Jazzy B

Big Day Out Festival, Gravesend, Kent - 28 July 2007

"I'd never been to a Bhangra gig before. I wasn't converted."

Born in the Punjab, grew up in Canada, now based out of Birmingham and, this weekend at least, playing in my humble Kentish home town. This is not as surprising as it might be - we've a large Indian community and the annual Big Day Out Festival usually draws on the Asian culture for the evening gig that closes each event. Jazzy B actually wasn't headlining, that dubious pleasure went to some sad Queen covers band. There's no way I'd have wasted valuable minutes of my life on such criminal nonsense. Jazzy B on the other hand I was willing enough to try. I'd never been to a Bhangra gig before and although I wasn't converted I was glad I'd seen him.

[Big Day Out logo]The fact that the local council pays for the event making it 'free' entry did help persuade me (I do realise the cost comes out of our taxes and therefore we, the citizens of Gravesend, really paid for it but let's not be mean...), plus the sunny weather, riverside location and the prospect of meeting up with friends for a few drinks listening to Bhangra as the sun went down over the Thames, topped off with a return home journey that would take all of 10 mins by foot, meant I'd be a real lazy bugger not to check out the so-called Crown Prince of Bhangra.

If there's one thing Jazzy B isn't short of it's a sense of his own style (just check out Jazzy B.com - where there are many more photos to download than music). In India and the UK Asian community his unsubtle Indo-bling and posing probably equate to cool. To this observer it is undoubtedly touch and go naff at times (honestly, you really should check out some of those photos on Jazzy B.com!). Although he had difficulty initially getting the large crowd enthused (excluding the hardcore at the foot of the large stage) he soon managed to work up a sweat with his nimble dance moves and stage running, meaning he shed his sparkly red jacket after just a couple of numbers.

In a set that lasted around an hour, the underlying Bhangra beats and tempo never really wavered dramatically and as a Bhangra novice after an initial curiosity borne out of ignorance, it gradually but relentlessly drifted into wallpaper music territory. Biggest shame was the inability to hear the several drums on stage. These were too often drowned out by all too similar keyboards and frenetic and long note sequences. The vocal style didn't do much for me either and the similarities with too much repugnant urban US hip hop (as unsubtly referenced in a recent Jazzy B promo video of dark skinned, bikini-clad ladies dancing to his every word) were apparent. I did stick it out for the duration but there was only one moment, during one song when the pace eased and the sound opened out a little so that the percussion in particular could be heard more front and centre, when I was tempted to get closer to the stage to try and soak up some of the atmosphere. I was tempted but didn't succumb. Story of the evening really. 5/10

Rob Dyer