One of the most popular desi tracks on the UK charts features none of the scantily-clad dancers, exotic locales or quaint videos that have become de rigueur in music these days. Instead, this unlikely hit features two firemen, some ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’, an important social message and a wicked hip-hop-meets-bhangra sound. This is the Got Mine, Got Yours? Asian Streets Remix, a unique idea dreamt up by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) to promote the installation of fire alarms in South Asian homes.
The Daily News & Analysis reports that the song and video are proving to be so popular that the LFB is considering a nationwide DVD release! This is not in the least bit surprising because, as one look can tell, this is indeed a slickly-produced, catchy number.
The LFB’s own website reveals that the project is the brainchild of London firefighter and part-time rapper Stephen-Remell Coleman. Coleman had originally produced the Got Mine Got Yours?, a rapped reminder to Londoners to avail of an offer of free fire alarms. To take the message directly to London’s desi community, Coleman teamed up with another talented London firefighter, Harvey Sahota, to rehash his original creation. Like Coleman, Sahota too is a musician. Sahota gave it some Punjabi punch and the result is the pulsating Asian Streets Remix version.
The hip-hop/rap and bhangra interface is one of the most fertile creative grounds in Britain. From its early underground days in Handsworth, bhangra-rap has gone mainstream to take the world by storm. British desi artistes like Apache Indian, Punjabi MC and Taz have defied classification and pushed the boundaries of the genre, spawning a whole new generation of fusion-minded young desis all over Europe, North America and, ironically, even in India. Apache Indian a.k.a. Steven Kapoor typifies this ilk. His work is edgy and gritty, representing the angst and the hope that are at the heart of the Asian immigrant experience. Social messages are therefore not new to bhangra. And rap’s heritage is even older. Kudos to the LFB for realising this and for thinking outside the box. Smart move.
But there’s probably one thing they have overlooked. Sahota is reported as having said, “The Asian community like to use cooking oil, fireworks and candles for Diwali or Eid. It puts them at higher risk.” If I recall correctly, while I was a student in London, my friends and I, like hundreds of other desis unhitched our fire alarms. There isn’t a fire alarm in all Christendom that can cope with a desi kitchen. The daily tadka alone is enough to send it into a tizzy, belting out tinny false alarms. So we just switched the damned thing off. And I know that I wasn’t the only brown guy in London who had done so! The LFB need to take cognizance of that and offer a more thick-skinned, blunt-nosed alarm in Wembley, Southall, Green Street, Stepney and Whitechapel.
And while they are being so good to everyone in London, they might as well do all of the UK a good turn and start their very own LFB band with all that amazing talent they have in-house. It would spare the British public the embarrassment of having the world’s worst-behaved musicians in their midst. On second thoughts, perhaps that’s not such a good idea, after all. It could put out of business another great British institution – the masaaledaar tabloid!