The Sufis LP by The SUFIS

The Sufis longplaying vinyl album by The SUFIS Reviewed By The Active Listener

“Simply put, The Sufi’s self titled debut is so brilliant that I’m fairly certain that I can’t formulate the words to do it justice. I will however give it a go.

Much like fellow Tennessee The Paperhead, the Sufis have an obvious fascination with the English music scene of the mid to late sixties.

Where the Paperhead evoke the sounds of more cult figures like July and the Idle Race, the Sufis seem to have set their sights much higher, and come across like a cross between the Beatles at their most mustachioed and Pink Floyd circa Arnold Layne.

Evocative, but never derivative, they channel their influences into concise and adventurous psychedelic pop tunes, the majority of which could have been hits in 1967 and with a little luck might be now.

Tjinder Singh from Cornershop spotted their promise right away and signed them to his Ample Play label, who are responsible for this attractive vinyl release.

“Sri Sai Flora”  is the track which has been serviced to media first, and is a good indicator of what to expect from their full length ; supple McCartneyesque basswork, drums which sound like they’re struggling to catch up ala Ringo and dreamy harmonized vocals with a melody to kill for.

Elsewhere there’s plenty of trippy Rick Wright style organ work, vocals run through oscilators and all manner of vintage sounding studio trickery – all married to perfect lysergic pop tunes, with the odd instrumental freakout thrown in for good measure.

Splendid stuff, and essential for those with a love of that innocent U.K sound that the Americans only now seem to be coming to grips with.”

Cornershop Biography by Professor Kenneth FitzGerald

Cornershop‘s career is defined by defiantly unconventional moves, in its sound and approach to music making. Foremost is a determination stated by Tjinder Singh, “The only thing that all our records have in common is that each one tries to sound utterly different.”

It’s a resolve Cornershop has delivered on since its launch in 1993. They began as a raucous guitar-based agit-pop-group – with a difference. Amidst the thrilling din was Punjabi-sung tracks accompanied by sitar and dholki. Captured first on the EPs In the Days of Ford Cortina and Lock Stock and Double Barrel, Cornershop issued their debut LP, Hold On It Hurts in 1994. Though still rough and direct, the album’s tracks displayed textures exhibiting a broader musical vocabulary and intent.

Amongst Hold On It Hurts‘s admirers was David Byrne, who signed Cornershop in the U.S. to his Luaka Bop label, proclaiming, “We could see that they were headed in a direction that no one else dared travel. And we liked it.” The new transatlantic partnership boosted 1995‘s Woman’s Gotta Have It, one of the most startling and venturesome sophomore albums released by a band. The Asian/western mixes and sonic experiments bloomed and took center stage, notably in the U.K. and U.S. club success 6 A.M. Jullandar Shere.

Cornershop‘s breakthrough 1997 record, When I Was Born for the 7th Time, initiated unprecedented international acclaim. The record is a landmark of sonic invention and adventure, a cornucopia of compelling pan-cultural grooves. The album boasts Cornershop‘s signature track Brimful of Asha, possessing the most unlikely – yet inclusive – refrain in pop music history: “Everyone needs a bosom for a pillow.” It also included notable collaborations with Allen Ginsberg, The Automator, and a cover of The BeatlesNorwegian Wood‘ sung in Punjabi.

When I Was Born for the 7th Time was included in Rolling Stone‘s “Essential Recordings of the 90’s,” and Spin ranked it #34 in their “90 Greatest Albums of the ’90s” – after making it #1 in their “Top 20 Albums Of The Year” (besting, amongst others, Radiohead’s OK Computer). Similar rankings came from Q, NME, Melody Maker, and The Village Voice, amongst others.

Cornershop‘s recorded response to the attention was true to form and its self. Rather than building the Cornershop brand, they adopted the “Clinton” avatar for 1999‘s Disco and the Halfway to Discontent. The gratifying success of When I Was Born seemed irrelevant to where Singh and Ayres (now the core of the group and remaining original members) wanted to go.

The destination was the dance floor. Disco is a laid back yet insistent collection of fizzy grooves containing the hallmark guest vocals, stylistic twists, and a toolbox of genres. It provided further proof (if needed) that Singh‘s sonic imagination seemed limitless. This was especially evident when Cornershop quadruple-downs in 2002 on its next album – and masterpiece to dateHandcream for a Generation.

