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Dialled In: the UK festival championing the next gen of South Asian talent

Demonstrating the raw, energetic, and diverse sounds of the new South Asian underground, the all-dayer sees three collectives join forces – here, they explain why the scene is here to stay

From the invention of acid house to bhangra, Bollywood, and beyond, the history of South Asian music is rich, and its influence on the UK immeasurable. During the 90s and early 2000s, an underground scene set alight in the UK, as second and third generation youth from the South Asian diaspora came together, creating their own nightlife movement. Faced with conservative parents and overt racism that kept them outside of mainstream clubs, they built their own sound, soundsystems, and collectives. 

Taking influence from classic bhangra as well as hip hop, R&B, and the surging sounds of UK rave, the unique blend of sounds saw traditional Indian and Pakistani music fuse with high-energy synths. The events where these sounds were played became known as ‘daytimers’: when parents believed their kids were at school or college, and were an opportunity for South Asian girls (who often weren’t allowed out at night) to experience a heaving, sweaty dancefloor for the first time.

A crop of artists with South Asian heritage are continuing this legacy. They’ve been running things in the world of underground music for some time now – Manara’s life-changing, genre-fusing blends, NAINA’s dominance in the world of 160 BPM, parties like Hungama, for example – but it’s only recently that they’ve really been getting their flowers. You only have to look at Yung Singh’s recent, joyous Boiler Room set to sense the level of passion of those in the community. Underneath the YouTube video, one comment reads: “Part of my experience as a British Asian has been struggling with my identity. This set blended so much of the music that shaped me into one session”.

“The community of South Asian artists in London hasn’t felt this strong… ever,” says DJ and illustrator anu, whose regular show on NTS delves into scenes like Taiwanese new wave and Japanese hip hop. “Well in my lifetime at least. It’s ever-growing in many ways – in projects, in emerging artists and in support – the support in the community feels endless! It feels incredibly exciting and like there’s a real shift happening in how South Asian people are viewed within music and the arts.” anu is also keen for people who’ve recently taken note of this new ‘wave’ to study the history of South Asian music, from film composer Ilaiyaraaja, to acid pioneer Charanjit Singh, to 80s daytimer DJ Radical Sista.

anu will join a host of other DJs and musicians on the line-up for Dialled In, a new festival championing artists with South Asian heritage, from rave and electronic acts like Surya Sen, Debonair, Manuka Honey, and R.O.S.H to singer-rapper Nayana IZ, and clubnights like Pxssy Palace. “I can’t wait to see what Bake, Debonair, and Manara play – that’s already three of my favourite DJs on one line-up!,” anu says. “I’m looking forward to catching a Yung Singh set IRL too. And then there’s so much good live music – I’m so excited to see Shivum Sharma live. Oh and then there’s Nabihah Iqbal and Nayana IZ too. It truly is a stacked line up.”

The festival will also see Auntie Flo and Rathisa (aka Sarathy Korwar) taking to the stage together. The two artists will perform side by side for the very first time at the day and night event, debuting songs from their unannounced collaborative project. “Little details are known about this project other than it is the first time the two artists are working together,” the festival organisers tell Dazed. “Dialled In is honoured to be featuring this collaboration for the first time, a project which fits into the festival’s ethos: one of collaboration, community and cohesion, of bridging the gap between worlds towards a harmonious future.”

The all-dayer is the product of three musical and artistic collectives: No ID, Chalo, and Daytimers, each making waves in their own way. “Dialled In stems from the idea of fostering and celebrating community,” the organisers (Ahad ‘Ahadadream’ Elley, Provhat Rahman, Ahsan-Elahi Shujaat, Nigel Mphisa, and Dhruva Balram) tell Dazed. “Ahad was approached by Waltham Forest Council to see whether there was scope to run a South Asian-focused cultural festival. He saw that Daytimers and Chalo were doing similar things and with his background in creating No ID, it felt only right that the three collectives joined forces in honour of the community.”

“There’s a real shift happening in how South Asian people are viewed within music and the arts” – anu

Taking place at Walthamstow’s Uplands Business Park on September 11, it’s designed to “take audiences on a journey through South Asian music,” they explain. “The aim of Dialled In – like so much of the work the collectives have done – is to celebrate the growth of the new South Asian underground creative community by demystifying what South Asian creatives are capable of.”

“We have personally never experienced such a large celebration of South Asian talent at once,” say QTIPOC London clubnight Pxssy Palace. “Within the queer South Asian community there have always been events specific to us or run by us, such as Club Kali, Hungama, Misery, Odbhut, Cousins, Inclusive Mosque, Gaysians, Queer Masala, and that’s just in London (and doesn’t count the countless queer and trans South Asian artists and events that have been pushing us forward for time) but is exciting to see more happening at such large scale. We hope that there will be more conversations and action on how to uplift queer and trans South Asians, and also more importantly anti-Blackness (which is) a huge problem within our community. It’s important these conversations live alongside each other consistently.”

As well as throwing parties, Dialled In is also committed to mentoring young, upcoming artists, and run a “beta mentorship programme,” they explain. “We will be offering four young South Asian creatives the opportunity to be paired up with four leading industry figures covering journalism, events, radio, and more. Our initial bunch of mentors are Ammar Kalia, Naina Sethi, Balraj Singh Samrai, and Sophia Ahmed.” Once they’ve wrapped up this year’s festival, they want to make Dialled In an annual event, with mini parties dotted throughout the calendar year. “We’ve set ourselves lofty goals and ambitions (immigrant parents lol), and we intend to achieve them or come as close as we can,” they say.

“For too long, the idea of what South Asian culture is has been pigeonholed,” Dialled In continue. “Even now, the white gaze tends to dominate and exotify what culture will feel relevant for a short period of time. We want to take back the ownership of our narrative and allow ourselves to dictate how and when and where our culture gets displayed, and most importantly by whom. For far too long, we’ve allowed ourselves to be held to the belief that the paths to these opportunities are only held open to a few of us. Dialled In shows that we don’t need those paths. We’ll just build our own.”

Dialled In takes place on September 11 at Walthamstow’s Uplands Business Park. Find tickets here