Apache Indian - The Original Don Raja
Text By Geetha AKA Ashanti OMkar
Pics By Akin Falope
The setting was the Mega Mela 2003, in Wembley, where over 30,000 people gathered together to celebrate Indian culture, the place was filled with colour, lively fashion and dance shows, scrumptious spicy Indian food, wonderful Indian Designers and their creations and the best of all, the music stage, which brought together the best of UK Asian Music, from the award winning producer Rishi Rich, to the best performance of all, the renowned representative of Asian Music and Winner Of The Best International Success Award, Apache Indian!
I had the supreme honour of meeting and mingling with the original Don Raja, the Handsworth, Birmingham born and bred Ragamuffin, the legend amongst Asians and Jamaicans alike, the one who is world famous for being a performance artist, the unique and mega-talented Apache Indian and his magnificent Karmasound Family, consisting of veterans like Frankie Paul and award winning DJ, Tippa Irie! Apache performs a style of contemporary British-Indian blend of Ragga and the Punjabi traditional music, Bhangra, thus combined into the term “Bhangramuffin”.
To give you an introduction to this great man, Apache has been blessed with over a 10 years of accomplishment, winning a multitude of awards from the Reggae and Asian communities, acquiring 7 British Top 40 hits including Arranged Marriage and Boomshackalak, he was the First Asian to have a Brit Award nomination and a Mercury Music Prize nomination, winner of the Ivor Norvello Award and the International Dance Award.
Apache was the very First Asian Artist to perform at Reggae Japansplash featuring in conjunction with top artists such as Shaggy, Beenie Man, Frankie Paul, Yami Bolo, Chaka Demus and Pliers and the list continues. Read on to find out more about the life of Apache.
Let’s start with your name which you have changed from the original, Steven Kapoor, to Apache Indian. How did this come about?
Very simple, I am a Big fan of Reggae DJ, Supercat from back in the day, from Jamaica (he refers to the Wild Apache Supercat; the original Don Dada). I still think Supercat is one of the greatest DJ’s; he’s actually a Jamaican Indian, Supercat’s style was unique. The name Apache stems from Supercat – and the Indian because I am an Indian – hence, Apache Indian.
You are the first and only Asian artist to have ever been nominated for a National Brit Award in the UK and also the first Asian DJ to have an own show on National Radio 1 in the UK. This was a major achievement for the Asian population – what are your feelings on it and about the new generation of DJ’s, like Bobby and Nihal, Adil Ray? How do you feel about the emergence of Asians in media?
It’s about time! Know what I mean. Back in the day it was nice, but I am not a Radio DJ or a TV presenter, but I got offered to do those things. It was more of the case of breaking it, going in there and doing it. It wasn’t about Apache Indian and Radio One. It wasn’t about just about Apache Indian and radio 1. I had interviewed Malkit Singh, Topcat and Indian artistes as well. I am kind of surprised after all that and it was a great show, nothing happened for all these 10 years. People say we’ve moved on, no disrespect to the new radio shows we have at the moment; they are at 4 O’clock in the morning. I don’t know how we have moved on because my show was at 1 O’clock in the afternoon. It is difficult as an Asian, you can imagine, 10 years ago, it was so difficult as there were so few coloured people on TV or radio…..
When I asked interjected that Apache was the Asian who broke barriers and stigmas in the Music Industry and paved the way for the new generation, his reply was:
Absolutely, people gave me a break and the chance. I had the chance and I went and did it. I believe I inspired a lot of people, who thought, if he can do it, as an Asian, then so can we try to break into the media. People gave me an opening. I guess Inspired a lot of people, as they say “if he can do it as an Asian guy, so can we”. “It’s all good”, he says, inspiringly!
Your views on Religion, and the lyrics of your song Religion (I and I respect all Religion; I and I me pray to the Almighty One). The Karma Album which comes from within and the song “Om Numah Shivaya”, which has some very poignant lyrics “Good spirit and strength from within; that fights against all sin” A very touching and moving answer comes from Apache.