On the surface, the record follows its predecessor’s path: some band-performances, scratch and sample collages, genre exercises, and cross cultural fusions traversing reggae, funk, and soul. Tracks are longer and more fully realized, starring a diverse guest cast including legendary soul singer Otis Clay, Noel Gallagher and Guigsy of Oasis, and London reggae figures Jack Wilson and Kojak. Handcream achieves its singular status for being the band’s most extensively ambitious and fulfilling of the band’s aesthetic.

After touring in support of Handcream, Tjinder Singh announces a leave of absence to work on a film about the independent music industry. However, in a “creative splurge,” Cornershop releases a double A side single, Topknot/Natch on Rough Trade in 2004, its initial collaboration with the Bubbley Kaur. Where Handcream was expansive and complex, these tracks are stunningly intimate and simple, seamlessly fusing Kaur‘s haunting Punjabi vocals with funk-inspired rhythms.

Cornershop‘s maternity leave ends with the 2009 release of Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast on its own Ample Play label. After a trio of assertively far-reaching records, Judy’s relative simplicity is startling in its own right. Cornershop is here to rock – but in its own inimitable way. If traditional chorus-verse songs with great riffs and hooky melodies are the intent, Judy provides them on every track. After Brimful of Asha, there should be no doubt in Singh ability to pen abiding tunes. Judy proves he can deliver an album’s worth.

Judy is a coup of a flexible and seasoned live-capable band. In its most direct and appealing album, Cornershop stays true to defying expectations and making the move appear radical.

Close after Judy comes the culmination of further collaboration with Bubbley Kaur, the 2010 album Cornershop and the Double O Groove of. At the heart of the record is Tjinder Singh‘s desire to “mix western music with Punjabi folk in a way that wasn’t crude.” “Western music” encompasses a multiplicity of stances and Singh doesn’t skimp, offering ten stylistically dissimilar tracks, unified in accomplishment in framing Bubbley Kaur‘s mellifluous melodies.

The recent postDouble ‘O’ step was the May 2011 launch of Ample Play‘s The Singhles Club, a six-tracks-for a 6 pound subscription service. The project offers limited edition outtakes “reimagining the collectable single in a digital format with special added content; a digital popadom.” It’s a novel approach to distribution that like the music it offers, abounds in adventure and invention. With Cornershop, the only certainty is that something distinctly new is on the way.

Kenneth FitzGerald

Associate Professor of Art

Old Dominion University, Norfolk Virginia USA

Author, Volume: Writings on Graphic Design, Music, Art, and Culture (Princeton Architectural Press)

Brimful Of Asha meaning explained

Many people always ask us to translate songs, especially the foreign language ones.

Here is a good explanation of Brimful, most of which we agree with:

Brimful of Asha, Explained

By splitpeasoup in Culture
Fri Aug 08, 2003 at 07:54:20 AM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)


Cornershop‘s “Brimful of Asha” is one of those songs that are simultaneously poppy and deeply meaningful. Unfortunately the wealth of meaning in the lyrics may not be readily apparent to most non-desis, or for that matter, to many desis either.

At the risk of diminishing the enjoyment of those who do understand the somewhat esoteric message, this essay attempts to make it clear enough for anybody to appreciate. In the process we’ll be touching on Indian culture in general and specifically on that great opiate of the Indian masses, the movie industry.

Cornershop is an East-West fusion pop-rock group. The East part comes from Tjinder Singh, who grew up in England but is of Punjabi origin. Tjinder strongly identifies with his Indian heritage; the group’s name itself derives from a play on the stereotype of the Indian/Pakistani street-corner grocery store clerk.

“Brimful of Asha” came out in 1997. With its catchy refrain it became a hit on US radio, as well as in Cornershop’s native UK.

To understand the song, one must understand the Indian movie industry. Ever since cinema was introduced to India, most commercial movies have been heavy, sweet, musical productions. The song-and-dance interludes are not incidentals, but staples, and often are what make or break a movie. An American friend of mine was under the impression that singing was a necessary skill for Indian actors and actresses! Actually, the singing is almost always done by background singers. The background singers, of course, are not required to possess charisma or looks, and in fact in early times, care was taken to not expose them in the media, to preserve the romantic association with their voices in the minds of the moviegoing public.

Why is all this so important? Right from the beginning, movies took over the hearts and lives of common Indians in a manner that nothing has done before or since. The happiness, the tragedy, the passionate and tender love, and the conflict are all designed to speak to the melodrama-loving Indian heart. As Hindi grew more popular, Hindi movies took over the whole country. The heart of the Hindi film industry in Bombay, whimsically nicknamed Bollywood, eventually became a force larger than the one it was named after. The songs are no exception, and over the last sixty years or so filmi music, as it is called, has become by far the most popular kind in India.

Two female background singers perhaps distinguish themselves from the rest in sheer prolificness and popularity: Asha Bhonsle and Lata Mangeshkar. The two, as it happens, are sisters, and recently there has been much focus on their professional and sibling rivalry. At any rate, their singing formed the emotional soundtrack of India, as it were, for many years.

That, in essence, is what “Brimful of Asha” is all about.

Here are the lyrics, with notes:

There’s dancing behind movie scenes,
Behind those movie screens – saddi rani.

Saddi rani – “our queen”, in Punjabi.

She’s the one that keeps the dream alive,
From the morning, past the evening, till the end of the light.

Brimful of Asha on the forty-five.
Well, it’s a brimful of Asha on the forty-five. (x2)

‘Asha’ is a pun. It refers to Asha Bhosle, but the word also means “hope”. What does “hope” signify in this context? The movies and songs are in many ways a fantasy of something better than people’s own lives. For instance, Indian youth whose overbearing parents would never permit them to marry those they fall in love with may yet indulge themselves in the romances they see onscreen and hear about in these ballads. The “45”, for you of the CD player generation, is the 45 revolutions-per-minute record player.

Incidentally, the word ‘Asha’ is normally pronounced with both ‘a’s long, as in ‘father’. Tjinder, with his British accent, pronounces it like “Asher”, touchingly making the song both more and less genuine at the same time. As a result the refrain often gets misheard, sometimes in quite hilarious ways.

And singing
Illuminate the main streets and the cinema aisles.
We don’t care about no government warning,
About the promotion of the simple life and the dams they are building.

What is he talking about? The movies and songs are an escape: they are what allow people to forget important concerns, at least for a while. The reference to dams might need a bit of explanation. In India, these often are unnecessarily huge and costly projects that are designed that way with the aim of being points of prestige, and besides, for lining the pockets of politicians and contractors. They displace thousands of people and impact the environment in massive ways. The project currently approved on the Narmada is one present-day example. So these are issues that people should be worried about.

But this escapism is not presented as being bad. The spirit of the song is that movie fantasy is a lovely and comfortable thing.

Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow, everybody needs a bosom, (x3)

Isn’t that a beautiful line? But the last one’s even better:

Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow, mine’s on the forty-five.

To me, at least, that’s poetry.

Mohammed Rafi – forty-five. Lata Mangeshkar – forty-five.
Solid state radio – forty-five. Ferguson Mono – forty-five.
Non public – forty-five.
Jacques Dutronc and the Bolan Boogies …
The Heavy Hitters and the chi-chi music …
All Indian radio – forty-five. Two in ones – forty-five.
Ovvo records – forty-five. Trojan records – forty-five.

These are historic icons of filmi and pop music. Rafi and Mangeshkar are other background singers. Solid state radio is self-explanatory. All-India Radio is the one, public radio station that existed all the decades before privatized radio stations and FM came to India. Two-in-ones are radio-cum-casette players. I confess the other references are strange to me.

7-7,000 piece orchestra set,

Huge orchestras are intrinsic to filmi music. Of course 7000 is a little hyperbolic.

Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow; mine’s on the RPM…
(fadeout)

Why do I find this song so remarkable? Most people, when talking of Indian culture, tend to make statements which fall in two categories. The first consists of glorifications of classical Indian culture, philosophy, tradition, and so forth. The second consists of lamentations about the corruption, poverty, dirt, and how the whole country is going to the dogs.

It is relatively unusual for someone to touch on the spirit of the ornery hard-bitten yet cheerful street-corner Indian, the one who always has to worry about the expenses for next month but yet decides on an impulse to splurge on hot samosas. Cornershop manages to celebrate and showcase this joie de vivre, and to do so with skill and sensitivity, and for this, they deserve to be congratulated.

Getting People Over the Beatles

Getting People Over the Beatles: A Series Examining the Greats of British (and UK) Pop Music – Wonders in the Dark Magazine

USA artwork of the When I Was Born For The 7th Time

And today’s final selection is a bit of an obscure oddball representing how large, and thus wide the scope of BritPop became in such a short time (purists of the genre consider it to have only existed from late 1994 to sometime in 1998). Looking over the general consensus of BritPop there becomes a rather strict look and ideology to what it is, and as an American I can only say that the version we got was even more regimented then the one that was actually happening in the mid-1990s. But when one looks even just a little closer does the wealth of ideas (culturally, socially, and politically), and how radical many of them were begins to accurately take shape. Then, looking even closer does one start to find genuine different bands, on just aesthetics alone, as it’s way too easy (and incorrect) to reduce BritPop to ‘music just for laddish men’ created by said ‘laddish’ men.

Perhaps the most interesting of these bands was Cornershop. Culturally they represented the large Indian population of England, with even their name being derived from a racist connotation about their culture owning a perceived abundance of 7-11 like corner market shops. It was a tongue in cheek in-your-face account of their supposed place in British culture. In short, a perfectly quick representation of their ironic, satiric, and often politically refreshing multi-culturally embracing music.

They started with two EP’s (now both collected on the Elvis Sex Change [1993] disc), that showed the band in looser, rawer state. There’s plenty of lo-fi pop, but there is sonic noise experimentation too. From there 1994’s Hold On It Hurts (also stripped down indie meets leftist post-punk), and Woman’s Gotta Have It from 1995 (the first album where their unique sound – later called Hindi-pop – began to really take shape. They’re almost reclaiming the sitar, an Indian instrument, from the Anglos [most notably the Beatles] back to Indians and with it a symbol of their culture as a whole) began to show the multifaceted nature of Tjinder Singh‘s sly brilliance.

But it’s all a definite precursor to the main course, 1997’s stunning When I Was Born for the 7th Time. It’s an album that most here have probably heard, but were never aware of, more then a testament to easy hypnotic quality (plus ‘Brimful of Asha‘ was a surprise alt-hit of 1997, bringing them even if just for a second to the level of say an English Beck. The tunes are as interesting and varied, for this culture what Odelay was for American alt-pop in there collage like qualities). There are plenty of beat laden instrumentals where all their styles mix; there’s indian sitars, funk guitars, trip-hop and trance beats, essentially it’s a world music BritPop record, highly original, but never a novelty. It’s always grounded in a melodic sense of golden, glorious Pop.

Sure, ‘Brimful of Asha‘ was the hit (and it’s no wonder it’s one of the great songs of its era, or any era for that matter), but then there’s the smooth bass melody of ‘Candyman‘ (which us Americans will know from a recent LeBron Nike commercial), the homemade hip-hop of ‘State Troopers‘, ‘Good Shit‘ is the upwards surge of late 90’s optimism (and again, us Americans will know it from the Target ad), the lead track accordion whimsy of ‘Sleep On the Left Side‘ which gives ‘Asha‘ a run for the best single from the album, ‘Good to Be on the Road Back Home‘ is as authentic in the English rural style as anything Ronnie Lane ever offered, and finally there’s the cover of the definitive sitar Pop song of all time, the Beatles ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)‘ which, in their native language, just soars to transcendency.

From there they’d release three more critically acclaimed albums (all are highly recommended; Handcream for a Generation [2002] has the added BritPop boost of featuring Noel Gallagher on a track or two, Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast [2009] was a triumphant needed return what with the political climate what it was in the late 2000’s and it’s a glam rocker to boot, and 2011’s Cornershop and the Double ‘O’ Groove Of was yet another redefining of a band always looking to redefine not only themselves and their form [pop music] but the larger culture around them), and I must say, in a perfect world this Series wouldn’t need to exist for pop fans to listen to this type of stuff. ‘Everyone needs a buxom for a pillow’, my thoughts exactly. Just essential.

Posted in author Jamie Uhler, Getting Over the Beatles – Wonders in the Dark Magazine

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track5 the Singhles Club w Izzy Lindqwister

We are coming to the end of the limited edition Singhles Club, and track 5 is Who’s Gonna Lite It Up featuring Izzy Lindqwister. Izzy has now relocated to Paris, and Tjinder has done a few collaborations with her. When you get tweets describing it like this: “Really hot new “Singhles” track from @CornershopHQ. It’s like Zakir Hussain meets The Black Angels” by A. Myers, well no-one could have described it better.

