British Bhangra Album Sleeves as Artwork
by Rajinder Dudrah — University of Manchester (UK)
April 16, 2008 – 07:00
This is a clip from BBC 2’s Desi DNA programme originally telecast on 5 March 2008 in the UK. The show itself is a magazine format aimed at second, third and fourth generation Brit-Asians and wider culture vultures. In its earlier series Desi DNA was aired at an accessible 7-8pm slot in the evening. Its latest series, of which this report is a part of, was shown around 11pm – a kind of ghetto slot one wonders? To watch the current series again after its original transmission on the Beeb (BBC) is hard, so this posting on youtube is a blessing of sorts. Desi DNA can be traced as part of the genealogy of BBC multi cultural programmes since the post-war period which aimed to make sense of the mass arrival of non-white immigrant presence and their contributions to British society. Its immediate forerunner Network East, also telecast on BBC2, of the late eighties and early nineties was a direct media intervention marking South Asians as British and Asian, with Desi DNA representing late modern day Britons with diasporic heritages and routes from South Asia. Its fitting, then, that British Bhangra music - a fusion based genre combining Punjabi folk lyrics and music, with other Western sounds, including Rock, Soul, RnB, Disco, Hip Hop, and more recently Garage and Grime – is the focus of the piece; specifically its album covers being heralded as artwork. The report is introductory and raises some interesting questions which are not entirely answered in the video clip itself: how did this album sleeve artwork come about? Who were the artists (the band members themselves, their kith and kin, or were semi-professional designers employed as part of the album production)? Are the sleeves more popular culture than art, or considered art because they have featured in an art gallery space?