Gurcharan Mall, otherwise known as King G Mall is a man who has become internationally renowned for both his musical and charitable commitments. He is one of the men responsible for introducing the Dhol drum into mainstream musical circles and for changing the face of Bhangra music.
He is also mainly responsible for bringing the musical style into western society with various band incarnations, namely the ‘Dholbasters’ and the ‘Bhangrablasters.’ Gurcharan was the a pioneer of combining dance and Dhol playing, and since has been involved in world record attempts earning his place in the ‘Guinness Book of Records’ not once but twice for the largest gathering of dhol players in one place.
It was in the 1960’s Gurcharan and his family relocated to Birmingham England and so it is very fitting that on July 3rd Birmingham should be the venue for ‘Music Builds Bridges 2010,’ a festival devised by King G Mall aiming to bring communities together over the love of music and dance.
The day unfolds with a slight delay to proceedings and technical difficulties mean the bill does not run as scheduled for most of the day, but as they say in show business ‘The show must go on,’ and the slight hiccup does nothing to dampen the spirits of the artists and organisers alike.
This is particularly true of Gurcharan Mall who carries out his duty as master of ceremonies with a smile as cheery as the sunshine.
It is a gloriously sunny day, and Victoria Square Birmingham is suitably bustling with people, some are avid fans whilst others are curious visitors going about their daily business, drawn to the scene by the sights and sounds of the day. ‘Ambitions Dance Company’ provides a nice lively wake up call to the expectant crowd with an energy filled routine that is both colourful and versatile it goes down a treat with the audience whose attention is fully captured as the dancers perform in perfect synchronicity across the stage.
Nachda Sansaar an all male Bhangra dance group are the next to the stage and from start to finish they are an absolute delight to watch. In a set that is both invigorating and cultural they dominate the entire stage in their royal blue and white costumes.
The dhol thumps rhythmically as the algoza (a flute like instrument) rings out in a piece that offers a great deal of eastern charm to proceedings.
Next up are urban dance troupe ‘Tru Street Dance’ who offer a very artistic interpretation of street dance forms. With a backing track that very eclectically mixes Bjork’s ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ with Pat Ballard’s ‘Mr Sandman’ and R.Kelly to name a few,Tru Street Dance’ offer a performance filled with positivity, and are definitely a hit with the audiences adolescent members.
King G Mall himself takes to the stage armed with his trusty dhol and backed by a band of dhol and brass players, proceeds to make everyone succumb to the sounds and rhythms of Bhangra.
With a huge smile on his face which soon transfers to the audience Gurcharan Mall is obviously having a lot of fun and it captures the essence of what this festival is about.
One of the main reasons this festival was set up was to encourage young talent and spread a message of positivity amongst youngsters. Sunny Budwall the next act to the stage is one who epitomises both of these aspects and is one of the first of a string of young singers who impress today. In a quirky brief set which includes a cover of ‘Stand by Me’ it is obvious that ‘Music Builds Bridges’ have spent a lot of time into harnessing youth performers.
With a long delay due to sound problems, a lot of the crowd are given the chance to sample the other delights of the festival including some authentic Caribbean and Indian cuisine as well as take time to browse some of the many stalls set up around the site which add to the colour and atmosphere of the festival.
People from all backgrounds happily mingle with one another which again goes to show the great deal of positive influences the festival produces.
The Broombusters’ take to the stage later than scheduled but this does not take anything away from the precision of their performance which has a good portion of the audience dancing away to their blues/ reggae infusion brand of rock n’ roll. Bringing a great deal of musicianship to the table and a genuine sense of fun, songs like ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ have the majority of the crowd doing exactly that.
As a troupe of dancers take to the stage behind her, eleven year old Bollywood and gospel singer ‘Nish’ gives us all a glance at just how positive this event is for young artists, as she gives a very
confident performance and wins herself a lot of fans.
With the day in danger of running overtime King G Mall appears onstage to inform the crowd that many of the acts will perform in quick succession to try to include everyone.
As a result ‘D-Vibez,’ ‘Ambitious,’ and Leicester based singer ‘John’ only get chance to perform a couple of numbers, but they still put on a show and despite the quick changeover times manage to win over the audience with only a brief set.
Birmingham based ‘L.G. Tee,’ gives a taste of her skills as an emcee and works the crowd incredibly well. ‘Biti and Sabrina’ give us a brief but excellent glance at their soulful singing.
With more performances from the likes of ‘Irene Aserie and ‘Rekesh Chauhan’ show that the festival has done its upmost to cram its bill with as much talent as they can find.
Both ‘Global Reggae Band’ and local act ‘The Reggaelators’ put on a very lively and solid performance. The latter of which have the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands, causing dancing on mass.
It is safe to say that ‘Anita Lerche’ has made a name for herself. Winning track of the year at the Danish World Awards last year was yet another honour that the singer can claim, so her performance here today is nothing short of special.
Being the first non Asian woman from the west to release a solo album in the Punjabi language it is also safe to say she is unique and her set is both vibrant and involving. By the end of her set many of the crowd regardless of whether they understand Punjabi or not are happily singing along.
Rosie and ‘Edwin’ are two young solo acts who both impress, the former a singer keyboardist, and the latter a singer guitarist, they play only a short 2 songs but they entertain none the less.
Both ‘Fikre Selassie’ and ‘Skibu’ run through a very short set of reggae roots vocals in order to make sure proceedings finish as scheduled. Whilst ‘Yaz Alexander’ (who has also been very busy co hosting the event with King G Mall) gets a chance to flex her considerable vocal muscles with her ‘Black Peals’ in accompaniment.
Finally it comes to the close of the days events and as the crowd get ready to leave there is the last performance of the day from all the featured artists, who in a very nice gesture all join in with King G Mall in the chanting of ‘Aao Ji’ which is a greeting meaning ‘come in.’
It has truly been a colourful and positive experience and as the ‘Pukaar News’ team leaves, there are smiles all around from members of the public, artists, and organisers alike.