When I tell individuals that I teach Panjabi to children and write children’s Panjabi books, there are normally two reactions I receive. The first being “that’s great, where are your classes held and where can I buy your books?” and the second is an animated rendition of the tumbi from Panjabi MC’s Mundeya toh bachkeh rahi (Beware of the Boys). Panjabi MC has taken bhangra/Panjabi music to an international audience and I am honoured to have interviewed him this week.
Firstly, how did you get your name Panjabi MC?
In the early days I did a lot more rapping and MCing, and as I was the only one doing so at that time of Indian origin I got the name Indian MC. When on stage, I would spit the odd word of Panjabi, and my audience would say that’s so cool that you speak ‘Indian’, automatically assuming it was Hindi. I would correct them, and eventually over time everyone would say he’s speaking Panjabi and the name Panjabi MC was created.
What got you into music?
I knew I never wanted an office based or labouring type job and had always loved music. Whether it was the engineering side or the producing side, I just knew it was the industry I wanted to be in. It was never about the money or the fame and it all simply started off as a hobby.
A lot of your early work is made up of Panjabi folk music, why did you choose those songs?
Back in the day I used to rap over vinyls/instrumentals. They were always over English beats as there were no Panjabi ones around. One day, I bought a sampler and thought why not loop it up with an Indian sample as it would be something different. I raided my parents' vinyl collection, which was full of the likes of Kuldip Manak and Shinda. The public loved the blend and it was then that an Indian music label approached me to remix their catalogue of music. However, they wanted me to drop the rapping. This is when I truly got into the desi stuff and eventually went to India to record with legends, Manak and Shinda.
Do you play any instruments and which are your favourite?
I play the keyboard and tumbi. The tumbi and dhol are the sounds that I have always loved. Computer music becomes very mechanical whereas these traditional instruments produce amazing sounds. The harmonium is also another favourite.
Do you think it’s important for children to learn Panjabi?
Yes, I do. I’ve noticed that a lot of adults who can’t speak Panjabi wish they had learnt it when they were younger.
Finally, this week the children are creating their own playlists for a road trip on G.T. Road. What would be your top 5 tracks for a road trip?
Safri – Putt Sardaran De
Heera – Marr Charapa
Kuldip Manak – Yaaran Da Truck (G.T. Road)
Shinda – Putt Jattan De
Gurdas Mann – Sajana
Follow Panjabi MC on social media - @panjabimc1