My background is that my Parents are Punjabi, of Hindu Religion, my Wife is a full on Punjabi of Sikh Religion. We come from a new religion made up of many religions. What is Religion? It is all about being good. I grew up as a Hindu, some things I can’t agree with and some things I can. As with all religions, I take upon the goodness and that is what I follow. As I am from a cosmopolitan era and Diaspora, I feel that I come from a new culture and religion; my children are half Sikh, half Hindu. I don’t force the Religion on them, but I feel we come from a new culture of many cultures, the religion says that we don’t steal, we don’t rape, and we don’t disrespect. My religion of many religions, my style of music reflects my lifestyle, I am an open person. We have one religion. We call it Karma, which means:”Inner peace”. Karma is a movement, a new Religion, a new Culture. About the “Om Numah Shivaya” piece; it was recorded in India. There is a long story behind that. It was actually written before my father passed away, this happened when I was abroad. I had written the track before I took it abroad to record and I played it to my Father. He was surprised, and asked me what made me write the track, because the whole song is in Hindu prayer style. I said I don’t know. I came back from America and my father was in hospital and passed away. I almost feel that from the Hindu faith that people who are close to each other, are prepared for death. If you look at the video, I put a garland round my Father’s photo, at the end of the video; I use that symbolism as significance for the track, for people who understand.
As one of the pioneering British artistes to work with AR Rahman, (Read more about AR Rahman on the Asian Connection article, the household name, composer of the Bombay Dreams Musical and his next major music project, The Lord of the Rings Musical, out in 2005) taking your style to the whole of South India and the whole Tamil community, how did that experience feel?
It was great, working with AR Rahman who is a big name, a great producer and musician. I went to Madras (Chennai). The said they would love to fly me in and get me to work with AR Rahman. Once you are a musician, you should be willing to travel anywhere for your music. They wanted to record “No problem” and put some Tamil words in and the intro to the song, “Vanakkam to all the Tamil masses”. This was most enlightening and to top it off, I was in the actually in the Bollywood movie, recording the video at the Hippodrome in London, working with the crew and famous South Indian dancer, Prabhu Deva. I have great respect for them and every time I see them it is an absolute pleasure.
What about your experiences of working with Bollywood singing queen, Asha Bhonsle on Indian Pop Music? In fact, Asha’s name was made famous by the band Cornershop, on their major single, “Brim Full Of Asha “. Again, Apache was a rare Brit Asian to work with her.
My Parents grew up on Asha Bhonsle, and when I was in Bombay, she called me up and invited me to take part in her album, and it wasn’t just any album, but a very special one, “Rahul and I”, which is dedicated to the memory her late Husband. It was a great experience, my God, what a great honour it was! I have worked with her many times and try and meet the 70 plus year old Asha whenever she is in the UK.
On the cult favourite single “Global talk”, which features on many a radio show in the UK and US and also released on the album, Urban Fusion.
It is produced by a Reggae producer, Handel Tucker (who has worked with Maxi Priest and is a big name in the Reggae world) licensed to Universal Records. It is a new style of sound and it gives a little insight into the flavas of my new album.
How was your family backing your choice of music, Reggae? What were their reactions about your musical passion which is and particularly was a unique choice to Asians. How did you bring them to love your music?
They had to accept it, as I was always a good boy, a simple guy with a passion for Reggae. Music comes with a stigma, for bad behaviour, e.t.c., but I was not like that at all. It was there on my doorstep. Like we were from the Punjab, settling in Birmingham, our neighbours were from Kingston Jamaica. I wanted to be in with all the culture, it was not a surprise to my Parents. My parents gave me a lot of support; they were thrilled and gave me a lot of respect by the time I came out with my first record. They were pleased that I was propagating the Indian music and culture and with time, I was even in a movie in India, so it was all good, like a dream coming true!
A line about some of your Corroborations, like General Levy, Maxi Priest, Yami Bolo, Boy George, Shaggy, Malkit Singh and more recently,
Firstly, it is a very personal style, with everything about my upbringing. Everyone I worked with was helping me. My first album was a wonderful experience, going to Kingston Jamaica. I worked with Frankie Paul and Maxi Priest and it was certainly very special. The other greatest thing about it is that here is an artist who worked with Asha Bhonsle, then working with Frankie Paul or Luciano (huge artist in Jamaica and he actually sang a song that I wrote for him) and then Maxi Priest – it is a true diversity! It is very important for me to have respect from the Reggae industry and it has been a wonderful experience, working with these great people. On the new album, the lead single is corroboration with Praz of the Fugees, he is a big artist and the single, “Light my Fire” will be dropping soon.
