Naya Beat label heads Filip Nikolic and Raghav Mani (aka Turbotito & Ragz) have paid homage in recent years to the overlooked South-Asian dance scene of the 1980s. Their upcoming April EP continues to champion South Asian musical heritage with the aptly titled ‘Bhangra House Xtc EP’, featuring music from the late great Manjeet Kondal, remixes from Mr. Scruff and original tracks from the label bosses themselves.

Filip and Raghav, welcome to Music Is 4 Lovers! How’s your year going so far?

Great but crazy busy! We just released our track ‘Pyaar’ a few days ago which is our first original track together as Turbotito (Filip) & Ragz (Raghav). It’s off our forthcoming EP ‘Bhangra House Xtc’ with Mr. Scruff and is an homage to this magical but forgotten era of late 80s/early 90s UK Bhangra that was inspired by dub and acid house. Filip did a sick 90s music video for it. Check it out! We’ve got a bunch of big releases planned for the year and have also veered into artist management territory. We’re spending a lot of time managing Asha Puthli and getting her ready for her first tour in 44 years.

The two of you are the co-founders of Naya Beat, a reissue label dedicated to uncovering hidden gems from the South Asia’s highly overlooked dance scene of the 80s/90s. Tell us about your background and why you decided to create this imprint?

Naya Beat probably has its roots in the dark, dingy and wonderful Gold Diggers club in LA’s East Hollywood at a seminal Thursday night party, Heat-Wave, that our friend Dan Terndrup and Wyatt Potts used to throw. It was a selector’s paradise featuring deep international dance and funk cuts on vinyl. And it got absolutely lit. Both of us are DJs and were Heat-Wave regulars. That’s where we met. Filip is a producer, multi-instrumentalist, studio engineer and Raghav is a DJ and record collector.

We initially wanted to work on a mixtape of some special, under the radar 80s South Asian tracks. That evolved into doing a compilation, which evolved into a label. Here we are three years later and six full-length releases in (and many more singles to boot)! The first thing most people think about when you say South Asian music is Bollywood or Kollywood film music or the more traditional (and also amazing) classical, devotional and regional stuff. Through years of digging, we realized there was a lot more to this and that there were solo artists and bands that had released incredible music in the 70s, 80s and 90s that was completely unknown. These artists were putting stuff out that had elements of disco, new wave, electro, dancehall and house that were way ahead of the time in South Asia. This movement wasn’t just happening in the sub-continent, but in South Asian communities around the world that had their own unique history and culture. Be it Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, the U.S., the UK or the Netherlands, South Asian artists from these places were incorporating synths, drum machines and other elements of modern dance and electronic production along with their traditional forms. The idea for our label and our very first release, ‘Naya Beat Volume 1’ (now almost 3 years old!) was to uncover and curate this amazing electronic and groove-based music that was being made by South Asian and diaspora musicians from the foundational era of electronic music (late 70s through the early 90s). We are still focused on the same mission!

Naya Beat’s upcoming EP, ‘Bhangra House Xtc’ features music from the late great Manjeet Kondal, remixes from Mr Scruff and new tracks from yourselves! Could you give us a deep dive into this release?

There was a magical moment in the late 80s and early 90s when South Asian sounds made their way into underground dance music and the sonic tapestry of clubs in major Western cities around the world. Be it edgy new beat pioneers in Brussels or UK acid house championed by the likes of Andrew Weatherall (a little known fact – one of his earliest remixes is of seminal east-west crossover act West India Company’s track O Je Suis Seul), South Asian sounds were very much in vogue. UK Bhangra was no exception. While Bhangra has its roots in folk music from the Indian and Pakistani regions of Punjab, it’s development really took hold with Punjabi immigrants in the UK. The genre initially became popular at weddings and other parties in Punjabi communities across the country, but quickly evolved absorbing adjacent influences – both from the UK Caribbean diaspora with dub and ragga as well as dance music like acid house in late 80s and later jungle and drum and bass. This was also a time when British Asian youth were finding their voice, identity and outlet for expression and community at daytime raves.

