"It's so rich, it's so colourful, it's full of happiness."
Dhol King Gurcharan Mall aka King G Mall has stamped his authority on the music scene yet again by achieving another world record.
The dhol maestro entered the World Book of Records in June 2021 for ‘producing the biggest number of national and international collaboration songs.’
As an artist, producer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, the entertainer has worked with a vast range of artists, both Desi and non-Desi.
Bhangra singers like the late Dev Raj Jassal, Punjabi singers such as Ravinder Ramta and even Reggae artist Yaz Alexander have been graced with Gurcharan’s vibrancy.
Known as the ‘King of Dhol‘, achieving this incredible record with 34 songs reiterates how illustrious Gurcharan’s career is.
In fact, he has already achieved four previous world records, which illustrates the type of catalyst the artist is for Bhangra music.
As one of the founding members and dhol player in the historical Bhangra band, Apna Sangeet, Gurcharan Mall has been showcasing his artistry from an early age.
He has been promoting Bhangra and Punjabi culture around the world for over fifty years.
From creating numerous successful dhol groups to performing in front of dignitaries like the Queen, Gurcharan has done it all.
However, the undying love for his Punjabi culture has provided the motivation to continue.
His ambition to spread the beauty and culture of his Bhangra and Punjabi roots has been pioneering.
Allowing his bubbly, colourful, energetic, and nurturing personality to penetrate his musicality has been a recipe for success and triumph.
Gurcharan Mall spoke exclusively to DESIblitz about the 2021 world record, his passion for music and his fascinating career so far.
World Record 2021 and Multiple Record Holder
The 2021 world record for Gurcharan Mall is just another addition to the astonishing four he already has achieved.
From 1990-2020, the World Book of Records awarded King G Mall the certificate for ‘producing the biggest number of national and international collaboration songs.’
This joins Gurcharan’s catalogue of records which also include:
- ‘Dhol Record from 315 to 632 Dholis’ – May 2, 2009 – Guinness World Records.
- ‘Bhangra Record – 4,411 dancers in Punjab’ – November 1, 2018 – Guinness World Records.
- ‘Introducing and Making the Dhol Popular’ – March 2, 2020 – World Book of Records.
- ‘First Oldest and Biggest Male/Female Dhol team’ – September 28, 2020 – World Book of Records.
Although, it is the latter two records that have a special place in Gurcharan’s heart:
“Some records can be beaten but there are two records that nobody can take away from me.
“Introducing and Making the Dhol Popular’ and ‘First Oldest and Biggest Male/Female Dhol team’.
“Nobody can say they introduced it if I’ve already got it in the book. Or they could say ‘I made the dhol popular’, but people can say ‘hold on, Gurcharan already achieved it.’
“The reason I did this is I’m not going to be here forever…however, at least, I achieved these goals.”
Talking about his 2021 world record and the importance of his collaborative projects, Gurcharan states:
“I feel very strongly, if I belong to a culture that is so rich then the rest of the world needs to know this.”
This explains some of his joint ventures such as ‘Aao Ji’ which not only had four non-Asian artists but was also the first Bhangra video to be shot in three different countries – England, Denmark and Finland:
“The biggest collaboration was ‘Aao Ji‘. I used a lady from Denmark, a young man from Finland, another young man from West Indies, and another lady from Jamaica.
“They all learned the Punjabi language and all sang ‘Aao Ji Jee Aayan Nu’.”
This intoxicating presence that G Mall possesses is truly fascinating for music fans.
Delivering the same vibrant energy and exhilarating lyrics, the world records are another tool to show his devotion towards Bhangra and Desi culture:
“Everywhere I go, I wear my Bhangra costume. Whether it’s a Punjabi booking, Gujrati booking, Pakistani booking, doesn’t matter where I go, I always wear my Bhangra costume.
“The reason I do that is that a lot of non-Asian people ask me ‘what’s the waistcoat called?’ or ‘what are you wearing around your legs?’.
“By doing that, I’m explaining to them what each item means and what they’re called.
“I feel so happy and so honoured that God has given me this gift that I’m passing it on to a lot of non-Asian artists and people.”
With every hit of his dhol, Gurcharan’s pioneering influence on the Bhangra scene is everlasting.
His world records are done with his art in mind, not for personal gain.
For Punjabi, Bhangra and Indian culture to be eternally remembered in the record books is one of his greatest milestones.
With an abundance of spectacular accolades, it is worth diving into what made Gurcharan Mall a history maker.
