Desi Masala


Could Acting Be Next for the Singer?



4 years ago, Nafees burst on the British Asian Music scene with Bukhar – and has not looked backed.

No-one could have predicted how he would go on to make such a massive impact within the Asian music industry in just a short space of time, without any formal training and without the help of an established record label to promote him.

For a brand new artist, this was unheard of. The public were obviously intrigued, but this was just the beginning of the love affair of the fans with the new star which had only just started to shine. The Manchester-born star talks to DesiXpress.



Your track is number one in the Asian music charts. What’s the secret?

Thank you to everyone that has supported me. God bless you! I couldn’t have done it without you guys. Thank you! It’s my seventh hit but fifth number one so. I’m not here to compete with anyone. I’m following my own steps and my own conviction. I guess it’s just about leaving it to the One above.



You shot your music video in Dubai. Tell me about that experience.

I wouldn’t change it for the world. Being out there and experiencing it, it’s one I won’t forget.



In terms of your singing career, did you have a Guru or Ustaad?

No, not really. I’ve never had anyone who at the beginning of my career gave me any tips with regards to music. But eventually I met up with a few vocal coaches and you get on with them. You have to be able to do that in this industry. If you don’t, you’re really not fulfilling your potential to the max.



You seem like the kind of guy that would make people feel at ease.

That’s the main thing! You don’t want people to feel uncomfortable around you. You make home wherever we go. If people like you, they like you for what you are. It’s a blessing.



What have you got lined up. Could acting be next?

You never know! I’ve done a few drama courses! I’ve set a goal and I would like to see some of my music being played in Bollywood and I want to be able to walk away on a high. You get a lot of artists who have given up because they have run out of inspiration or faded out because of the new generation. 2016 I want to give my all. I’m giving my fans a few songs. I want to leave my names among some of the best.

If the time is right then the time is right. Before I started my music, I set goals.



So what have you got planned for 2016?

You’ll have to wait! I’m not the sort of guy that lets people know. Anyone with a secret doesn’t want to let their secret away. I’ve got something up my sleeve.

Zack Knight and Raxstar team up for a powerhouse collaboration with Queen released through T-Series.

A record which has been highly anticipated, Queen finally puts together two highly sought after and respected artists within the British Asian music scene.


Fresh from his genre busting single Poison, Raxstar is back on form switching from Punjabi to English with confidence and ease. His meaningful bars and unforgettable quotable’s sit effortlessly on the infectious “eastern flute meets western beats” soundscape.


Handling the outstanding production duties is Zack Knight himself. After the multiple successes of hit singles including Looking For Love and Nakhre under his belt, he brings his soulful vocals to Queen. He continues to impress with his plethora of talents and showcases an unseen side of his artistry with his Punjabi chorus (co written by Raxstar & GV).

0 126

Naughty Boy has broken his silence after a Twitter war broke out between himself and One Direction rebel, Zayn Malik. A brief snippet of his music video for ‘No Type’, also featuring Krept and Konan, mysteriously appeared online, to which Zayn blamed Naughty Boy for releasing. He lashed out at the music producer on Twitter.


@NaughtyBoyMusic you fat joke stop pretending we’re friends no one knows you .

~ Zayn Malik



Someone learned how to upload a video… maybe now he should learn how to use logic ha you ain’t s**t but a faker.

~ Zayn Malik



Naughty Boy responded by saying, “I can deal with what he said, but he knows the hate I’ve had to endure for him is the bit that upset me,” he explained.

“Three months ago he was calling me his best friend at the Asian Awards so it’s a bit sad. Krept called him and explained that I had nothing to do with [the music video leak].”
“He has got a new manager and sometimes things get interfered with,” he added.

  1. What attracted you to the story of Umrao Jaan?


For many years now the Asian Music Circuit has been producing music styles that many of the Tawa’if used to sing (namely Thumri and Ghazal). I personally grew up listening to Indian classical music so it’s in my blood. I love thumri and ghazal so I wanted to present these genres in an innovative way and in the context from which they evolved; for example, the interaction between the Hindu and Islamic cultures, the royal courts, the impact of recordings and the historical, political and social background.


