Rising from the East
"I so hope to God you are not more than 15-years-old!”-- He is heard saying to a fan who claims to have been listening to Bally Sagoo's music since she was 10. “I have been getting that a lot and it makes me feel so old!” he jokes. Bally Sagoo, a DJ who introduced the melodies of the yester years to the youngsters back in the nineties, recently performed at the Regency Hotel, organised by JPR Events, in collaboration with Radio Foorti, HPC and GMG. Over the last couple of years, JPR Events has flown in international stars namely Udit Narayan, JAL, Yanna Gupta, KK, Bombay Rockers amongst many.
Popular for his hit mixes of classics like “Chura liya”, “Aapki nazron ne samjha” and “Noorie”, Sagoo shocked the Indian entertainment industry with albums like 'Bollywood Flashback' (1994) and 'Rising from the East' (1996).
Born in Delhi, Baljit Singh Sagoo grew up in a ghetto neighbourhood in Birmingham, England. He was influenced by reggae, disco and rap and disliked the traditional desi music that always seemed to hover around him when he was a child. Back then, his father played with Musafir, a South Asian band. “He used to play the accordion and would manage the band as well,” says Sagoo. “In fact he retired from the band recently but is going on with his music.” With a father, an ardent fan of the music from the black and white era and a mother who has been singing kirtans and religious songs at gatherings and prayer meetings, Bally Sagoo had quite a time developing his musical talents as a youngster. A typical Punjabi family, Sagoo's family immigrated to England like any other Indian family back then looking for more fulfilment in life. “We don't speak English at home,” says Sagoo. He grew up speaking Punjabi at home and English outside.
The Sagoos owned a music store for the last 35 years, which was very popular amongst the South Asians living in the neighbourhood. As a youngster, he would steal records from the store and stay up all night listening and working on the music and then replacing them in the morning. “Since my father has always been an oldies fan, one would always find a lot of classic collections at his store,” he explains. “I used to listen to these tracks and would experiment with the rhythm, the basic melody and then eventually would add new parts to them as well.”
Sagoo's famous numbers like “Chura liya”, “Chandni raatein”, “Dil cheez”, “Noorie", "Aapki nazron ne samjha”, “O sathi re” and many more numbers from the golden eras of Indian cinema, appealed to the young folk as well as the older generation. Sagoo would pick the original numbers and would create rhythms on his turntable. He would also add new segments to the song, using acoustic guitars, flutes, violins, sometimes a whole orchestra. In spite of re-making and remixing these old numbers, surprisingly enough, Sagoo's versions have in no way corrupted the essence of the songs. Rather, his music has introduced newer dimensions and layers to these compositions. “It basically depends on the musician,” says Sagoo. “I emphasise on the overall sound of a composition, at the same time keeping the basic elements of the composition the way they are.”
Starting from his home studio in his bedroom called the Currywood Studios, Sagoo has come a long way in the last 15 years. “My first album came out in 1989,” he says. “My actual mixes started to come out in the early 90s, though most of them were done when I was younger.” Much to his parents' dismay, Sagoo was never interested in school and bunked his classes at a regular interval, making special mixes for his friends. “I had lists of requests from my friends in school and would make around 30 pounds every day selling my mixes. That was a lot for a young chap back then!” Sagoo relates a story of his college (university) days when he was caught bunking by his parents. “I started college in 1980 and one day in 1983, I was sleeping when my parents barged into my room and woke me up,” he says. “My mother asked me in Punjabi if I did my classes the day before. I replied saying that it was a holiday of some sort the day before so I had not gone. Then she asked if I went to college the month before. I was silent, which led her to ask me if I actually attended a single class the whole of last year! That is one confrontation with my parents that I will remember for the rest of my life.” Sagoo adds that the traditional upbringing and the discipline that his parents have drilled into him have helped him develop as a human being as well as a musician. “Now of course my parents claim that it was their idea and intention for me to be a world famous musician!” he quips.
Sagoo has also starred in his first movie, “Sajna Ve Sajna”, based on an Indian immigrant belonging to a typical Indian family, in love with a “gora,” as Sagoo puts it, referring to a white woman. “I am the guy!” he says laughing. “I have also produced the soundtracks and am working with big Bollywood star-musicians like Alka Yagnik, Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan amongst many more.”
Bally Sagoo is looking for new artists and musicians from all around the world. His record label, Ishq Recods, has signed up with many such musicians who are now working with Sagoo on a regular basis. “Currently I am working on Arabic and South Indian music,” he says. “I don't understand the languages. That's why I will be flying down to these places later on this year and will sit with the locals to work on the songs.” Experimenting with music of all languages, Sagoo is also looking forward to working with Bangali artistes. “All you have to do is log on to www.ballysagoo.com and send in your demos,” he says.
Bally Sagoo will soon be producing western artists in the near future. “My music is for the mainstream audience,” he says. “Not everyone might understand the words and lyrics, since I work with compositions belonging to many different languages. That is why I am always emphasising on the instruments and the melody.”
He is proud to be an Indian, “loud and proud,” as he puts it on his website. “But I'm also British. I hope to have captured all these influences in my music for people all around the world to relate to. For me, my music represents bringing different worlds together and uniting them as one,” he says.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007