‘Bhangra House Xtc’ pays homage to this special time. A time when Asian and Western producers collaborated extensively to bridge musical cultures on the dance floor. It’s part tribute to bhangra innovator Manjeet Kondal – who passed away late last year – and part tribute to the overlooked influence of acid house and dub music on late 80s and early 90s bhangra. The release has actually been a few years in the making. Mr. Scruff aka Andy Carthy initially contacted us in 2021 to give us some compliments on our first compilation, ‘Naya Beat Volume 1’ which had come out a few months earlier. It was a massive honour of course, as we are both huge fans of his. In any case Andy’s timing was incredibly fortuitous as we had literally just got the stems for Kondal’s track Ishkaan De Mamle from the original producer and arranger Deepak Khazanchi. The OG version of Ishkaan De Mamle is on ‘Naya Beat Volume 1’ and we had initially wanted to include a remix of it on the comp instead but just never got the stems in time. Andy shares our deep love and knowledge of bhangra but also has a unique sensibility and deep connection with the heritage of UK dance music which Bhangra is inherently intertwined with. It was a no brainer to ask him to do a remix. We all got busy and a few other projects got in the way but good things come to those who wait! Andy’s remix of Ishkaan De Mamle is just sublime – a snaking, stripped down and trippy acid house odyssey. To complement the Mr. Scruff acid house take we decided to focus on a dub chugger and so made Pyaar, an original track but using a bunch of Kondal’s vocal stems that Deepak sent us (maybe accidentally?) from the original album ‘Holle Holle’.

Dance music has now interestingly come full circle with many British Asian DJs increasingly regular faces on the mainstream festival, club and underground circuit and with Asian daytime raves also now back in vogue. We feel the release is a fitting and timely tribute (but with a modern take) to the pioneers that came before.

Are there any artists or tracks that particularly inspire your production process when recapturing South Asian dance music?

Honestly, it’s a tough question to answer as the sensibilities and approach vary so much in South Asian dance music. An 80s Bollywood production is so different to a dancehall-inspired chutney track or a bhangra track. But maybe staying focused on the topic of UK bhangra, there are a number of producers and tracks that have been hugely influential. Producer partners Mick St. Clair and Nils Edstrom for one. Check out their Black Plait Dub as an example. Another producer pair are Deepak Khazanchi and Pete Ware. Deepak arranged and produced the original version of Kondal’s track Ishkaan De Mamle (that one Mr. Scruff just remixed) and was absolutely instrumental in ushering in electronic music production in bhangra music and Asian music in general. Deepak and Peter’s production Beat The Rhythm is a favourite. And of course, how can we not mention the legend Bally Sagoo. Jhoole Jhoole Lal (Tabla Mix) is a classic.

You released an amazing remix album, from the legendary Asha Puthli last year and she seems to be having something of a resurgence, appearing on the Glastonbury festival lineup. How did you get involved with Asha and what was the experience of working with her like?

We put two releases out in fact! One EP with Dimitri From Paris remixing Asha’s classic Space Talk and the other a full length remix album ‘Disco Mystic Volume 1’ with Maurice Fulton, Yuksek, Kraak & Smaaak, Psychemagik. Jitwam as well as us. Simply put working with Asha is the honour of a lifetime. Musical pioneer, Studio 54 icon, feminist, actor, environmentalist, muse to Andy Warhol, friends with everyone from Keith Haring to Mikhail Gorbachev. There is too much to be said about Asha’s incredible and underappreciated legacy to summarize it. We’ve had the privilege of working hand in hand with her for the last three years and plotting her resurgence. At the age of 79 she is as sharp and motivated as ever and while it’s a tremendous amount of work collectively, our goal is to help cement her musical legacy and ensure her incredible life story gets out there. The remix albums helped bring her music to a new audience and also gave the punters something new to listen to. There is more of that to come! Work has already started on a Hollywood documentary feature and of course her tour this summer where she’ll be playing Glastonbury, We Out Here, Rising Festival and many others!

Outside of the studio, what do you both like to get up to in your spare time?

Filip skates, fixes stuff and has a penchant for natural wines and IPAs. Ragz hangs with his kids and definitely spends too much time and money buying records.

Do you have any other reissues lined up that you can tell us about?

Of course! In addition to ‘Bhangra House Xtc’ we have a bunch of super exciting things planned for the year. ‘Naya Beat Volume 2’ is out in the fall. It’s the follow up to our first comp and will focus on late 80s / early 90s South Asian club and dance music from the diaspora and the subcontinent. It is heavily rooted in house, dancehall and dub with many deep cuts that are impossible to find on vinyl or even online for that matter. It’s going to be really special. We also have a 12” EP release planned for the summer to coincide with Asha’s tour. Stay close with our socials and Bandcamp for more!

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