I was inspired by a visit to the Royal Albert Hall when I went to see a production of Madam Butterfly. The stage setting and production values were so impressive. I wanted to do something like that for Indian music; I wanted to create a serious, beautiful, classical, traditional production in a contemporary way, to appeal to different audiences across society.  One of my main concerns was keeping it original, and not copying the film by Muzzafar Ali, which was so iconic and beautiful in itself. What I really wanted to focus on was to create a different kind of theatre production, so I commissioned a script to be written in English, use 19th Century Urdu poetry and use traditional classical music for the ghazals. Our writer, Simon Mundy, is a wonderful poet, has even included some of his work in the play.


  1. Umrao Jaan has been told in many amazing and recognised ways; is the play more inspired by the film or the novel?


One can’t help but be moved and inspired by Muzzafar Ali’s film of 1981 with its lovely poetry (different from the book) and music. However, I did not want to copy the film. It’s true that whenever one thinks of Umrao Jaan, one thinks of the music and lyrics of the movie rather than the original Urdu novel. So, I wanted to produce something that was different from both but was still inspired by the wonderful music that I have had the privilege of listening to and meeting the artists who performed it.

I also wanted to try and compose the music myself – as a classical music performer, one improvises and creates music all the time. However composing for a play is very different and very challenging, and I wanted to give it a go before it was too late! It really would be great to have the audience leaving the theatre with my music still in their head!


  1. How did the music publishing company, HMV influence the status of courtesans in the period?

This is a fascinating story! In a nutshell, around 1900, the British Gramophone and Typewriter Company (later HMV), provided a platform to take the female artists from their “salons” to the concert stage! As patronage from royalty, nobility and gentry dwindled away, the British had no interest in using the women other than as prostitutes. With the strongly prevalent conservative attitudes of Indian society, the women artists lost their position of privilege and influence and also gradually their art.


However, the British Typewriter and Gramophone Company provided an opportunity of an alternative income to the courtesans, with many of them becoming famous recording artists.  In the later 20th century of course the women had also become great solo vocalists touring internationally and performing concerts. Their records clearly sold in large numbers. One artist recorded some 60 recordings of her music and was handsomely paid even by today’s standards. From a business perspective, the opportunity for the British Gramophone and Typewriter Company was fantastic. The Indian market was huge and the demand was very high – thus HMV was born! This really raised questions; was this another kind of British exploitation of Indian people?  Or like the railways do the British consider this as their contribution to Indian culture (even though the main beneficiary was the Gramophone Company)? At the time it was stated British policy to try to destroy Indian culture – but was the temptation of profit slowing down the destruction of culture? What has happened to that policy now?


The legacy of recordings is both good and bad; good because it provides us with a phenomenal archive and record of Indian music culture – an oral tradition – from which we can learn a huge amount; however being an oral music tradition and one in which improvisation plays a huge role, with no written music, recordings became a replacement for the written scores. Thus the spontaneity was getting lost as people would just copy the music on the recordings instead of developing individual ideas and creativity. The music can in some ways be said to have become caught in a trap and its development slowed.


  1. Has there been anything lost in translating the poetry into English?


We have not translated any Urdu poetry – this will be sung in its original form and the English poetry that is include in the play will not be sung but recited. So there is a wonderful combination in the play of English and traditional Indian/Urdu ghazals and music.  We are trying to get the translations of the Urdu across through the dialogue and other means such as programme notes. I have chosen appropriate verses by great poets of the period such as, Mir Taqi Mir, Daag Dehlvi and Jigar Moradabadi, and set them to traditional music.


  1. How will the story appeal to audiences who don’t know the story of Umrao Jaan or aren’t familiar with the Mughal period?


Firstly the play is in English and it is produced using great lighting and sets. Of course there are very traditional aspects like the costumes, music and dance but it will still appeal to audiences across society. I have found over the many years that I have been producing traditional Indian music concerts that there is a genuine and great interes all over the world in Indian music – provided it is of a high standard.


