Protest, Bhangra and Electronica

Bobby Friction

Bobby Friction was part of the Asian underground music scene, which was born in the UK in the 1990s. The DJ and radio presenter on how racism shaped their music.

Growing up in London in the '70s and '80s wasn't easy for Paramdeep Singh Sehdev. Born to Punjabi Sikh parents, he would often be called Paki by neighbourhood children; others made fun of the music he listened to (Bollywood) and the food he ate (paranthas). The experience of racism was common to many South Asians living in Britain at the time. But in Paramdeep's case, it turned him into DJ Bobby Friction. "Without the racism, the underground music scene would not have erupted. We would all have been part of rock bands because there would have been no statement to make," he says over the phone from London.

Friction was one of the earliest musicians, who with percussionist Talvin Singh, composer Nitin Sawhney and electronica outfit Asian Dub Foundation, defined the sound of the Asian underground. "The '90s were very different. The time was right to do something very Indian and yet very British. It was time to prove that even though we were curry-eating, Bollywood-watching desis, we were futuristic. And what better way than music?" he says.

With several members of his family in India, Friction visits the country quite often. Today, he would be at Greater Noida, playing a set at the Delhi leg of NH7 Weekender — not bhangra or fusion but dubstep mixed the Friction way.

It was the early 1990s when he attended the first-ever Asian fusion night where Talvin Singh was performing. Till then, he says, he had found deejaying cheesy. "But I realised DJs don't just play bhangra, it was a mad electronica set. That night changed my life and music became a protest, a statement and a radical movement," says Friction. Soon, he began playing at Anokha, the iconic East London club opened by Singh.

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