Raf-Saperra carries the torch of British Punjabi music
Why is it so important for you to represent the Punjabi culture?
I’ve had people say to me, oh you’re Muslim, so you’re not Punjabi. But how does that make sense? How to educate the masses? There is a whole Western Punjab that remains unexplored… my thing has always been: ‘if Punjab was a country in its own right, would I move there? When people ask me if I’m Indian or Pakistani, I say I’m Punjabi. I am not calling attention to the fact that I am from West Punjab, which happens to be in Pakistan. When you look at the most famous folk music, be it East or West Punjab, the folk tales that legends like Kuldeep Manak or Alam Lohar have sung, they belong to Punjab as a whole. For political reasons, there is now a border across the state. But our traditions are the same, our cultures are the same, our people, our history, our folklore are the same.
I also feel like with today’s modern music scene, for a lot of people, especially in London, there’s an insecurity about being brunette. But let me be realistic, brother: I don’t have that experience. Many of my immediate friends are from Africa and the Caribbean, but I shared my music with them shamelessly. Why don’t we see this more in the younger generation? So another reason for throwing it all around so proudly is that I want to address that insecurity. I hate to say it so bluntly, but sometimes I feel like a bastard. If I go back to Punjab, they tell me, no, you’re a Brit. And when I’m in Britain sometimes people make you feel like you’re just Asian. So where are we? Raf-Saperra responds to this. I was talking to some of my boys recently about whether we were patriots, and my honest answer is that I’m proud to have the ancestry that I have, but I’m also proud to be a brother of ends. It’s my town, the man from London, the man from Streatham. You got me? I feel like a lot of that was shown in my new song, NLS
Let’s talk about that. How was the song born?
The culprit, who produced it, has been my sound engineer from the start. He said he wanted to do a UK garage song, so I heard him, and we started doing it in September 2021. He was talking about doing a song that was laid back, but still had great b lines. . I was like, what will the tarz be? Which means the melody, the composition. He wanted to talk to a composer called Kuldev Mastana, who wrote the melody, so we went to sit with him and got his blessing to sing along.
So you’re singing new lyrics to an existing melody?
Yeah. Punjabi melodies are transmitted. Many of them come from Sikh devotional songs. There’s a sense of grounding in the melodies because they’ve been with us for so many generations. But this one for NLS was an original composition – it wasn’t too folksy. You can actually trace the composition of it. Once we brought in Kuldev Mastana for the melody, the lyrics were penned by Gurminder Maddoke, who has written for legendary singers like Sardool Sikander, Sonia Pala and Jazzy B. a very British sound. , UK garage sound. And when he pitched the idea to me, I said there was no way I wouldn’t jump on it! I knew what I could breathe into this composition, from my soul. We started working on audio, which was more Culprit’s department, and then video direction was my department.
What was the vision of the video?
When you visit the roots of British garage as a genre, you can see how vast and unique the different styles of MC were in different towns and boroughs of inner city London. The culprit and I come from two different parts of this city: the east and the south. So we put our own experiences into the song and our respective departments…I realized that as a proud south Londoner shooting this video around the Winstanley [housing estate] and York Road in Battersea, because those tracks contributed to the UK garage music scene, they were the hub of So Solid Crew and the infamous pirate radio station Delight FM, 103.0…there would be ‘So Solid Sundays’ where the MCs were spitting bars all day. For chefs who understand the history of the British garage, they understand the importance of this particular block.