By Ninder Kaur
The born in Birmingham hit maker shot to fame following the huge success of his songs, ‘High Heels’, ‘Mein Punjabi Boli Ah’, and ‘Zulfa’ which have gained tremendous popularity among adults and youths across the country.
Now, the international superstar has had a whirlwind of a ride taking on Bhangra, Bollywood and the BBC.
Jaz Dhami talks to Asian Sunday about future Hip-Hop hookups, a possible acting career and his Bollywood music debut.
You have been rumored since 2013, to have collaborated with American rapper French Montana, is that true? And when can we expect the single?
It is true. French has done his bit and we have finalised a beat. We are just waiting on me and my desi timing. I had been working with producer Steel Banglez for a while and it was him who suggested that the single should include a rapper. Before we knew it we were over in New York recording a track together. I can’t give too much away but it’s a great single and I cannot wait for it to finally be released next year.
Only last year you featured on the BBC Children In Need track ‘God Only Knows’, how was that for you?
Following your last single release in March ‘Beparwaiyan’ and your forthcoming collaboration with French Montana, how do you decide when to release new music?
If it feels right then I release it. I don’t think -oh I haven’t put a song out there in a while so I need to release something for the sake of it. Music releases shouldn’t be a seasonal thing. Just because it’s wedding season, everyone will now be releasing songs. I think music should be released all year round, twelve months of the year. With the French Montana song, the reason why I haven’t released it yet is because I don’t feel like it’s the right time. I am currently working on Bhangra music right now, so next year when the time is right you can expect to see it.
‘Theke Wali’ became one of the biggest dancefloor tracks of its kind but you have also had songs like ‘Tera Mera’ and ‘Bari Der’ which is a step outside of an era of generic desi music. How have you found that?
I don’t want to be seen as an artist just bound to one genre of music. I have always wanted to be a singer whether that is singing love songs, sad songs or the more upbeat
dance songs like ‘High Heels’. I want to be recognised for doing a bit of everything and I am slowly getting there, having touched up on different genres, singing in English and making a Bollywood debut.
How have you found the transition from Bhangra to Bollywood and which do you prefer?
It has always been on top of my list to make a Bollywood debut and work in Bollywood. It’s one thing seeing yourself as a Bhangra artist and another to see your song being playing in Abhishek’s film. It’s such a great feeling.
The only thing is, Bollywood is different to my own independent releases. With Bollywood you’re working in someone else’s creative mindset. The song has to fit the movie otherwise it won’t work. I am just blessed to have worked in both.
Since you have made a debut in the Bollywood music industry, would you ever go into acting?
If the opportunity came about and if at some point in my career the timing was right to do that, then yes I would definitely think about it. My decision would all depend on the type of film it was but right now it’s all about music. My passion is music and I just want to dedicate my time to that.
Aside from being one of the greatest vocalist out there, what do you like to do in your free time?
Travel! I love travelling. I love seeing the world. With my career, I am so blessed that I get to travel but usually when I have gigs I don’t get to see places. So, now I make sure that I have a day to see the city I
am performing in. Plus, when I am travelling it becomes an inspiration for my music too. I recently went to India and went to the second biggest slums in the world. It was an eye- opening experience to see how others live, where there is no room for superficiality. It is experiences like this, that I am lucky to be a part of.
I also enjoy my football. I am a level 2 football coach and I am involved in campaigns to support more Asians into the sport. I need to get back into that but music is taking up most of my time right now.
You started music at the age of 9, who have been your musical influences and are they still the same to this day?
My dad has by far been the biggest inspiration in my life. He was the vocalist of the legendary Bhangra band Sangam. He has always been the one to push me to pursue music. Also Bollywood singers from the 80s 90s have been influential to my music career. The song Dil Kyon Dhadakta Da Hai from the movie Jaanam was the first song I had ever sang.
Right now, it’s the up and coming music artists that inspire me. They are so hungry to make it in the music industry. It’s their drive and passion that keeps me going. Although it’s inspiring it’s kind of scary too.
You are a young and successful artist. What is your secret?
There is no secret. As long as that drive and passion is there then that’s the key to success. That’s all I need to take music all the way.
Where would you like to see the industry in five year’s time?
More collaborations. We need to work together and support each other to succeed. In this industry, everyone is thriving to be the best. I want to see more east and west and UK and US collaborations. Who says you can’t feature someone like Drake in a Bhangra track? I would definitely like him or Chris Brown to feature on one my tracks. It would be great to break that barrier and appeal to a larger audience. If we all work together then this can be possible.
What’s next for you?
I am looking to release an album next year. A lot of work has gone into that and there is a little bit more left to do. But right now, I have so many singles lined up. Fans can expect a lot of new releases.
Quick Fire round
Favourite food? Chocolate
Bhangra or Bollywood? Both
Favourite place to perform? India
Favourite song at the moment? See you again
Dream Collaboration? Rapper: Drake, Singer: Chris brown, Indian Singer: A.R. Rahman
If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing? Music teacher
If you could change one thing what would it be? Stop poverty