UNTOUCHABLES MUSIC/GUBI SANDHU – “Teray Meray Pyar Dian” / Danger 2

Over the past couple of years, pop trendwatchers have spotted, feted and provisionally buried the trend for ‘Indian’ influences in hip-hop. But what’s been happening at the other end of this connection? “Teray Meray Pyar Din” and its terrific parent album Danger 2 offer hints. “Teray” is electroclash, bhangra and garage all stewed up together – sounds great, or a mess, or a novelty, or just more music depending on where you’re culturally parked. Melancholic refrains bent and tweaked by vocoders like a Daft Punjabi Punk; a jerky Jerkins-y intro smoothed out by synthpop glide; MCing with a thick, phlegmy flow jacked outright from Neutrino… I like it all but it never quite joins up. The album leaps styles like crazy – drum n bass, hip-hop, house-pop, all wearing their bhangra makeovers more or less gracefully. Some of it’s marvellous – “Jat Marda” swipes the backing of Pharaoh Monch’s “Simon Says” and almost puts the “Bombay” in “bombast”; “Thenoo Thakiya” is the most propulsively poignant jump-up track you’ve heard in a while. Occasionally it switches from exhilarating to irritating a little too quickly and often, in its gleeful urge to mash anything and everything urban up into one vast vibey pudding, but you forgive it.

Predictably, as a Euro-dilettante who gets off on the tumbling, flowing rhythm beds of bhangra and Bollywood as much as their magpie pop nous, at first I liked the ‘Boliyan’ tracks best – bhangra as I’d come to think of it, marrying club-dub basslines with subcontinental beats. To someone clued into the subculture that’s producing the music, these are the ‘Old Skool’ – back-to-’94 bores according to the desitunes4u.com website I researched this on. The garage and R’n’B tracks are more up-to-date. (Ironically, the “Boliyan” track itself is Danger 2‘s sexiest stab at UK Garage).

Everything’s interrelated, of course. UK Garage itself took more than half a cue from hip-hop, particularly when So Solid broke through and MCing became omnipresent. Everyone rapping on this record seems to be borrowing So Solid Crew styles and even voices – and SSC were themselves nicking ideas from dancehall MCs whose producers are yet again going back to hip-hop for their newest riddims. Not only is everything related, it all seems to be moving closer together, with hip-hop the Great Attractor exerting an unstoppable pull on urban genres worldwide. As the gravity rises, the ‘old skool’ vs ‘new school’ arguments bubble up everywhere – avatars of bigger arguments about purity and hybridisation, about the global and the local. And right now is an exciting time – hip-hop, dancehall, garage, bhangra, rave all rubbing up to one another; talking, provoking, sharing energy. Homogeneity is a risk, but for now at least the ‘new school’ is winning.