lyricist in this album in general was quite an interesting journey. Myself and Gurj were initially introduced a number of years ago by my Ustaad (teacher/mentor), elder brother and the greatest Panjabi Folk/Bhangra & Hip-Hop producer in the scene – Tru-Skool. I instantly became a fan of Gurj’s voice when I heard it as it was so raw and powerful. I remember Tru-Skool and Gurj were looking for lyrics for the track that is now ‘Putt Sardaran De’. I actually wrote the initial song for that beat however we felt that vibe had become outdated so that track got shelved however this started the process for myself and Gurj to being discussing ideas for other tracks. ‘Patta Lagg Ju’ was something I had started whilst trying to write a completely different track and it came about almost by accident. I showed what I had written to Gurj with the original composition I had in mind and he LOVED it and said he wanted it – no question. When it was progressed into the studio, Gurj and Kaos Productions decided to change the composition to give it a completely different feel to what I had envisioned to add variety and a different style to the album. It worked really well and had a great response although I still love the original melody. When I showed the original melody to Gurj a few days ago on the phone, he started laughing as he liked it too! The lyrics were unchanged from what I initially wrote however the vocal composition was completely changed.
‘Village Madness’ – I was at a Jago party for a close family member and remember being painstakingly bored at the repetitive and monotonous Jago songs on repeat for what seemed like an eternity! I had the idea of flipping the composition and style of the Jago to make it not as cheesy and CRAP! When I showed it to Gurj he was adamant that he wanted the track, no matter what and he sang a clip and send it me showing what he would do with it as soon as I showed him the song. He sounded ferocious! The vocal composition you hear when the tracks gets to the middle is what I had originally conceived when I wrote the track; Gurj and Kaos actually kept that however added the changes to the composition at the beginning of the track so that the track could have variety and a non repetitive flavour. For the record, if it is not evident already, we absolutely HATE Jago songs however this was something in terms of composition and vocal/musical style that we actually wanted to hear so it was added to the album.
‘Hounsla’ was a track that LITERALLY was born out of nowhere. Gurj called me and said we needed a track to give to Atul Sharma for Uncle to produce. This was an honour in itself just being presented with the opportunity to maybe have something produced by the man himself! Gurj and myself discussed various ideas and he showed me a song that he felt would sound good with Atul Sharma’s music however I felt the lyrics were outdated and expressed this to Gurj. At that point, Gurj challenged me and said “you write something then!” Within 15 minutes I had started and completed ‘Hounsla’ and Gurj loved it. The composition for this song was kept exactly as Gurj had created it however for the chorus where it says ‘Hounsla’ and repeats, this change was added when Gurj recorded with Atul Sharma in Panjab. If you listen right before the end of the song “Tainu Leh Joongah Biah Ke Billo Raaniyeh” – this is what I had initially written for the chorus however it was changed as mentioned above. Also the last cross line (before the chorus) was changed when the vocal was recorded. There were a few little changes as detailed above which enhanced the tracks and injected further vitality into the end product.
You featured as a writer on Ashok Prince’s album One Time 4 Ya Mind and now for Gurj Sidhu’s Sentimental Value. Tell us how that experience feels to be featured alongside some of the industry’s great music producers and established writers.
I can’t express in words how blessed I feel for the opportunity to have written for these projects – this is like a dream come true! If I’m honest, a dream I didn’t even dare to have! This is ALL down to Tru-Skool who encouraged, pushed, supported, mentored and guided me into becoming a lyricist. If it was not for that man, I would never have tracks featured on these albums, word! Shoutout to the illest Panjabi Folk/Hip-Hip/Bhangra Producer to ever do it – TRU-SKOOL.
Featuring on ‘One Time 4 Ya Mind’ was a crazy experience for me because I was there from the very start when the first phone call was made to Ashok Prince right down to when recording began on the single ‘Lehnga’ and when it was decided that a full album will be created – I never EVER thought tracks I would eventually write would feature on the album! I was there every step of the way during long, exhausting and draining studio sessions when Tru-Skool was creating the beats you hear today – I loved every minute of that experience. It was gold. I remember when making the songs and listening back to them; when in the tracks it would say ‘Dhami Amarjit’ at the end when the track signs out; Tru-Skool would look at me, nod and smile – that was very humbling! Being around Tru-Skool and learning formally (as well as just by being around him), I have been presented with opportunities I never knew existed and have personal relationships with international singers, producers and lyricists – to then be featured on those beats that I’ve loved since 2004? Surreal! I can’t put into words what I feel
What was the very first professional song you wrote? – Do you have a collection of lyrics stored away or is it a case of whenever you feel inspired to write?
The very first track I EVER wrote that was then used professionally was ‘Meih Keya Nach Nach’ from One Time 4 Ya Mind. I remember exactly how that track came about as THAT track commenced the process of making me into a Writer. Myself and Tru-Skool were in the studio a few years ago and he turned around and said, “Dhami you’ve got phat Panjabi and you make good funny versions of real songs (this is an “art” myself and our circle of friends enjoy haha) – why don’t you write a proper track?” I thought he was having a joke at my expense. He was deadly serious and said, “Go on – I guarantee you can do it.” I just came up with the hook line whilst we were speaking and he said “That’s sick! Now write the rest of the song!” This was over five years ago and since then I have written a number of tracks (both released and unreleased) and it all literally stemmed from that conversation!
I have a collection of lyrics that I have built up as I write when I feel like it and store them away however I also do note ideas down or write down when I envision a good subject matter/chorus that appears in my mind. The tracks you’ve heard from me so far are about five years old and I have many other tracks written. I have also had singers like Gurj come to me with a chorus and idea and then brought that to life to fit with the vibe they want! Sometimes, you can complete a whole song in minutes and other times – you can be stuck on one verse for weeks! I just write whatever I think sounds good and is to what I feel is a high standard! It’s truly humbling when you receive messages not only from the UK, Australia, Canada, etc but also PANJAB – as Panjab is essentially the mainstream and core market of Panjabi music!
You are one of the more upcoming popular UK-born writers the industry has seen in a while. Do you feel a certain amount of pressure to continue the culture and heritage of the Punjabi language in the UK?
I don’t feel pressure writing tracks for the market but I DO feel pressure writing tracks for and because of Tru-Skool; hands down he is my harshest critic! Tru-Skool is a perfectionist and musically insane so he expects and wants the same from his team – to be the best! In terms of feeling pressure to continue the culture/Panjabi language in the UK; I don’t feel that I have that burden to carry alone but I feel proud when people from my generation and the younger feel a sense of pride in being Panjabi and embrace their culture. I would say every Panjabi living abroad (whether born in the West or a migrant like my parents) shoulders the responsibility to continue our language and heritage because if our roots dry up, so will the rest of us. Our culture, heritage, traditions, history, faith all ground is and make us colourful and dynamic beings. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Tru-Skool for everything! Also Kaos Productions, Ashok Prince & Gurj Sidhu for the opportunity to be part of their respective projects!
I would also like to thank those established as well as upcoming artists who have approached me since One Time 4 Ya Mind for reaching out – respect. A massive thank you to EVERY single person who took the time out to message, tweet, comment and call regarding my songs – this is greatly appreciated. Thanks to Bhangra Central for always supporting and showing love. Above all, thanks to Vaheguru (the Supreme creator) who has blessed me with more than I deserve. Peace, Dhami Amarjit
Full interview coming soon to BhangraCentral.com – Stay Tuned!