Exclusive Interview

When you talk about dream teams; kis ka naam yaad aata hai? Raul & Ronaldo? Metz & Trix? Irfan & Usman? Shoaib & Sami? Well… we managed to track down Nihal who is one half of the illustrious Radio One tag-team; yeah I am talking about the desi answer to Ant & Dec, the one and only Bobby & Nihal! Trust me we weren't gonna ask him when his birthday was or what his favourite colour is! Irfan is on hand to give him a grilling desitunes4u style, talking about the real music issues. Now was Mr Ice-cool going succumb under the pressure or does he have an answer for everything that Irfan has to fire at him? Want to find out? Then read on!

Irfan: We all know Nihal as the top DJ on Radio One but how did it all start for you? Give us your history; tell us about your good and bad experiences en route to DJ extraordinaire!

Nihal: I have been into music since primary school but it was hip-hop culture that really grabbed me by the throat and thrust me into a place of culture confidence and belonging. I was signed to a record label at 22 and then I got another deal when I was 23 and then a music journalist, manager, club promoter. My life really changed when I got into the world of PR. Suddenly I was having meetings at major record companies and seeing the mechanics of the record industry, from there I became a TV Plugger (basically a PR working at getting bands on TV). I worked with Mos Def, Beenie Man, Judge Jules and Elton John! After that I worked setting up a (never released) magazine for IPC, and then a kids TV presenter for CBBC, three hours of live TV every Saturday morning on the CBBC Channel for six months interviewing Blue, Westlife, Busted etc etc. Did I mention doing a show for MTV Base called the Drop, oh, and Desi DNA for BBC 2 and Heavy TV for Channel 4, well if not, I just did. My bad experiences have all been due to the insecurity involved with trying to have a media career, the transience and the bullshit.

Irfan: How did you hook up with your so-called saathi, Bobby Friction?

Nihal: Radio 1 put us together. Our paths had crossed over the years but Radio 1 felt that we both brought something to the party and thankfully its working so far.

Irfan: Have you two (Bobby & Nihal) ever been in disagreement over what tunes to play? If so give us some scenarios when this has happened and who wins the argument?

Nihal: We've had reservations over certain tracks but if we have never vehemently disagreed on a track. There is always a context for a track, and that is important. Bobby and I play what we feel is strong or important, and also what's real.

Irfan: Your show has bare jokes and laughs and you are a great tag-team. How important is adding a little bit of humor to the show to you? What is the funniest moment EVER to-date on your radio show?

Nihal: When you listen to our show you should feel like you are part of a club, not a philistine being talked down to. We are a conduit not creators. Our producer stinking out the studio was pretty funny, and horrendous.

Irfan: Who is the next desi star in the making? Any names that you predict will 'blow up' within the next 12 months or so?

Nihal: The Trailblazers, Mentor, Hard Kaur, Mr Riz, Sonik Gurus. It depends how you measure success really. Jay and Raghav are making moves and taking Asian music to places it's never been before and we feel.

Irfan: Bhangra music in the mainstream; is it here to stay or is

this just a phase ready to elapse anytime?
Nihal: Bhangra music is not in the mainstream. Neither Jay nor Raghav are Bhangra artists. Everyone has to realize that until Jay and Raghav sell albums.

Irfan: It has been said by many including our very own DJ Dev that you are the 'ones to virtually put Raghav into the mainstream.' How does that make you feel?

Nihal: We are a part of a big and complex washer dryer that takes in brothers and sisters and hopefully at the end of the cycle they won't have faded, shrunk, been shredded or simply disappeared like socks sometime do in the wash.

Irfan: When you appear on TV or when you are presenting events everything seems that you are not the least bit nervous; has it always been this way? I mean have you become less nervous on TV/stage with experience or are you just a natural?

Nihal: It's not John Simpson in Iraq; it's entertainment, so no need to be that nervous. Jonathan Ross is probably the best TV Presenter in the UK, and Letterman is my hero. I am confident-ish once the camera is on but I've had some nerve-wracking moments. For a documentary for Ch4, which is yet to be screened, I dressed up as a Manners Warden and paraded around Leicester Sq upbraiding people for no real reason and that was very funny.

