By PHYLLIS HO
IF you are familiar with the bhangra music scene, then you would recognise Manjit Singh (M-Ji) and Sukhjit Singh (Surj) from Goldkartz. The brothers, age 27 and 23 respectively, have been producing urban bhangra tracks since 2008, with the release of their debut album Loaded.
With almost 20, 000 “Likes” on their Facebook page, it’s obvious that the music-making duo is becoming a pretty big deal.
Urban bhangra is basically traditional bhangra with a modern twist. “The melody and essence is still there, but we incorporate elements like R&B, hip-hop and house music,” Manjit said.
Their recent performance at the Asian Music Awards (AMA) in Wembley Arena, London marked a huge milestone for them, as Goldkartz is the first Malaysian and Southeast Asian act to perform at this prestigious awards show.
“Having been fans of the AMA since young, we’d never imagined that one day we would be invited (to the event), so we were very pleased and happy with the opportunity,” said Manjit.
Immediately after the performance, Goldkartz received favourable responses from the industry’s big names, while bookings – and an interview with BBC Radio – started flooding in.
Manjit remarked, “The invitation to perform at the AMA was like a recognition, to represent the Southeast Asian region on this great platform.”
Although music has always been something they’ve been passionate about since young, it was only in 2006 that they decided to produce an album. After two years of hard work, Loaded was finally released as the first mainstream bhangra album in Malaysia.
“We realised that there are many (bhangra) albums from the UK and India but never one from Malaysia, so we thought that it’s about time someone came up with one,” said Manjit.
“Surj plays the percussion like the dhol, tabla and dholak, while I focus more on the synths.”
Manjit claimed that it’s easier to record a bhangra album in the UK or India because bhangra musical instruments are readily available there; and that not all Malaysians know how to play them.
“Of course we could just go to India and record our album there, but we wouldn’t be proud of our product.
“There’s no use saying we’ve got a Malaysian bhangra album but it was all recorded in India – it’d still be an Indian product,” shared Manjit.
Therefore, they brought the experts down from India and had everything recorded and produced in Malaysia.
Loaded became the first locally-produced bhangra album, and gave Goldkartz an entry into the Malaysian Book of Records.
Last year, Goldkartz launched their second album, 24 Karaatz. The album features collaborations with Rishi Rich – who’s produced music for Britney Spears, Madonna and Jay Sean as well as and Bollywood playback singer Shankar Mahadevan.
“In 2010 when we performed in Australia, the crowd sang along to our tracks when we went on stage. We were shocked because our first album was not even released there,” he exclaimed.
According to Manjit, the local bhangra music scene is improving. “Our friends felt that we were wasting money and effort because there’s no market for it in this country. But that has been proven wrong as there are many upcoming (bhangra) artists at the moment,” he said.