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"You can't fuse yourself": Contemporary British-Asian music and the musical expression of identity

Clayton, Martin



In 1995-97 British popular music saw an increase in the visibility of musicians of South Asian descent and in the audibility of musical elements which originate in or evoke South Asia. Some British-Asian musicians have drawn on elements of South Asian folk, classical, and pop music to express a distinctive British-Asian identity. Examples discussed include Bally Sagoo, whose Dil cheez was the first Asian-language hit in the UK charts; the group Asian Dub Foundation (ADF), whose song Rebel Warrior juxtaposes short looped samples of Asian instruments and vocals against a punk-style guitar riff; and Nitin Sawhney, whose Market Daze uses sampled Indian flute music, recorded in India, as the other part of a duet in which Sawhney plays the piano. Amar, a 17-year-old British-Asian girl, recently signed a huge record deal with Warner Music; in one of her recent recordings, she shifts from a Hindi lyric sung in Indian pop style to an English lyric sung in an Anglo-American soul style. The white British pop group Kula Shaker has achieved popularity with singles that use Sanskrit lyrics and seem to advocate a wholesale adoption of Vaishnava Hindu philosophy; the reaction of British-Asians to their success is equivocal.


Clayton, M. (1998). "You can't fuse yourself": Contemporary British-Asian music and the musical expression of identity. East European Meetings in Ethnomusicology, 5, 73-87

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 1998
Deposit Date Sep 29, 2010
Journal East European meetings in ethnomusicology.
Print ISSN 1221-9711
Publisher Romanian Society for Ethnomusicology
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Pages 73-87
Publisher URL