Let’s move on to the US tour with Sean Paul, what was that like, how was the audience and the experience? Also, tell us about the single you will be recording with Sean Paul.
Definitely, Reggae people tend to work together; it’s not all about contracts. Sean Paul helped me out, he has a lot of respect for what I do and I reciprocate. Sean Paul is a great artist and the shows were excellent. The first was in Delaware, Philly and the audience was mainly a big mainstream White audience. The audiences know me well in USA, as my songs have been in Hollywood movies too, in fact, Boomshackalak was in 4 movies. Big respect to Sean Paul, it was wonderful for him to give me a hand.
Your vision has been way ahead of it’s time, will your new album reflect how you have changed over the years, the world is just catching up with you, how will your new album, represent?
I have worked extremely hard on this album, Maximising my art over time, with tours and writing over the years and this is a true culmination of that. It has some great collaborations and some great songs, you will be very surprised. It has a new sound, I am now in my Thirties and as a writer and performer, I have matured, so it is a new and very exciting sound. I will be doing a lot of touring in UK and the US before the album comes out and I will be giving love to my fans. I have worked with Dalvinder Singh, an upcoming Birmingham artist and the song “Shock” with him is an interesting sound for me. Look out for it in his album. 2004 is my comeback, Exclusive Apache Indian; I will be back with the people and watch out for me! I will be back giving Love and Respect to the people who have supported me. The album is called “Get Loose”, so watch out for it.
Tell me about the use of instruments in his music and your favourite backing musicians.
The Soldiers are my live band, based in Holland and they have toured all over the world, they are great guys and I am a singer songwriter and I love the live music and there is nothing better than doing it live. I am not a big fan of the remix culture, I mean, there is a market for that, but nothing beats live music. In fact, I am a bit surprised about this Mela, where the stage is still not live. I mean, it maybe a bit of hassle, but a huge organisation like this has not got a live stage, which is a shame. One of the greatest bands I have worked with is 809, from Jamaica; I worked with them and thoroughly enjoyed the unforgettable experience. Having the energy of the band behind me is wonderful. Bring back the live thing and make it real for the people! In terms of musicians, I have brought in all sorts of live musicians. In fact, the Tablas and many Indian Instruments have featured in my many tracks. I got some Indian Classical musicians and they did some Hindustani Classical scales and I did the Raga Ragga track with them, paying homage to the roots of Indian music.
Tell me about some of your favourite things.
People come to me and say you should wear more jewellery, but I am a simple guy, simple dresser, nothing fancy fancy! I love Bob Marley and at home, I listen to him all the time. He sadly passed away on my birthday. 11th May and I particularly listen to him on that day. I am a big Roots Reggae fan (Freddie Mc Gregor, Steele Pulse), with the whole Eighties vibe, I spend my leisure listening! My Karma album is a Reggae album, done for my own love of the music and the Karma one is very personal to me. I am a huge sports fan; I used to be a sports teacher. My son is a black belt in the Karate British team. I keep myself fit and healthy and advice everyone to have a healthy lifestyle, especially when travelling.
The people who surround you are so wonderful, this I have seen from hanging out with you all day. Tell us bit about this special unity I witnessed.
It’s all about good people, especially good natured people. Sometimes you have professionalism, but not good natured people. That is the way the whole world should be. I can’t do what I do without this supportive team.
Any tips for the new generation of kids who want to break into the business.
You have to prove it to your parents, you have to educate your parents and if you have the talent, you have to make them see that this is you. You have to be real and do it with enthusiasm. You want your Parents to be proud of you, you don’t want them reading about you doing drugs and it must be a positive thing and a positive image. I have taken my parents for my concerts and they had started to cry when they realised how many fans I had and how much love the fans showed for me. This is the positive way to make your mark and also prove to your family that this is the job for you. Keep it real, you do it for yourself, not because everyone does it. Learn about the business and be street smart, because, you are about to enter a cut-throat business, you must know your stuff and be clever about.
Last but not least, your charity work, which is a big part of your life. Tell us about it.
I have my own charity in India, called the Apache Indian foundation, it was registered in 1996. It was very difficult to set up, being from the UK, but since then, we have raised Thousands and Thousands of Pounds for them. I work for the Blind Association (written songs for them and also done charity concerts) in India and many more charities, when I go travelling, to Africa and India, I feel the need to set up the charities and work with the native people to give to them. I learnt this from Rita Marley, wife of Bob Marley. She is an inspiration and I would like to pay some respect to Rita Marley, who is a true inspiration!
Some words from Apache to the artistes and people, keep your feet on the ground. Be accessible to the masses and love your art. Don’t hide behind closed doors and be accessible to your public. My website, http://www.karmasound.com is available to one and all for keeping track of my projects, it is not just about me, but a movement which is positive and says live good, give respect and keep only optimistic spirits in your life!
Apache Indian Rocks Pakistan! FOR THE PAKISTAN POST
By ASHANTI OMKAR
Karachi was filled with the buzz of musical fans, when the legendary Apache Indian, the Don Raja, Ragamuffin from Handsworth, Birmingham made his first visit to Pakistan!
In 10 years of being in the mainstream music business and performing all over the world to his numerous fans, Apache Indian (originally Steven Kapoor) made an apology to his adoring fans at Karachi for not having performed before them until now! The response of overwhelming, with over 15,000 people turning up for the show. The organisers, Zeena's Communications, and ARY TV made this phenomenon possible. The crowd included lots of Pakistani Pop Stars and Celebrities such as Jawad Ahmed, Fakhir, Fareeha Pervez, Adeel Chaudhary, Rija and Fakhere Alam Imran Raza. He was in such huge demand that he has been invited back, for 3 dates over Christmas, covering Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.
Apache Indian, known all over the world for his songs like Boomshakalak, Chokthere, Ragamuffin Girl and Arranged Marriage has touched all our hearts with his giving nature and his wonderful sense of family. He has given inspiration and much hope to many a youngster in the UK, for being ahead of his time, mixing the styles of Reggae with Bhangra. The first UK AMA’s (Asian Music Awards) have paid tribute to his exciting work so far, by honouring his as the Winner of the Best International Success Award! With Asian based music hitting the mainstream big-time, Apache is choosing to share his music with the world and visiting and performing in countries like Pakistan, which have missed out on such privileges, due to the negative press received.
The trip only lasted 4 days, squashed between the Wembley Mega Mela 2003 in the UK and the Carlton Awards and Asian Music Awards also in London. Apache landed in Karachi and proceeded to a large press conference, followed on by his performance. In his own words, “the trip to Pakistan was fantastic in every way”. This really says it all when it comes to what Apache Indian and his Karmasound family are all about, they make the best of every situation!
Apache had been advised not to go for this trip and people kept warning of trouble, but Apache was adamant to go and said that this was not the case at all. He was treated with the utmost respect and everyone was there to celebrate the music they have loved for so many years! Apache Indian has made a community statement by doing this trip at this moment in time and showing that not only is it safe to visit Pakistan but that he has given much love and respect to his fans there who have reciprocated in a true courteous fashion. Speaking to Apache, he has mentioned that he was given first class treatment with 5 Star Hotels, delicious food and was provided with the best private armed security possible, teamed with his own bodyguards from UK.
In terms of the songs themselves, Apache performed many of his classics and also a set of songs from his new album (Get Loose) which is to be released in 2004 (this will feature many great musicians such as Sean Paul and Bhangra King, Malkit Singh), 2004 is touted to be the year of Apache Indian. He took with him Birmingham based Punjabi singer, Dalvinder Singh, who is about to drop his album, ‘The Survivor’, featuring a very special track in collaboration with Apache, called Shock. This track follows the Classical Raag (Scale) Yeman Kalyani and is a truly fantastic piece of music. The response from the Karachi crowd was simply fantastic, in the words of Apache, “great vibe, wicked atmosphere”!
During the whole Pakistan trip, Apache was greeted by loving fans who recognised him everywhere, including on his shopping trip. The promotions company, Zeena’s had done a great job of putting up billboards and live screens all over town. This heightened the trip and the experience for Apache.
Apache had specifically commented on the fact that “nobody wanted to speak about war and politics.....seemed like they are all fed up and wanted to have a good time”. Apache is a genuinely peaceful person, with a magnetic personality and a true knack for entertainment. No doubt, all the people who touch his path feel these vibes and we hope that he will be performing in Pakistan many more times. Keep supporting Apache with his new ventures, his new single, Get Loose/Light My Fire featuring Praz from the Fugees will be out very soon, so go out, buy it and support this pillar of Asian society!
Visit Apache at www.karmasound.com which deals with his production company and is the home of many outstanding musical people.