Secondly I have created a music ensemble which includes a sitar, tabla and of course, a sarangi which was always closely associated with the courtesan tradition. The final twist to the music is that I have also included a rubab from Afghanistan – an instrument which would have been more prevalent than the sitar in the 19th century.


Finally the story is an age old one and features in many other cultures, even in Japanese culture with its “geisha” tradition.  The story will not be difficult to follow as fundamentally, it is about resilience to adversity, dignity, strength acquired through art, and its unique connection with spirituality.


  1. The courtesans of Mughal times were highly educated and of many talents. So why are they now associated with sexual services?


Conservative thinking in India has been around for a long time and is not at all new. This was one of the reasons for the downfall of the tawa’if culture. Ignorance is another. Yet in the 19th century, elite society sent their children to be educated by the courtesans in etiquette, literature, music and dance. It’s interesting that today male ghazal singers have become so popular – they can perform at concerts, soirees and “mehfils” without attracting any stigma! As soon as you get a female singer, then people immediately associate that with the darker side of that culture which was probably the creation of men anyway and also not necessarily the reality.


  1. The play is performing in London before having a long run at the Edinburgh Festival. Do you plan to tour the play around the country after this? Or even outside of the UK?


We have had a lot of interest in the production, not only from the UK but also from

Mainland Europe, USA and the Far East.  I want to see how we do in the first stage in the smaller venues in London and Edinburgh and then develop the idea further for production on tour next year and beyond. The nature of events at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is such that our play has to be restricted to 80 minutes without an interval. However next year we hope to be in larger venues with a longer production.


  1. Umrao – The Noble Courtesan is part of a series of events including an exhibition and three concerts. What sparked your interest in the Mughal period and more specifically, courtesan culture? It is important to know that the courtesan tradition preceded the Mughals in the Hindu temples especially in South India. The women were called Devdasis. The art and culture of the courtesans flourished in the royal courts in the North but in the South, it was the temples. What I wanted to focus on was the art forms that the women performed and excelled in, namely dance, poetry and of course music. It was their art that enabled them to rise above the darker side of their lives and in many cases to leave that way of life altogether.
    However, over time, these traditions were starting to get lost and as a result, knowledge of that way of life associated with the poetry and music and dance was getting lost. I wanted to bring it back to people’s attention, especially young Asians who have little or no idea about all of this. I came up with the concept of Lost Traditions, which is made up of three distinct parts; a play, an exhibition called Tawa’if – The Life and Art of the Courtesans (featuring some of the original recordings and images of the first female performers) and three ghazal, thumri and qawali concerts at Cadogan Hall.


When you listen to the music and the fantastic skills of the musicians performing the great traditional genres of Indian music, you will understand my love and fascination for the subject!


Umrao – The Noble Courtesan will open on Wednesday 22nd July through to Friday 24th July 2015 at The Cockpit, Gateforth Street, Marylebone, London,NW8  8EH and Edinburgh Fringe Festival  6th August till 31st August  2015  at George Square Studio One, George Square and Windmill Lane, Edinburgh EH8 9JS.





Sony Music, the award-winning, No.1 record company for UK compilations, and Asian music aficionado/ BBC Broadcaster and DJ, Nihal, have created an alternative soundtrack for the summer of 2015, with the release of an exciting new compilation album – The Asian Collection.


Nihal Arthanayake, one of the leading torch-bearers of the Asian music industry for many years, has collated over 50 tracks that create an explosive mix of Bollywood and British Asian classics. Nihal will be taking part in interviews at an exclusive junket in London.


The Asian Collection, which is set to release across the UK on 31st July, is a tribute to the powerful and legendary voices that make up the Asian music scene including: Panjabi MC, A.R. Rahman, Jay Sean,

Bally Sagoo and many more.


The Asian Collection reaches stores on the 31st of July 2015

as a 3CD physical release as well as digital download. 

