Bally Sagoo is having a vapid afternoon. He’s just sneered at a telephonic interview, hinted we better take notes during a preceding interview. He’s not happy repeating himself and in between his heavily accented colloquial Punjabi and cockney English accent, he sneaks in, “I get a lot of offers to do TV. They call me the Indian Simon Cowell.” There’s no black Armani body suit or his sarcastic innuendo. But Bally Sagoo has definitely arrived . . . a decade ago. And now, like a seasoned international Punjabi artist, he wants to groom the next big thing. Enough “X-Factor” for all of us, innit!
“I have always worked with new talent. Right from Chura Liya to Dil Cheez. I want to be a teacher. I have so many kids auditioning for me everyday. I just wish they had a mentor. And I am ready to fill those shoes,” says Sagoo. That’s what has been keeping him busy this past decade - working with new, underground, misunderstood or misdirected talent. “I have recorded some 150 songs with new artists, some who are literally bathroom singers but are unbelievably great,” says Sagoo. 14 of those best-sounding tracks have made their way to his first release in all these ten years, his new album “Future Shock.” Mimicking a 1920’s headline Sagoo introduces his compilation, “shocking and future proof. You have to have it.” Currently, Sagoo is working on a few music videos from the album. Though he can’t say how many for sure, two are currently under pre-production. There is the album’s showcase drinking track, Thori Ji Kori Lagdi and his signature mellow beats in Dil Jaan.
The album contains collaborations with unknown singers like Harry Mirza (Thori Ji Kori Lagdi) Kashmira Qadir and Sunita Bhatti (on the one of the only two Bhangra tracks Peg Peg), singing reality show reject Indrani Bhattacharjee (Dil Jaan), rappers and dancehall artists from Africa like Marvin B (Peeke Nena Cho) and I.T (Koka, Mein Kitha Tenu Pyar Soneya) and even an aspiring Bollywood actress Rimi Dhar (Thori Ji Kori Lagdi). “I told that girl if you can sing, why you wasting your time just chasing one dream when you can have two. Why can’t she be like Miley Cyrus instead of like Aishwarya Rai,” opines Sagoo, apologizing for the comparison he’s making staring at a record poster of Cyrus on the wall of the Universal Studios Indian board room.
“I want to create rockstars from India. You can’t just have movie stars like Amitabh Bachchan. Why aren’t our musicians popular?” questions Sagoo, who has been on a mission for the past three years to create and hone those rockstars in India. He has set up studios in Belgium, England, Chandigarh and Mumbai under his newly rechristened label, Fresh Dope Records and will soon be releasing more albums of new artists under his new label. The label’s earlier avatar Ishq Records wasn’t allowing him to diversify. “It was time to move on beyond just Bally Sagoo and his brand of music. Now is the time to do something big,” Sagoo says. That something big will see him looking into not just making music for film and TV, which also takes up most of his time having over the past few years worked extensively with filmmakers like Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham,” “It’s A Wonderful Afterlife”) and Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”) . But also in publishing, artist management and live shows under his company Fresh Industries. “The music industry is only growing and I want to lend my expertise to the field,” he says, not disclosing any of his future plans rather only promising, “big things are going to happen soon.”
Ask him what’s missing in the Indian music industry and he is quick to note, “Why are DJs only remixing and playing commercial stuff? Why aren’t they popular? And why aren’t there more girl DJs?” Tell him about India’s growing indie and electronica scene and Sagoo says, “I have never heard of it.”
The British Asian underground and Brit Bhangra pioneer biggest claim to fame however remains his two volumes of remix albums “Bollywood Flashback” one and two when his songs like Chura Liya, Noorie and Tum Bin Jiya catapulted him into instant stardom with their house and lounge-y productions. Though he insists they were cover versions and not pure remixes, Sagoo often rues releasing the Bollywood remix monster in India. “They are terrible. I don’t know what happened really. But I do feel responsible,” Sagoo comments on the T-Series remixes that ruled most part of late 1990s and early 200os. In an attempt to set things right, he plans to release a volume three soon. “People need to be reminded how to remix songs. I’ll show you,” he says.
Quiz him on the current crop of Punjabi musicians taking over desi clubs and airwaves from Punjab to Canada and UK, Sagoo insists on a rapid fire. “Take names of singers and I’ll tell you what I think.” We fired.
Yo Yo Honey Singh: “Great kid. Has a great potential.”
Daljit Dosanjh: “What a voice. We might work with him on a new album soon.”
Gippy Grewal: “Not bad at all. Good voice.”
In the meantime, sample his new album here: