How Bhangra Daytime Discos Defined An Entire South Asian Generation In Bradford

How Bhangra Daytime Discos Defined An Entire South Asian Generation In Bradford
Tim Smith

In the late 1980s and the early ‘90s, Bhangra music was sweeping across the UK owing to artists like Alaap, Heera, and Apache that were fusing elements of Punjabi folk music with reggae and western pop. But for most of the youth belonging to the South-Asian community, conservative parents meant discs and nightclubs were ruled out. This gave rise to ‘Daytime discos’, a cultural phenomenon embraced by the youth who wised to enjoy DJ, music bands, and dancing and make it in time for dinner. Bradford became the epicentre of this underground space where hundreds of teenagers and college goers would flock in the afternoons, bunking classes, intent on not missing out on their favourite bands and DJs.

The concept of Daytime Discos also debunked myths surrounding the Asian diaspora as being sexless studious young people who loved dancing to only vintage Bollywood music and where girls were just confined to the kitchen. It gave them an opportunity to not only live out in the best way but also to assert an identity that didn’t require the Whites to validate.

Rani Kaur aka DJ Radical Sista, who was a regular performer at these events, talked about how these spaces filled a hole in the cultural life of the community as well as give people the opportunity to assert their identity. In an interview with the BBC, Rani Kaur says, “At that time, there was very little in terms of Asian cultural stuff in the mainstream. We would get the odd programme on TV but it was more geared to the older generation.”

“There was a gap and there was a thirst for something to fill it, so daytimers just rocketed. It was about creating a new identity for Asians in the UK that had not existed before.”

“Bhangra records were very hard to get hold of. You could get Bollywood but Bhangra was hard to get hold of so these were the only places you could go to hear it regularly,” she added.

Moey Hassan, who organised such events in the Bradford area, ruminates on the Bhangra daytime craze in a conversation with BBC. Hassan says, “Parents were very conservative back then. They would never allow their daughters or sons to go to a nightclub.”

“So, it started out as a daytime thing because there was a huge market for college kids who wanted to experience the nightlife but in the middle of the afternoon.”

“People were leaving the house in their school uniform but with a carrier bag with some jeans and a funky top inside saying they were going to be studying History or something.”

“We would kick off at midday and they would party till 4 pm and then go home for tea, pretending they had had a good day at college.”

Tim Smith, who documented the emerging music scene of ‘Daytimers’ (what they came to be known as) for his Above The Noise exhibition, told the BBC that the Bhangra daytimer phenomenon was relatively short-lived. “It perhaps only lasted about five or six years,” he said. “When the Mela came [in 1988], it almost gave the Asian community the confidence to say, ‘We are here and we want to celebrate our culture’ and to do that in a way that enabled them to share the culture with the wider community.”

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