Click to pre-order NOW via Amazon.

Click to pre-order NOW via iTunes.

0 100

The critically acclaimed five star West End production, Bend It Like Beckham: The Musical,opened to a packed house last night at London’s Phoenix Theatre Amongst the audience were familiar faces including Omid Djalili, Naughty boy, Madhu & Sulaiman from Signature, Anita Anand, Nihal, Adil Ray, Vanessa Feltz, Graham Norton, Juliet Stevenson, Lily Collins, Indira Verma and Manish Bhasin.

Adapted by Gurinder Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges from the 2002 smash hit film of the same name, Bend it Like Beckham: The Musical follows Jess, a talented young football player torn between following in the footsteps of her hero David Beckham, or living up to family expectations of university, career and marriage.
The diverse and talented cast of the musical includes Natalie Dew as football crazy Jess with Lauren Samuels as Jules, a player with the Harriers, a local women’s football team, and Jamie Campbell Bower as their coach Joe. Sophie-Louise Dann plays Paula, Jules’s Mum, with Jamal Andréas as Jess’ good friend Tony.  Preeya Kalidas plays Pinky, Jess’ sister, with Tony Jayawardena and Natasha Jayetileke as Jess’ parents, Mr and Mrs Bhamra.
Speaking on the musical’s mass appeal director Gurinder Chadha said: ‘At its core Bend It like Beckham is a story about finding your place in the world whilst remaining true to yourself and those you love. I think that is something that crosses any and all cultural and racial lines.”
Bend it like Beckham now playing at the Phoenix Theatre, taking bookings until October 2015.

Scored by Howard Goodall (Love Story, The Hired Man) with the collaboration of pioneer of the British Bhangra sound, composer and performer Kuljit Bhamra and lyrics by Charles Hart (Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, Love Never Dies), the music of Bend It Like Beckham is an East-West fusion of Bhangra and soaring joyous melodies. Gurinder Chadha once again takes the helm as director, with choreography and musical staging by Aletta Collins (Anna Nicole).

After scoring yet another number 1 on the Asian music charts, Zack Knight has a lot to celebrate. His latest song, Nakhre, has been an instant hit with audiences.

“It kind of came about the same way the song “Dheere” came about, I was never planning on being the actual singer on the song. For a few years I was making songs and putting “dummy vocals” down for the intended singers as I only really wanted to concentrate on western music at the time. But then I ended up being the artist on Dheere after the song has been sent to T-series and they offered me the opportunity to remix more of their catalogue. I was working with a talented band called Dewaan and one of the members happen to come over and asked me to work on a song for them. I remember hearing it back and thinking this song would be perfect for them, not even considering myself in the equation. This was nearly 2 years ago from today.”

But he doesn’t really give himself enough credit. “I write and produce all my own music with some help on this song from my cousin to translate some of the words into Punjabi. I have had successful singles before but this one really mattered being my own composition. I was criticised initially for following the remix route but the release of Nakhre has proved that I can’t be put in a box.Zack Knight 2

Teaming up with producer Khiza, Zack thinks this isexactly the kind of confidence which he needs to keep going. “I think Khiza being in the industry for as long as he has given me that extra confidence to let the music speak for itself and at the same time push me above and beyond my limits. I was unaware that I can work so hard and put out so much music in such a short space of time until he pressed me to stay on top of things.

But there are many which are unaware of Zack’s past life on the Brit-Asian scene. “My true supporters will know I got into the Brit-Asian scene many years ago under a different name, Zee Kay. I released a number of records where I toured the UK and Europe. I was also studying at the time and had to step out but noticed dozens of new artists appear at a time where there was literally no one who made R’n’b other than Jay Sean and Raghav.

“What I’ve realised being in the music industry on and off for the past 6/7 years is that I have no idea what the future holds. I can only plan towards it but with everything that happened in my life up till now, I could have never predicated this. To think I would be singing in Hindi or Punjabi and be touring the globe when it was just yesterday that we put some music out. That just shows how quickly things can change overnight!

“The next song I put out is an original but with a sweet Indian sample in the hook, I can’t say what it is but that has to be my favourite. Mohammed Irfan and Arijit Singh are definitely my favourite singers right now!”


Serena Kern


Rishi Rich has delivered yet another amazing singer and songwriter in the form of Serena. South Indian born Serena Kern, who currently is having a highflying career as a lawyer in a top London firm, somehow still finds time to do her daily voice exercises.

Serena is from Tamil Nadu and is half-Swiss. Consuming various genres of music, it wasn’t until she got to university and began singing at open mic sessions that she discovered how in love with music she really was. Sitting down with DesiXpress, she talks music, her journey and the future.


  1. Your new single Dream tell us about the song and where did the idea come from?

I flew to Atlanta to work with Rishi on this EP and the idea for Dream came to us when we were in his studio. Rishi was playing with some ideas and the sounds he was coming up with were really bubbly and vibrant and that is when the idea of Dream came about. The sounds conjured up memories of my teenage years and the song is a throwback to when I was a teenager.

  1. Tell us your journey with Rishi Rich and what is he like to work with?

Rishi is obviously very talented (but I don’t need to tell anyone that!). As a person, he is just a really nice, down to earth kind of guy. As an artist, it is so important to find a producer who is encouraging and supportive, and Rishi is just great that way!

  1. Tell us about your journey and how did you get into music?

Music has always been a passion. It started out as something I enjoyed doing at home (I used to put up little plays for my family when I was a child). I became more serious about music when I started university and this was when I started writing and recording my own songs. The reception was very good and I was invited to collaborate with a producer in south India on a few tracks. I was encouraged by this and from here music started to take on a life of its own and I have eventually found myself working with Rishi Rich!

  1. What is it like going from a high profiled job to the music industry?

There are many overlaps between being a lawyer and being a musician. As a lawyer you learn to be careful and concise with language and words and as a songwriter, this is very important too. I have developed various skills in each job that I put to use in the other!

  1. How do you manage to the balance life as lawyer and a singer?

I always say that music is something that just comes naturally and is a real passion of mine. I don’t really think about music as something I have to make time for or put in my diary as it is something I am always thinking about…it is an intrinsic part of my personality.


  1. You write your own lyrics where do you get the inspiration from?

The lyrics usually emanate from an emotion I am feeling. For example, when I wrote Dream, the lyrics were inspired by the emotion that Rishi’s music was conjuring up. I take inspiration from the little things in life, the moments I feel would be lost forever unless I captured them somehow.

  1. Growing up who did you enjoy listening to and who has inspired you?

Growing up, I was blessed to be exposed to a variety of music and sounds, from south Indian Kollywood to Bollywood film songs as well as an array of music my father used to bring me from his travels overseas. As a child you tend to absorb everything and, to this day, consciously and unconsciously all these sounds come together in my music.

  1. You have worked with Rishi Richi is there anyone else you would look at working with?

Working with Rishi has been amazing and we have really bonded well. You can work with the best in any filed, but if there is no connection and you are not able to bond, the outcome will never be great. Rishi and I work so well together and our working styles are so similar- both of us are perfectionists but at the same time are ruthlessly efficient!  I want to explore further where our relationship will take us!

  1. What is the next for Serena?

Rishi and I have been working on promoting Dream, but at the same time are excited about what we have created so far and want to test the waters with more new sounds and ideas. With Rishi at the helm, I want to explore the unchartered territories in music, creating sounds that are fresh and yet have wide commercial appeal.

