VA // DT001
Picture this: I’m in my favourite club and it’s shaping up to be a relatively predictable night. The expected all-white line-up is smashing it, and the headliner is about to come on. His set is stunning, perfect even; but when the glimmer of a tabla line appears above the pounding kicks, it cuts through and rips into my core, reminding me of pre-COVID family gatherings and rides around Edgware in my granddad’s car. Finally, I glance up and realise that the DJ is South Asian like me, and they’re killing it. And then, alas, I wake up from a sweet, recurring dream. Bringing together 27 South Asian producers, the debut release from the Daytimers collective takes a huge leap forward in bringing this dream to reality.
South Asians face a disproportionate lack of representation in the UK’s creative spaces. In the social seclusion fostered by an increasingly digital age, clubs are one of the last spaces of cultural blending available to us, but it’s not often a South Asian DJ will be included on a club’s line-up. As a South Asian Londoner, I’m continuously disappointed in the all-white line-ups I see, time after time. Almost a fifth of the capital’s population is Asian according to the 2011 census, yet it’s not often that clubs reflect these numbers. After the rise of Bhangra in the 80s and the Asian underground movement of the 90s, there’s now a whole generation which has not seen an equivalent South Asian cultural movement.
Asian-focused cultural institutions like BBC Asian Network, valuable though they are, often end up pigeonholing and separating South Asian voices from the mainstream. There is however a rising wave of proactive voices working hard to level the playing field; people like anu, Ahadadream, DJ Manara, Yung Singh, R.O.S.H., Raji Rags following in the footsteps of long serving DJs such as Bobby Friction and Nihal. Many of those names are involved in the Daytimers collective, which has been established to help shape a future where South Asian artists and their productions are a more common presence across all kinds of radio stations and clubs. Their first order of business (beyond an informative and educational social media presence) is DT001.
Daytimers takes its name from the daytime Bhangra raves of the 80s and 90s, which were crucial in bringing Asian-British music out of the shadows and defining a youth-led subculture that was as much a part and product of the UK club scene as any more storied movement. Celebrating that fact in a modern context, DT001 infuses jungle, garage, grime and trip-hop with South Asian sonic sensibilities to construct a cultural narrative steeped in a rich history of British Asian sound culture.
The range of aesthetics packed into this release is really what makes it shine. ‘Jiya Jale’, a ‘Refix’ credited to the Daytimers collective as a whole, is a particular highlight for me. This rework of the hugely popular Bollywood track from the 1998 film Dil Se combines classic Bollywoood sounds with a blistering, break-infused beat. Whilst the vocals connect this track to the history of Bollywood culture, the intricate weaving of a tabla line into the percussion really crystallises the fusion of cultures going on in this release. Likewise, Hashira’s colourful broken beat workout ‘Spicy Malai’ and King Monday’s bumpy house shuffler ‘Aum’ bring similar vocal samples into the mix.
But whilst distinctly Asian sounds provide a backbone to this release, some tracks step away from this sonic fusion. Mankeepitdeep’s ‘Gulaਬੀ Moon’ warm, lo-fi pads and glitchy, warped breaks feed into a melancholic palette of sounds that seamlessly flits between genres in a fluid and understated fashion. Aside from its title, it’s difficult to draw an explicit connection to Asian sound cultures on this track. This highlights the compilation’s commitment to promoting South Asian artists without defaulting to an expectation they should make music with obviously South Asian tropes . There are plenty of Asian sonics across this release, but it’s tracks like ‘Gulaਬੀ Moon’ where we see the crew’s mission is not about increasing the presence of South Asian aesthetics within dance music, but about giving a platform to too-often marginalised South Asian artists regardless of the sounds they use.
Drawing on a hugely talented range of producers, each individual perspective on DT001 adds to an overall aesthetic steeped in, but not confined by, the traditions of South Asian sound culture. From laid-back soundscapes to dancefloor weapons, this release yearns for both airtime and the soundsystem, and crucially it levels the playing field for South Asian artists to be considered equals instead of ‘others’ in the wider context of contemporary UK club music. I can’t wait to see these tracks bring a new wave of South Asian talent into the limelight.