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Desipalooza '99: British Bhangra Invasion
story by Satinder

Pictures from Desipalooza '99 NYC

NEW YORK—The Kit Kat Klub on 43rd Street in Manhattan was the host for Desipalooza ‘99 on September 11.

The show, featuring some of Bhangra’s hottest bands today. The bands are well known in the worldwide Bhangra scene. The venue included three international bhangra bands, Stereo Nation, B21 and Sukhbir. Added to Desipalooza was a Bhangra-rap group from Los Angeles called Rukus Avenue and the acapella group from Penn State, Penn Masala.

The show started out with a dance competition from local universities including NYU, Hofstra/St. John, Temple and Rutgers, which was judged by Miss. India – USA New York. The winner, Rutgers, walked away with $1000.

Penn MasalaAfter the dance competition, the 13-member acapella group Penn Masala boarded the stage and silenced the crowd with their no instruments, voice-only style. The crowd responded favorably even with sound system problems. Penn Masala recently returned from a tour in the UK and has a music video hit on MTV Asia.

Rukus Ave.The crowd seemed anxious to get on the dance floor for the bhangra groups they came to see. First off was Rukus Avenue. A mixture of rap, bhangra, Hindi, Punjabi and house style music. The band includes a teen-age sardarji on the turntables, a sardarji as the ‘crowd stirring’ MC, two female dancers, 4 desi rappers (one with the style of ‘Flavor Flav’ from Public Enemy), a female singer and probably the highlight of the group, Amar, the Punjabi speaking singer. Rukus Avenue was something new to NYC and well accepted by the crowd. They also found time to pass out audiotapes and T-shirts while on stage.

After Rukus Avenue the crowd exploded with B21 entering the stage. B21 is UK’s hottest bhangra band. Hailing from Birmingham, were the postal code is B21, the two singers Jassi Sidhu and Bally Jagpal along with the amazing 19 year old dhol player, Tony, brought the crowd to a non stop frenzy.

They played their hit bhangra songs, ‘Putt Sardara Deh’ , ‘Chandigarh’ and an exclusive song that is expected to be out on their next album.

B21"After our appearance here, we are booked for three shows in the UK in the coming weeks", said Bhota Jagpal brother of Bally Jagpal before the show. Bhota has a successful career in the UK bhangra scene. In 1994 he received the award for Best Musical Producer at the age of 22.

Sukhbir, the artist from UAE, kept the crowd moving to the bhangra beat with his hit songs, ‘Sauda Khara Khara’, ‘Ishq’, ‘Gul Ban Gayee’ and others. This was Sukhbir’s first appearance in NYC.

"I am looking forward to the show but am not sure how well I am followed here", said Sukhbir before the show.

The crowd proved to Sukhbir that he is a favorite in New York. Sukhbir recently came out with another album ‘Greatest Hits 1’. Even with the sound people from the Kit Kat Klub interrupting his performance, Sukhbir kept his energy and prepared the crowd for the closing act, Stereo Nation.

Stereo Nation the closing act of Desipalooza re-pumped the crowd after a short delay. Comprised of Tarsame Singh and Kendall Smith, Stereo Nation showed New York City why they are so successful in the UK, Canada and India. Tarsame, a veteran in the Bhangra scene as compared to the other groups, showed his experience by keeping the crowd jumping and singing to the lyrics of his songs. Performing the smash hit ‘Oh Carol’ and other crowd favorites, Stereo Nation closed the tour of Desipalooza ’99 with a bang.

The New York City show was the last performance of Desipalooza. It also took place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Chicago around the Labor Day weekend. Also present at the show were local favorites DJ Kucha and DJ RB-NYC. Span Entertainment and ZEE TV presented the four-hour show.