Mirror Magazine

30th November 1997


Rhythms of bhangra

By AfdhelAziz

Donned a rather nifty looking pair of flashing red horns and trotted along to Phillip Sallon's Punk Halloween Ball, in the company of Sri Lankan DJ Shan T who was playing there that night. Sallon is a club promoter of wild eccentricities and he paraded around the entire evening looking like a cross between Louis the XVII and a member of the Sex Pistols. In fact there were quite a few strange looking folk at the event, which billed top name DJ's like Frankie Foncett, Linden C and Boy George, although he never turned up. There were plenty of Sid Vicious and John Lydon lookalikes, drag queens in tartan kilts and safety pins through their noses, and one big bloke walking around dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

The event was being held at the cavernous Chelsea Bridge Film Studios which was decorated in punk graffiti, Union Jack flags and a lights-flashing police car turned over on its side for that authentic riot atmosphere. Never mind the bollocks, here's clublife UK........

Feeling in the mood for some Asian re-engagement, I took a ride down to Southhall in West London, a centre for subcontinental activity in the metropolis. Southhall has been an Asian dominated area for decades now, and visiting it there on a Saturday afternoon is an experience. It's like walking into a Bombay street bazaar - only it's in England.

Merchandise is piled high and deep on the streets, pictures of saints and heroes stacked on the street, stalls filled with pirate Hindi and Urdu CD's and tapes. Everywhere there are posters of Salman Khan and Dimple, new films being advertised for sale. The range of sari and salwar kameez stores in Southall is amazing with prices starting as low as fifteen pounds - but it is quite freaky to see Eastern garments on what are obviously Western mannequins done up with a bit of face powder and black wigs. Vegetable stalls, outlets offering fresh paan alongside fried chicken stores that shamelessly ripped off Colonel Saunders - Punjabi Fried Chicken anyone?

The crowds on the weekend at Southall are composed of various groups of people; mothers and daughters in hijab and jeans stocking up on provisions; elegant Sikh gentlemen in three piece suits topped off with bright turbans; and young bloods in mirrored sunglasses posing against Daddy's Mercedes borrowed for the day to show off. Indeed packs of young Asians drive around Southall, their sound systems booming out the chinking rhythms of bhangra pop as they scope the crowds for girls.

The girls in turn (this is England after all) scope them right back. At the bus stop: 'Oooh he's quite fit, he looks a bit like Satish dontjafink ?' Squeals of disgust. 'Wot, him, nah what you talking about, he looks like a stick insect'.

I walked into one establishment which rather surreally boasted that it was the first Chinese Halal restaurant in the area and ordered some food - lamb tikka that arrived sizzling on a platter, delicious paneer nan, stuffed with cheese and a satisfyingly sweet lassi. Outside fireworks popped invisibly in the weak November sun - Guy Fawkes day was just a few days away.

Strange to be in a place in Britain where white faces are in the minority on the streets. Southall is Asia Central, a chilly but accurate adaptation of high streets from Bombay to Karachi to Dakar - albeit with Pizza Huts, McDonalds and the rest of their ilk. Long may the rhythms of bhajjan echo through its streets...........

Piano Fascination

After a scintillating Four Piano Fascination to a much appreciative 'full' house at the Wendt in June this year, Mano Chanmugam, Neomal De Alwis, Dilip Seneviratne and Yohan De Alwis will present "Four Piano Fascination" with a difference on December 8 and 9 at the Wendt, once again, in aid of The National Council for Youth & Child Welfare.

One review of the last performance described it as a "memorable experience of sheer joy". Mano promises the audience that the new experience will be more innovative with the sole intention of sharing the same joy with an audience that was one with the four of them.

The programme, as usual, will be a variety of haunting melodies especially arranged for four pianos to give delight to all ages. Excerpts from Tchaikovsky's 2nd Piano Concerto, Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme from Paganini, Lizst's Hungarian Rhapsody No.8 and Verdi's La Traviata will lead the programme under classics, followed by Johann Strauss' perennial Blue Danube, Tales from the Vienna Woods and the Emperor. In even lighter vein, joy will be dispensed from Rogers & Hammerstein's South Pacific, Sound of Music and My Fair Lady.

Christopher Prins, the maestro of percussion, will accompany the foursome to delight the audience with his virtuosity. The ever popular perennial Latins, Jazz and Blues will conclude the second half.

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