"our Bhangra industry has been changing for the past few years"
Dhol maestro and musician Gurcharan Mall has been on the Bhangra music and dance scene for many decades, which proves his sustainability and love for what he does.
From holding Guinness world record-breaking events to being a founder member of the popular Bhangra band Apna Sangeet to being an awarded a BEM, Gurcharan has gone the extra mile to help promote the sounds of Bhangra music, every which way he can.
Gurcharan Mall is very proud to be part of the UK Bhangra music industry which took decades to establish, starting out in the late 70s and early 80s.
He has performed nationally and internationally at many high profile shows including LIVE-8 alongside UB-40, for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the Commonwealth Games, Artsfest and numerous melas.
Being the founder of Dhol Blasters, a band of dhol players and musicians who perform at Desi weddings and major functions, which started out in 1986, Gurcharan has continued to encourage a constant stream of new Bhangra musicians by teaching and nurturing new talent.
He also founded the Bhangra dance groups Nachdey Hasdey and Nachda Sansaar, and music bands Bhangra Blasters and Band Baja, while helping rapper Hard Kaur in her early days in the UK.
His enthusiastic, loud and charismatic character has established him as a popular personality within the Bhangra industry in the UK.
With the coronavirus pandemic impacting him as well as the Bhangra music industry, Gurcharan Mall exclusively revealed his experience and thoughts during the lockdown.
How has coronavirus affected you and your family?
The coronavirus affected me badly in a few ways.
All my school classes and my private evening classes have been cancelled due to the government guidelines and social distancing rules.
As for my dhol band, the Dhol Blasters, all our wedding bookings have been cancelled as well.
All of this has impacted me greatly in terms of not doing what I love most and financially as well.
I do not know when things are going to get back to a time when weddings and shows will start happening again, so until then, everything is halted.
With regards to my family, because of the lockdown, it has allowed us to spend more time with one another.
This has allowed us to appreciate and understand each other better. It’s increased the values of parenting and allowed the children to develop a stronger bond.
Has the Bhangra music industry been affected?
In some ways, it has done us all some good because some artists are phoning each other to find out if they are okay, which has never happened before.
Everyone in lockdown is feeling pretty much the same. Those who are live performers and DJs have all been impacted by the virus with the industry coming to a halt and loss of bookings.
As for musicians and producers, many of them are still working from home as they have been before the coronavirus. So, they most likely are continuing to work on new songs and albums.
However, I am very sorry to say that even before the pandemic and looking forward, our Bhangra industry has been changing for the past few years not in a good way but in a bad way.
The Bhangra industry has changed with more artists becoming very selfish and backstabbing other artists to get bookings.
I can remember in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even up to 20s, artists from other bands had so much love for each other.
There was such a strong comradery and respect for one another and also for other bands. Everyone worked very hard to build up the Bhangra music industry with bands showing a very united front.
Of course, there was competition among the artists in the Bhangra industry and everyone wanted to produce the next big hit, or perform live amazingly. But it was for the cause, for the music of Bhangra in the UK, not an individual thing.
But now, unfortunately, I have to say that it’s all fake and nothing from the heart.
But yet, we the UK Bhangra industry were the trendsetters, we created a global sound which from Bhangra dancing also became a music genre for even Punjabi artists in India to copy us.
Sadly, all of that hard work, effort and contribution to the Bhangra industry in the UK has disappeared now. The Bhangra music scene is no longer the same. It is fragmented.
And, instead, we are now trying to copy what Punjabi artists in India are producing as their music.
Songs are coming and going, whereas, before, and even today, many of the songs made by UK Bhangra bands, artists and respected producers are still popular at weddings, online and on the radio.
Before, singers, music directors and bands used to worked together on songs with lyricists to make unforgettable hits.
I hope that this lockdown will make our UK Bhangra music community reflect on what has been lost and maybe, allow for us to once again have a strong Bhangra music culture in the UK.
Do you feel Desi people have abided the lockdown rules?
Yes, the majority of our Desi people have abided by the lockdown rules and guideline But unfortunately, some haven’t.
There are many elderly people who are on their own, so it has been hard for them to understand fully what the lockdown is or why it is in place. Getting food and groceries has been a tough for many people without transport.
This is not only our Desi community, I think it’s every community who have found it hard to accept the lockdown. You will always find that with anything which is a rule or constraint, there are those who will still flout it or cannot understand it fully due to being from a different background.
Many Desi families have many generations of people in the same homes, so it is a challenge to do self-isolation and social distancing.
It is all about patience and accepting that things for every community are not going to be the same as before.
We will all need to learn from each other to survive and support our communities. Especially, looking after the elderly and vulnerable in Desi communities.
What would you say to your fans during this time?
To all my friends and fans around the world – Please be careful be safe stay at home because we need to all work together to ensure make this virus go away.
Yes, it is hard for all of us having to not be allowed to do the things we do – going out, meeting people, seeing relatives, working and so on.
With this deadly coronavirus still taking lives, it is best to be safe rather than sorry.
So, I hope all of you keep safe and abide by the government rules and see you in the near future.
Gurcharan Mall has entertained audiences for decades with his dhol, bands and events. There is no doubt the lockdown is holding him back from doing what he enjoys most and supporting the Bhangra industry by encouraging oneness within it.
We hope to see King Mall and his Dhol Blasters back on the circuit soon, being part of the new norm that all of us will have have to get used to.