Glasgow, Scotland's Punjabi production team (yes, read that one again) Tigerstyle are coming to America at the end of the month to play some rare club dates. They'll be rocking their signature bhangra-meets-damn-near-everything remixes and originals at Tabella in Seattle (March 30th), the Fez Ballroom in Portland (March 31st) and NYC's Knitting Factory (April 5th), so don't miss out. Take a listen to one of their most recent joints, a jumpy take on MIA's "XR2," and read Eddie Stats's Beat Construction piece on the duo from FADER 36 after the jump.
Mind The Gaps
Tigerstyle’s Everyman Glaswegian Bhangra
By Edwin “Stats” Houghton
“This echo thing’s pessin me off. I can’t speak like, fluently,” says Pops, one half of Glaswegian bhangra crew Tigerstyle. Besides the echo on the line he is periodically interrupted by female-robot voices narrating the demise of my 500-Rupee fonecard (“Ap Ke Card Ki Limit Hai: 446. Rupees. 2. Paise.”), but he keeps talking anyway in disjointed snatches of Scottish hood-speak. Pops is sitting in the afternoon sunlight of a Birmingham hotel room while on my end, night falls on smoggy, tropical, conniving-ass Delhi, where bomb blasts throw the city into silent panic on the TV screen behind me.
Our conversation is split between talking beats and navigating the gaps between these night and day worlds, but the two streams of conversation are really one. Punjabis born and raised in Scotland, trained in both folk and classical North Indian styles on the thumbi, harmonium and tabla, brothers Raj and Pops by definition negotiate these kinds of gaps in their music. “I don’t think bein in Scotland affects our sound. The influences we have all come from overseas,” says Pops. “Scotland is home, but we’re travelin’ so much that it kinda becomes irrelevant where you are. We’ve been workin with artists based in India, we’ve been working with Bikram Singh [from New York] for the last couple of years, a crew from Toronto called Asian Empire, we’re working with Gunjan, a female singer from North Carolina, and we just finished a collaboration with London drum & bass MC, UK Apache.”
Tigerstyle’s early DJ experiments mixing bhangra with dancehall and hip-hop lead to tracks like “Nachna”, and although their full-length The Rising for the UK’s Kismet Records brought fame in the bhangra circuit, they split ways with the label over money. After some legal hurdles they began “tryin to get a name back” with on-spec remixes and an active program of bootlegs. “Over the last three years we’ve had a body of work which was all totally illegal, apart from one or two remixes here and there.”
These white labels have actually brought more enduring fame than sanctioned remixes for profile artists like 50 Cent and So Solid Crew’s Lisa Mafia. Tigerstyle’s interpolations of bashment rhythms got so many spins on UK Desi radio that reggae label Greensleeves started supplying them with their newest tunes directly, leading to remixes of Macka Diamond (“Mi Nuh Dun”) and Elephant Man (“Girl From Pakistan”). And their refixes of reggaeton tracks like “Rakata” and “El Tiburon”—where filthy minor-keyed oriental melodies lie flawlessly over crushing reggaeton drums—have even prompted inquiries from Daddy Yankee and his El Cartel crew.
In line with this kind of legal piracy, the vocalists lining up to complete Tigerstyle’s new album for Natural Records are mainly weird niche-to-niche jumps that bypass the mainstream altogether. These overlapping territories mapped within a single Tigerstyle song demonstrate that bhangra is a movement unto itself; folk music for folk that live in the gaps.