Although Gurcharan proudly represents his Birmingham, UK, residency, he was exposed to the flavour of Bhangra music in his childhood city of Ludhiana, India.
Known as the ‘heart of Punjab’, G Mall reminisces about how the lively area was filled with Bhangra blasting and people singing.:
“That’s where all the Bhangra scene was. Ludhiana was like the birthplace of Bhangra music.”
The passion for music was felt by the whole community. As soon as Gurcharan noticed this, he began taking an interest in sounds, melody and instruments.
However, in 1963 when the artist was just 11-years-old, he, his younger brother and his mother moved to Birmingham to join G Mall’s father.
This sudden transition from a rural area to a bustling western city allowed G Mall’s embracing nature to really shine:
“Everything started in Birmingham. I started playing dholki in a gurdwara, doing a little bit of sevah and then seeing the world.
“Coming into music, it’s like everybody, you don’t plan these things.”
This religious start within music provided Gurcharan with the cultural values that were needed to remain humble, hardworking and appreciative.
With the aid of his father, who was a preacher at the temple, they formed a small group who performed at the celebration of Guru Ravidass Ji’s Gurpurab in February 1968.
It was there where communities really started noticing how fixated he was with the harmonious tones of South Asia.
His infectious smile, spirited dancing and stage presence already captivated many people, including his parents.
Interestingly, all these unique qualities did not cloud his ambition:
“I thought ‘okay, I wanted to be a different musician’ because musicians never get recognition.”
He continued emphasising being an advocate for change:
“It’s always the singer that gets the credit. I wanted to change that.”
This is where the ingenious nature of the ‘Godfather of Dhol’ really shines.
Knowing the gruelling process that Desi musicians go through, Gurcharan already wanted to innovate the industry to make sure everyone was equal.
This again relates to respecting faith and belief. Though, the motivation behind these thoughts came from unlikely sources:
“I used to see the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and thought ‘why can’t our Punjabi artists be like that?’
“Our artists never used to move on stage, they used to be very stationary.”
It was this keen perception that laid the foundations of his outlandish and eccentric nature:
“I started to move when I was playing the dholki. I used to do summersaults and people thought I was on some type of drugs.
“Once I put the dhol on around my neck and put on my Bhangra costume, Waheguru has blessed me so much that I just go into a different trance.”
With such nonstop activity since a tender age, Gurcharan has always maintained a progressive pace with his career.
The soulfulness and elegancy in his voice fused with daredevil type performances created an insanely unique combination that started to pop up everywhere.
From Student to Teacher
As Gurcharan Mall began to flourish as a dhol player and climb his way to stardom, he fondly remembers a conversation between himself and Harbinder Singh Ghattaora.
Founder of The Great Indian Dancers group in 1966, Harbinder introduced him to a special feeling, which he has since carried and applied to every individual he meets – empathy:
“I had a chance to play with them. We went to a show and he said to me ‘son, wherever you can play the dholki, you play, if you can’t play then not to worry, I will take over.
“That really took my heart. The gentleman could have taken the mickey out of me but no, he understood.”
The interaction still serves as one of the biggest inspirations in his career.
It taught him understanding, patience, togetherness and equality. All qualities, which G Mall started to instil into others.
Bhangra and Singing Groups
At 19-years-old, Gurcharan Mall set up his first singing group called The Nadaans in 1971.
Surrounded by talented artists and singers, the dhol king could continue his training and refine specific traits such as his unique voice and gliding choreography.
At a time when Bhangra music was rapidly rising amongst British Asians, his boisterous nature was in full effect.
Whilst still with The Nadaans, he also joined The Trangha group and The Punjab Group with “whom he toured and performed in many countries.”
With such an influx of talent and culture, G Mall decided to create his own Bhangra dancing team.
However, symbolic of the musician’s belief in others, he formed his first team, Nachdey Sitira (Dancing Stars), with students from Aston University, Birmingham.
Closely followed by his other teams, Nachdey Hasdey (Smiling Dancers) and Nachda Sansaar (Dancing Universe), G Mall was solidifying his position as a Bhangra tycoon.
With such a chaotic schedule, it is an extraordinary accomplishment that Gurcharan and three other members formed one of the most renowned British Bhangra bands, Apna Sangeet.
The bassy rhythm, thundering undertones and excitable melodies that he achieved through the dhol were paramount in the band’s success.
Highlighted by their marvellous hit track ‘Apna Sangeet, G Mall took centre stage as the world feasted its eyes on a new wave of musicality.
He decided to carry this momentum with the creation of the legendary Dhol Blasters, which catapulted Gurcharan into notoriety.
Winning countless competitions, the unparalleled group strived amongst the competition.
Achieving endless awards, including a ‘Gold Disc for Outstanding Sales’ in 2005, ‘Best Dhol Team’ in 2016 and the ‘Appreciation Award’ in 2018 highlights only a fraction of what his incredible group have obtained.
Although, always coming back to his courteous values, Gurcharan states:
“Everybody who plays the dhol, they’re all Dhol Blasters. The title ‘Dhol Blasters’ does not belong to me, it belongs to anybody who’s a dhol player.”
The musical idol then expanded on the impact that the Dhol Blasters had on the world:
“There’s a young kid called Dhol Blaster in London. There was another group in New Dehli and a team in Malaysia called Dhol Blasters.
“They said to me ‘is it okay to use this name?’. I said ‘young man, please use the name Dhol Blasters but on Instagram, use your name, not Gurcharan Mall’.
“They’re doing all the hard work, they must take the credit.”
Again, exemplifying the caring nature of G Mall’s character, the music is not about riches or fame, it’s about sharing and celebrating his deep-rooted Desi culture:
“I was a complete lunatic and mad on stage but in a happy way. Anything I create, I create to promote arts and culture for what we do.”
With such insightful and motivational qualities, it is no surprise how connected Gurcharan is to his craft.
There are no limitations to his vision, which meant the star was inevitably on a course to break numerous world records.
Having laid the foundations for a wide range of Bhangra and Desi artists, in true G Mall fashion, he believes it’s his mission to carry on spreading the richness of Punjabi culture.
Continuing the Journey
When asked how it feels to be held in such high regard by the South Asian and music community, Gurcharan Mall expresses “he is completely over the moon.”
G Mall also mentions the importance of being humble and doing what he always enjoyed:
“I don’t get a big head or anything. I think ‘this is your hard work’. It makes me happy that I’ve done lovely things in my life.”
However, the ‘King of Dhol’ is adamant that the Desi music scene needs improving with some artists using money to try and take shortcuts:
“Unfortunately, some of the artists are taking the mickey out of all the hard work that has been done by the UK bands.
“One thing I really need to stress out, a lot of artists who have got money in their pockets, they’re buying YouTube likes and hits and also comments.
“They are damaging good artists. Some of the good artists have to do something similar to keep in line. This is not needed, just be genuine.”
Whilst the modern aspects of social media and streaming services have hindered the interactivity which Gurchuran prides himself on, he reassures fans that his work is not done.
Teasing a new project called Dosti, the multitalented artist reveals:
“It’s a wonderful concept based on friendship. That type of song that never dies.”
“It’s going to be a collaboration between Asian and non-Asian artists. There’s going to be rapping in the song, English and Punjabi rap, and four other artists.”
Evidently, G Mall’s grand list of achievements has not hindered his hunger as a musician.
Possessing the same ambition as a keen eleven-year-old, he still wishes to showcase the delicacy, style and glow of his Desi background:
“It’s so rich, it’s so colourful, it’s full of happiness. I will keep on promoting our Punjabi roots, our Punjabi culture, till the day I die.
“The roots are so strong, so beautiful. There’s so much good and happiness in our culture. I would not change it or swap it for anything.
“I will keep on promoting and keep on enjoying lifting the dhol and Bhangra music.”
The determination that Gurcharan possesses is unfathomable. G Mall’s strong work ethic personifies the tough Desi roots he comes from and his relationship with music proves he is one of the greats.
Embracing the Beat
With over fifty years of musical experience and an increasing pile of awards, Gurcharan Mall is one of the most recognised musicians in Bhangra and UK music.
His humble nature and fiery performances are contrasting but fans are always left in awe as soon as he takes centre stage.
He is admittedly so invested in his craft that he won’t stop until Bhangra is flowing seamlessly throughout the world.
There’s no dispute as to who is the greatest ambassador of the dhol and Punjabi culture.
Having racked up eight lifetime achievement awards, along with the House of Commons ‘Punjabi Cultural award’, and the ITV Arts Leadership ‘Midlander of the year’, Gurcharan is the face of Bhangra.
His innovative qualities have almost demanded the respect and milestones that have come his way, as he shows no signs of slowing down.
Check out the King G Mall’s catchy projects here.