0 194

Gurdas Singh-326x235


Reality TV star Gurdas Singh, who featured on Brit Asia Superstar 2010 is set to launch his singing career with his much anticipated debut single “Champion”. The single is dedicated to his father who inspired Gurdas to sing from a young age. Gurdas was born in Leeds and brought up in Nottingham. He has never had any formal vocal training, yet surprisingly he possesses a naturally god-gifted voice. From the age of 4, Gurdas began singing in a variety of styles such as Bhangra, Hindi, Qawali, Ghazal and RnB. He also learnt the Tabla at his primary school and sang religious songs at local Sikh temples. He has performed on several stages over the years including talent shows, family functions and private events. “I was always encouraged and supported by family friends and people in the community, but my achievements were disregarded by others who should have supported me. I guess this is one reason for the title, Champion. Because I never gave up.” ~Gurdas Singh


Gurdas, the eldest of three brothers was raised single handily by his mother who endlessly supported his dream. His time on reality show Brit Asia Superstar made him a huge favourite amongst viewers where he demonstrated his impressive vocal skills singing in Bhangra and Qawali styles. The singer-songwriter was raised listening to the likes of the Late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Hans Raj Hans, Master Saleem, Sabar Koti and Sardool Sikander, all of which have been heavily influential in his singing ability.


Champion has been produced by the highly respected music producer Jeeti Singh. Jeeti, who has also worked with Lakhwinder Wadali, Lembhar Hussainpuri and Danny Sarb has given his musical knowledge and direction to the composition of the track. The emotionally charged song has been written by Gurdas himself, who at the young age of 27 is set to take the industry by storm. “Champion is not about winning an award or accolade. It’s a motivational story which involves a never give up attitude and the overcoming of challenges. It’s a true story based on my personal life experiences, which people can relate to all over the world.” ~Gurdas Singh


Gurdas Singh is already working on his second single which will be a massive collaboration with Punjab’s finest writer, Bunty Bains who has worked with Miss Pooja, Roshan Prince, Jazzy B and Many More. The collaboration is set to release in the next few months.

0 46

Asian Awards Zayn 745x483

Making his solo appearance at the annual Asian Awards, former One Direction member, Zayn Malik, paid tribute to his ex band-members. Donning a new shaved haircut, the 22-year-old was awarded the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, presented by good friend Naughty Boy. Accepting the award, Zayn said, “I’d like to thank my mum and dad, and I’d also like to take this moment to thank four of the best guys I’ve ever met – everything I’ve done with them will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
He ended his speech with, “Here’s to the future.” Also in presence was Bollywood superstar, Shah Rukh Khan, renowned fashion designer John Rocha, Gary Lineker and cricket legend Kumar Sangakkara. The awards are a global celebration of Pan Asian excellence and were held at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. Shah Rukh Khan was awarded Outstanding Contribution to Cinema award and dedicated his award to overseas Asians. “I am extremely humbled and honoured to receive this award. I say this very often that my stardom belongs to most South East Asians who reside abroad who have made the Indian cinema and me known around the world. I congratulate all the winners at the Asian Awards as well.
There is so much talent around Asia and so many achievers, whether it is Dr Amar Bose, the Hinduja Brothers or Zayn Malik. I am glad to have been a part of such a wonderful celebration of hard work by people in difference field but similar passion.” Guests were presented with an exclusive performance from the cast of Gurinder Chadha’s upcoming West End extravaganza, Bend It Like Beckham – The Musical. Batsman Kumar Sangakkara was awarded Outstanding Contribution to Sport whilst Outstanding Achievement in Science & Technology went to experimental particle physicist, Sir Tejinder Singh Virdee and the Outstanding Achievement in Television award went to comedian, actor and broadcaster, Sanjeev Bhaskar.
Launched in 2010 by entpreneur Paul Sagoo, The Asian Awards, have become the world’s biggest celebrations of Asian excellence. “We are absolutely thrilled with the staggering success of The Asian Awards this year and the remarkable level of support we’ve received. From Prime Minister David Cameron to global superstars like Zayn Malik and Shah Rukh Khan, joining us for this superb gathering of some of the world’s most inspirational and powerful people. “I’m so proud of the way The Asian Awards are evolving. They have truly grown into a voice for the Pan Asian community to celebrate its own success – as well as become a way to share the stories and achievements and lives of these great people with the world, to inspire the millions of us who strive to be the best we can.” 


Most Recent

Latest Gallery