The accompanying artwork or digital popadom is a dress your own doll with Camille Walala, who’s already lit a few things in the clothes designing area and is set spread out doing more things, such as furniture as our old friend Jean Charles Etienne showed us last night. We commend it all to the house, and if you have not joined the Singhles Club, it gives you 6 exclusive tracks and 6 special digital popadoms, direct from the band themselves, you may do so here

Who’s Gonna Lite It Up Cornershop ft Izzy Lindqwister by cornershop

Other Music NYC ‘Double O Groove’ Review

Other Music NYC Review:

“Everyone needs to stop what they are doing and pay special attention to this album. Cornershop returned from an extended hiatus last year with the excellent glam-gospel soul of the criminally slept-on Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast, which saw Tjinder Singh, Ben Ayres, & co sharpening their hooks, tightening their grooves, and delivering what may actually have been their tightest, catchiest album yet, fusing T.Rex with Syl Johnson with a touch of Ananda Shankar‘s rock’n’raga (to very much oversimplify). After such a perfect distillation of the band’s influences and enthusiasms (better even than the group’s classic When I Was Born For the 7th Time), where to go next? During the group’s time away, folks like Diplo and MIA (to name but a few) took the blueprints drafted by Cornershop and refitted them to the hip-hop/dance scene, helping to take globally-conscious influences into Western pop music with hugely successful results. Prior to Judy Sucks A Lemon, one of the only dispatches we had really heard from the group since 2002 was a stellar double-A-side single “Topnotch/Natch” in 2004, which saw the group showcasing the heavenly Punjabi vocals of newcomer Bubbley Kaur, a singer the group allegedly discovered in their local launderette, delivering what was simultaneously the group’s most vintage and modern recording to date. (It’s also worth noting that MIA herself asked to appear on the single, throwing down a guest verse on a remix of “Topknot.”)

Well, here we are in 2011 with The Double ‘O’ Groove Of, ten songs of deep, sunny funk and dusty collusionist grooves with the gorgeous Kaur at center stage, placing perhaps the heaviest emphasis yet on the group’s Indian roots with spectacular results. Tjinder‘s vocals are nowhere to be found on this album, yet his and Ayres‘s voices are heard as loudly and clearly as Kaur‘s, fusing her siren calls into musical tapestries that enliven but never overwhelm her vocals; everything from percolating, brassy funk breaks to Tin Pan Alley piano are utilized to dizzying, dazzling effect. Overtop this choice blend, Kaur sounds like a seasoned playback singer, and the arrangements ably update the postmodern feel of classic Bollywood composers like RD Burman by fusing new influences into the the mix; the beatbox boom-bap, harpsichords, and squelchy bass of “Double Decker Eyelashes” and the sliced’n’diced brass & woodwind fanfares of “Once There Was A Wintertime” draw direct lineage from Asha Bhosle to Run DMC, while “The 911 Curry” sees Kaur chanting overtop a boisterous, Diplo-esque bhangra/moog beat. Rather than fighting the grooves, Kaur sounds relaxed and confident, and it’s this chilled confidence that helps make the album such a refreshing success. On “The Biro Pen,” the group delivers a chunky Randy Newman-esque piano line overtop thick, crashing drums, while album closer “Don’t Shake It” injects fingerpicked acoustic guitar runs into a Hammond organ groover, sounding like Harry Nilsson sitting in with James Brown and Richard “Groove” Holmes, inspiring you to shake it after all. Thankfully, the group is also savvy enough to include both sides of the aforementioned single; the hypnotic circular guitar figures and clattering dholki drum patterns of “Topknot” are perhaps the most relaxing moments on the album, while the double-dutch breaks and pop-locking bass of “Natch” are a personal favorite, with Kaur singing deep in the echo chamber like a ghost of go-gos past.

All in all, this has been one of the most infectious, joyful, and straight-up funky records I’ve had the pleasure of hearing so far this year; since first receiving a copy about a month ago, I’ve not been able to stop listening to it. I’ve got to give top marks to Cornershop for pulling off such a brilliant slice of multiculturalist unity without making a big f-ing deal about it. And that overall is what makes the record such a success; where many artists are keen to push their broad-ranging influences and obsessions in your face, Cornershop and Bubbley Kaur just want you to take them at face value– it’s all music, it’s all valid, and best of all, it’s all good. I’m hard-pressed to believe that anyone is going to release a new album in 2011 that I’m going to enjoy more than I do this one, and I can’t give a higher recommendation than that.”[IQ]

The Paperhead-Record Collector Review 4/5

The Paperhead release their debut release in the UK, Focus In On The Looking Glass on Ample Play Records on vinyl format only.

On first listen, you may think that you’ve stumbled across some long lost nugget from 1968. In fact, The Paperhead take their name from a lyric in a song by golden-age psychedelic age group July and they deal in lysergic haziness, with a colourfully confusing filter. Yet while the record may have a fairly vintage sound, it was written and recorded in the summer of 2010 by three 18 year old kids from Nashville, Tennessee. It has been championed on a number of occasions by James Endicott and here are what Record Collector and Shindig Magazine say about it: