"‘Dance’ is shaping up to be the biggest collaboration"
Despite so many talented artists working across the Desi music industry, the release of the track ‘Dance’ is a particularly momentous and refreshing moment.
Of course, many will welcome a party anthem as catchy as ‘Dance’. However, it additionally marks the biggest Asian music collaboration of 2018.
The single amazingly brings together five popular Asian artists of Desi background – F1rstman, Juggy D, Raxstar, Mumzy Stranger and H-Dhami.
With influences including the wave of Latino fused hip-hop and contemporary Punjabi sounds, Dutch producer Harun B had a huge challenge on his hands.
However, he pulls this off with finesse and demonstrates a high level of musical dexterity, bringing together all five artists to create a cohesive track.
Although, it is evident that the five-star artists thoroughly enjoy working together to blend their various styles into a memorable song and dynamic music video.
Nonetheless, it has taken multi-platinum selling Dutch artist, F1rstman, to unite the various musical talents of Juggy D, Raxstar, Mumzy Stranger and H-Dhami.
Indeed, as F1rstman states in the trailer for the song: “Unity is the key.”
We find out how the five artists came together to produce the exciting project of ‘Dance,’ yet retain their unique sensibility in the single and video.
Even more intriguingly, they tease that there is more to come in 2019.
F1rstman prioritises Collaboration
First appearing in 2015, F1rstman is a Dutch Pakistani artist who has not stopped since his first song, ‘Round & Round.’ In fact, he tells us:
“Since the age of six, I’ve been making music. It’s the only thing that I know and the only thing that I love. It’s the only thing that motivates me.”
“I’ve never been busy with other things, only with music and I’ve never got supported in the things that I did.
“I was always like telling people, ‘don’t worry, I’m going to prove you wrong” and eventually that happened’.”
Following ‘Round & Round’, F1rstman released his follow-up single, ‘Kabhi’ in 2017 to a great reception.
He continues to be a huge success in the Netherlands and beyond. But this is not his first collaboration. The aforementioned tracks feature fellow Dutchman Sama Blake on Round & Round and hip-hop artist, DYSTINCT on ‘Kabhi.’
Collaboration is particularly important to F1rstman as he reveals:
“I believe in the power of collaborations. I’ve been making collaborations throughout my whole career.”
“Even my first song was a really big collaboration. And I believe if you get the right artists together and make a song together, it can blaze up really, really good.
“Even business-wise, you can do a lot of things if you put the right people together.”
The power of a combination of like-minded people appearing in the right collaboration is apparent in ‘Dance’.
In the compelling music video, all five artists clearly enjoy working together and bounce off each other’s energies.
Before this innovative project came to be, F1rstman already listened to and found inspiration from the work of the other four artists.
Nevertheless, it was only after connecting with Mumzy Stranger through Instagram that the project started snowballing.
According to the artist and the rest of the group, Mumzy Stranger brought H-Dhami and Raxstar on board for a writing camp in F1rstman’s native Holland.
This writing camp has proven to be a winning formula alongside the great artist line-up. The team have been immensely productive and we can expect more work like ‘Dance’ as F1rstman promises:
“We didn’t only make one song. We made more songs together and we did a whole project. And the project is going to be released very soon.
“Not only with them, but even more artists. Crazy collabos on it and I’m just going to drop a lot of music. You can expect one release, at least, a month. Be on the lookout.”
We certainly will be. After all, it’s wonderful to see how a relative newcomer to the industry is shaking up the status quo.
Nonetheless, he is not the only one with the mindset to reshape the Desi music industry with songs like ‘Dance.’
Mumzy Stranger on Changing Attitudes
As previously mentioned, Mumzy Stranger was the first British Asian artist to come on board to develop ‘Dance.’
The British Bangladeshi artist has enjoyed a long and fruitful career.
He has a unique style with his music becoming immediately recognisable because of its RnB bashment sound.
Yet, like F1rstman, perhaps his success is partly due to his open-minded approach to new ways of working.
He is quick to discuss his love of working with new talent and taking on different skills with the reminder:
“I don’t just sing, I’m not just an artist, I produce. I have my own studio, I’ve had my own studio for years.”
It included talents like Junai Kaden, Char Avell, Tasha Tah and Ramee, demonstrating the same initiative seen with the collaboration of ‘Dance.’
While Stranger Family did not take off, post ‘Dance’ might be the moment for Mumzy.
He reveals that ‘Dance’ was what he has been “looking for, what I’ve been trying to do – unite other artists in the scene and trying to make them see it’s a bigger scene out there.”
While Stranger had been aware of F1rstman’s music, he was first taken aback by the European singer’s friendly overture to collaborate.
However, this initial surprise turned into something concrete:
“This is quite humble. This is quite different, let’s see where this goes.”
On the other hand, this is unsurprising considering Mumzy’s own musical origins and following progress. From starting out on the UK garage scene, he describes his journey since:
“I met Bhangra through Rishi Rich. When I met Rishi, I met H, then I met Juggy, I met a completely different new world.”
Interestingly, Stranger’s origins with the now-popular Grime scene could provide inspiration for Desi music.
As Mumzy puts it:
“So the way I stepped into this world, why can’t we step into that world? I’m kind of like in-between. A bit of urban and then got the Desi.”
“You need to look at the world – Spanish, there’s French – all of that’s mainstream now.
“And you know why? Because they’re working together. They’re not making a huge deal about it.”
This highlights the potential of ‘Dance.’ The five-star collaboration possibly marks a change in the Asian music scene and Stranger reinforces the need for a different mentality:
“People need to see that it’s not about competing against each other and trying to take each other down.”
“You don’t want the young talents to think: “oh is that the mentality? Hate him, hate her?” That’s not the right message, you know.”
Mumzy keeps this level-headed attitude to his career, stating: “Family, friends keep me grounded.”
“I’m like Batman innit. It’s one of them things. I got to go home, take the suit off. Businessman over there. Artist over there. That’s the way it is.”
It looks like he will channel this positive and balancing mindset for the future. He promises plenty more music including an album and EP with H-Dhami, finishing by saying:
“We’ve just been in the studio, working on good music. We’re just finding the right time to release it. We’re not holding back no more so this is just a taste.”
The new single, ‘Dance’ undoubtedly is an appetising sample for 2019 and onwards.
Raxstar considers Drive and Diversity
Haling from Luton, he quickly won fans with his single ‘Keep It Undercover’ in 2015 and first worked with producers like SunitMusic.
Raxstar has enjoyed much attention, courtesy of songs like ‘Queen’ with Zack Knight in 2016.
However, for him it is like the beginning as he comments:
“I feel like I’m just getting started, I still feel like a new artist – I haven’t achieved everything that I want to achieve.
“I always have this drive as I always feel that I’m not working hard enough, regardless of what I’m doing and what I’m releasing.
“There’s a lot of music but I always feel that I can do more. So it’s more just an inner drive but it makes it more exciting when I’m doing something new, something fresh.”
‘Dance’, therefore, provides the perfect opportunity for Raxstar to get out of his “comfort zone.” He tells us:
“Working on collaborations like this, working with different artists, trying new things, different sounds…I feel that you should always be pushing yourself and it’s exciting when you’ve got a new sound, a new record, a new artist.”
It is very fortunate, then, that these five artists came together.
As Raxstar points out, a collaboration of this magnitude has not previously occurred as such innovation needs an “outsider” like F1rstman as a catalyst. He explains:
“When you’re in it, you’re kind of caught up in your own stuff. So me and H have seen each other so many times and been like ‘let’s work on something’.”
“Me and Mumzy have worked together in the past, we’ve got a bunch of things that we’ve done that haven’t been released yet.”
Raxstar further highlights the role F1rstman had in ensuring even the possibility of ‘Dance’, never mind the other promised tracks, stating:
“Someone has to come in from the outside and be like, “right let’s put you all together in a song”.
“Because we were in that writing camp, we had no choice. The beat was there and everyone was like “wow”. Not just that song but other songs as well. So let’s write, let’s record, let’s get it done.”
Although, when progress was finally underway, he mentions:
“We’re all creative and it just came together easily.”
This ease is reflected in ‘Dance’ and its smooth blend of different influences and origins, with Raxstar elaborating:
“We have so many different influences: from how we grew up, how we were raised, what kind of music we listened to, what our styles are. So everyone just felt comfortable enough to rep themselves.
“The way that it came together, I suppose was the producer’s hard work. Like Harun B just recognised everyone’s styles and was able to showcase them in a way that they shined, rather than something not sounding right when it comes in.”
“So everyone I think stands out in their own way on the track.”
Indeed they do and this results in a positive reaction to this exciting single. Raxstar informs us:
“I’m super happy with the response. I feel like I always have muted expectations because sometimes you’re really excited about a song and it doesn’t necessarily connect with people.
“Or something will be hyped a lot and then the public won’t necessarily react or will have a half-reaction.”
“Whereas this, this has just been crazy. As soon as it dropped, it has been crazy keeping up with all the social stuff.”
“People are loving and enjoying the song and I feel like everyone’s got their own supporters.
“And everyone’s supporters have cross-pollinated and everyone’s enjoying it for various different reasons.
“No one’s a weak link. Everyone’s bringing their A-game and it’s helped the song connect with so many more people.”
This is an interesting observation from Raxstar. ‘Dance’ does benefit from uniting a wider range of supporters, who may not have the same motivations.
But can agree on how catchy this track is. Nevertheless, where do the artists go from here?
H-Dhami envisions The Potential of ‘Dance’
The British Punjabi artist, H-Dhami, is a force of positivity. For him, ’Dance’ interestingly represents a chance for his personal development as a singer.
H-Dhami started his singing career in 2007.
He writes and sings in English for the first time after encouragement from Mumzy Stranger and Raxstar. He warmly recounts the experience, sharing:
“Sometimes you need that push, you need that good energy around you to try and make you try different things.
“And I thought, ‘you know what?’ I’m going to try step out of my comfort zone and I’m going to try something different now.
“Because people are waiting for new music from myself and I want to sort of improve myself. I just want to challenge myself and that’s exactly what I’ve done.
“And the messages and response have just been incredible.”
It is great to see the Punjabi singer’s progress since his first album in 2008, Sadke Java.
In fact, his maiden album features a collaboration with his fellow singer, Mumzy Stranger and the pair have worked together since.
In spite of his already lengthy career, he is equally enthusiastic about the reaction to the new single, ‘Dance’.
H-Dhami describes it as “mad”, crediting him for giving “fire back in [his] belly”
He further enthuses:
“The response since the last week has been crazy, we’ve done launch parties and it’s just been incredible. The love that we’re getting, not only from the fans but the artists as well.”
This same positivity is evident in his critique of Punjabi music’s unfair reputation for drink and drugs.
While H-Dhami emphasises the “light-hearted” nature of songs, he also advises to keep videos “respectful.” He remarks:
“But one thing I notice is that instead of encouraging people, people love to bring people down. If they’re doing something well, talk about that.”
He later adds:
“If something bad happens tomorrow, I would guess, ten times more people would pick up on it and it would go viral.
“Let’s make good music viral, good energy viral. That’s what I think we need. And it’s happening, and I’m not talking about a negative no more.
“I don’t think no one’s bothered by the negative vibe right now. I would say this is a perfect way to end the year and for our industry, I think next year’s going to be amazing – it’s blossomed.”
However, he does highlight the importance of a good family support system:
“Family is your key and they’re the ones that keep you grounded and I think that’s very important in life.
“We can do what we do with music, we go home and we’re family. We talk about music but I don’t let my music take over my life at home so I think that’s very important.”
Whilst his music sees him travel worldwide including the Netherlands to record ‘Dance’, he still manages his priorities, sharing:
“My whole family – my wife, my kids – if it weren’t for them, I think I would be in a very, I don’t what space I’d be in.
“I think it’s very important, and they always say that you need that pillar behind you and my wife like she knows how much I travel. How much I travel and it’s sleepless nights
“But it’s my responsibility to give that balance.”
In fact, he is the son of Palvinder Dhami, the lead singer of 1980s Bhangra group, Heera.
H-Dhami fondly recalls how his father shared his music and how he now continues the tradition with his son.
Speaking of traditions, however, ‘Dance’ can hopefully revive the same unified movement of Heera and other legends.
They turned the UK into a vibrant hub for Desi music and H-Dhami describes ‘Dance’ as part of a ‘movement’ too.
Rather, he refutes the opinion that British Asian music in the UK is dying:
“I don’t even what to touch upon how it was or what it is, let’s make things better and it’s getting better – it’s great.”
“That’s the only way it’s going to work. Let’s make good music, enjoy it and let’s party man and as they say, just dance [laughs].”
It’s difficult not to find this positive outlook of H-Dhami infectious.
Juggy D completes the musical jigsaw
The talented Juggy D was a late entry for this track. Raxstar explains how Juggy came into the fold:
“Juggy D was in Rotterdam for a show. Him and F1rstman connected previously. He went to the studio, heard the song, just the beat.
“And he said ‘I want to be on this song.’ So he got on the song.”
As Mumzy mentioned that the addition of Juggy was like “icing on the cake.”
Unfortunately, Juggy could not make it to Birmingham as part of our Rendezvous with team ‘Dance.’
Juggy was in India, where he and Jay Sean performed at the sangeet ceremony of Shruti Kharbanda at Jodhpur’s Umaid Bhawan Palace. Shruti is the daughter of actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda.
However, the British singer from Southall speaks about how massive his track is, mentioning:
“This is a huge single and a moment for the British Asian scene where so many of us have come together to make great music.
“Having been around for over 15 years now I’ve seen how the times have changed and how the music industry is evolving, and this feels like a very exciting time for our artists again.
“‘Dance’ is shaping up to be the biggest collaboration we have seen for a long time.”
Juggy ends the latter part 2018 on a very high note. Firstly he released his Punjabi hip-hop single ‘Get Down,’ a collaboration once again with music producer Rishi Rich.
F1rstman’s passion for collaboration, Mumzy Stranger’s determination to boost the Desi music scene, Raxstar’s drive and H-Dhamis enthusiasm are all inspiring.
Not forgetting the talents and ideas of singer Juggy D and producer Harun B who have contributed to making a powerful track and “movement.”
Watch DESIblitz exclusive interview with F1rstman, Mumzy Stranger, Raxstar and H-Dhami:
On its own, the ‘Dance’ song and video is a great party anthem for Asian music lovers. Seeing old favourites work alongside new faces is a brilliant sight to see.
Yet, thanks to the various motivations of the artists, ‘Dance’ is the perfect collaboration that will hopefully inspire the Desi music scene in the UK to unite like these five stars/
We cannot wait to see what lies ahead for British Asian music.