Bhangra and Asian Underground

South Asian Music and the Politics of Belonging in Britain

Bhangra and Asian Underground

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 15 photographs Published: October 2013

Author: Falu Bakrania

Asian Studies > South Asia, Cultural Studies, Music > Ethnomusicology

Asian Underground music—a fusion of South Asian genres with western breakbeats created for the dance club scene by DJs and musicians of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi descent—went mainstream in the U.K. in the late 1990s. Its success was unprecedented: British bhangra, a blend of Punjabi folk music with hip-hop musical elements, was enormously popular among South Asian communities but had yet to become mainstream. For many, the widespread attention to Asian Underground music signaled the emergence of a supposedly new, tolerant, and multicultural Britain that could finally accept South Asians. Interweaving ethnography and theory, Falu Bakrania examines the social life of British Asian musical culture to reveal a more complex and contradictory story of South Asian belonging in Britain. Analyzing the production of bhangra and Asian Underground music by male artists and its consumption by female club-goers, Bakrania shows that gender, sexuality, and class intersected in ways that profoundly shaped how young people interpreted “British” and “Asian” identity and negotiated, sometimes violently, contests about ethnic authenticity, sexual morality, individual expression, and political empowerment.


“In a major exposition of the British Asian music scene, Bhangra and Asian Underground is a strident tour-de-force of the South Asian music scene during a critical phase of its development.” — Malaikah Fazal, Eastern Eye

"A welcome addition to the ethnographic literature dealing with music practices in Britain, and her sophisticated analysis considerably expands our knowledge of these musical forms and their attendant social and cultural conventions."  — Evangelos Chrysagis, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“...[O]ne of the only good books ever written about the influential Bhangra subculture. Bakrania opens the book recalling her cousins playing Bally Sagoo’s ‘Star Megamix,’ following all the strands that made up that moment in history until she has assembled a rich portrait of a unique movement in British culture.” — Josephine Livingstone, Dazed and Confused

"Bhangra and Asian Underground is a rich ethnography of British Asian youth that will be of particular interest to scholars of popular culture and immigrant and diaspora formations." — Stefan Fiol, Ethnomusicology

“Few book-length monographs have been devoted to these music genres, especially Asian underground, and Bhangra and Asian Underground is a welcome addition to the literature. The book should be of value to ethnomusicologists, scholars of popular music and of Asian Studies, since it addresses bhangra and Asian underground both as music forms and as musical subcultures in the British Asian community.” — Iris Yellum, Journal of World Popular Music

Bhangra and Asian Underground gives readers a window into the South Asian diaspora in London, as well as an opportunity to discover some terrific music. . . . [It] will appeal to a wide academic audience from fields including ethnomusicology, anthropology, women’s studies, and diaspora studies, as well as to any scholars interested in the complexities of identity and belonging.” — Anna Oldfield, Popular Music and Society

“Bakrania provides a compelling account of the social life and contexts of British Asian music that demonstrates the significance of popular cultural forms in mediating constructions of identity and belonging in the South Asian diaspora.” — Tamara Bhalla, Journal of Anthropological Research

Bhangra and Asian Underground is an important book that makes significant contributions to the study of youth culture, popular music, and social identity. The author’s ethnographic research gives the reader an up close look at how young British Asians negotiate their identities by engaging with the contradictory demands of race, class, and gender.” — Ryan Moore, American Journal of Sociology

"Bhangra and Asian Underground is an important book. By focusing on how young British Asian women, particularly working-class women, negotiate questions of race, class, and nation through a gendered relation to popular culture, Falu Bakrania foregrounds the constitutive nature of class in British Asian women's lives." — Gayatri Gopinath, author of Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures

"Falu Bakrania has written a fantastic book that provides an excellent account of the complex and contradictory ways that young men and women in Britain craft and re-fuse British Asian identities through the bhangra and Asian Underground music scenes. It was with pleasure that I 'met' Jess, Sukh, Leena, and the other girls and women. Bakrania's transcriptions of the interviews with men and women were fantastic and well-analyzed, truly conveying a sense of their struggles, joys, and humor. Bhangra and Asian Underground is a fabulous ethnography and will enjoy a wide readership." — Nitasha Tamar Sharma, author of Hip Hop Desis: South Asian Americans, Blackness, and a Global Race Consciousness


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Falu Bakrania is Associate Professor of Race and Resistance Studies at San Francisco State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

Part I. The Politics of Production

1. Mainstreaming Masculinity: Bhangra Boyz and Belonging in Britain 33

2. From the Margins to the Mainstream: Asian Underground Artists and the Politics of Not Being Political 70

Part II. The Club Cultures in Consumption

3. The Troubling Subjects of Wayward Asian Girls: Working-Class Women and Bhangra Club Going 117

4. Roomful of Asha: Middle-Class Women and Asian Underground Club Going 160

Conclusion. Bhangra and Asian Underground in the 2000s 187

Notes 203

Bibliography 227

Index 237
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5317-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5301-0
Publicity material