Irfan: You were the presenter for the UK Asian Music Awards 2003. What was you general opinion of the whole event? What did you think of the voting system, I mean was it fair in your view?

Nihal: I think that it has room for improvement, the organisers and the public know that, but awards ceremonies are always a light to a fuse, and when the explosion comes, everyone's trying to make more noise than each other

Irfan: The UK Asian Music Awards is now a double event for 2004! With the Br UK Asian Music Awards and the official UK Asian Music Awards. By having 2 Awards ceremonies in a year does that in any way lose credibility of the events? What is your opinion on the whole double event issue?

Nihal: Bobby and I support Asian music and the artists who represent it. Whoever gets the message across to the most people in a professional manner gets our support.

Irfan: In recent times 'desi' artists have seriously stepped up their game when it comes to promotion, which is good! However, I feel 'aaj kal' some people actually don't get the right balance and they are actually spending more time promoting stuff and less time in the studio actually producing it. Would you agree? Have you ever been sent 'demos' and had demands for airplay and you think 'are they for real, you can't seriously expect me play this sh**?'

Nihal: All the time, but you have to understand that being an artist is not easy and you have to believe in yourself 100%, you may be deluded but we ain't hating on you for the belief. It's important that artists understand the power of marketing and promotion.

Irfan: 'Jumping on the Bandwagon' is a commonly used word in the Asian industry. If you do it then you get cussed, if you don't then you are accused of not 'Moving With The Times' so can't win either way! What is your view on this whole issue? I mean when is it right time to do this? Is it ever wrong?

Nihal: Being real is important. No one will ever cuss you for not jumping on the bandwagon. The important thing is to create the future in the present not waste time trying to predict it.

Irfan: You guys are giving airplay to tunes from an album that you believe to be coming out next week and then all of a sudden the album is delayed. This is sadly the norm for most bhangra albums released in the UK. Why to think so many albums fail to meet the provisioned release dates? How frustrating for you as radio DJ's are these delays?

Nihal: This is a problem for all record labels, not just Asian. With the majors it happens all the time. As long as we correct the information and the listeners are kept up to date it's fine.


Irfan: Now that your show is to be played at the earlier time of 9pm are you going to play as many all out 'desi' tunes or will it be a case of more gora-fied watered down fusion stuff to please the potential none-desi listeners?

Nihal: No compromise on music ever.

Irfan: I'm sure asking someone to come in to the show at 3am doesn't exactly sound very exciting; I mean was it an obstacle? So with Bobby & Nihal on at 9pm, does that give you scope to get more 'live guests' on the show?

Nihal: Yes, it also gives us more scope with performances. Asian music now has a louder voice in the mainstream and we intend to represent that as well as we can alongside Panjabi Hit Squad and Adil Ray.

Irfan: You guys tend to swear a little bit on your show and your partner in crime, Bobby Friction got slated recently for F'ing and blinding on 'Bollywood Star.' At 3am it's not such an issue but with your new show playing at 9pm will you be more conscious of cutting the swearing out or will it be a case of more of the same?

Nihal: We have to issue profanity warnings and cut out all the swearing. It's a small price to pay and it's helped me with my tourettes.

Irfan: Your show, in the new timeslot, clashes with Adil Ray's for one hour (between 10pm till 11pm). Are you fearful of your listeners switching over to his show come ten o'clock? Or should Adil be scared of losing his following to you?

Nihal: There is no competition. People are free to switch as they choose, we are but minstrels at the Royal court of Asian music.

Irfan: What do you think of Muttiah Muralitharan's decision 'NOT' to tour Australia?

Nihal: Dodgy!

Irfan: Finally, do you have any final message for the thousand of desitunes4u followers worldwide?

Nihal: Please be informed attentive and entertained. Be critical when needed and supportive when it's warranted. These are exciting times and we are all at the forefront so lets not blow it all by hating. This is the beginning.

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Interview by: Irfan