Interview with Shava, the ambassadors of Suomi-Bhangra

Shava is a band whose music is definitely unique: the group combines indian bhangra music with pop music sung in Finnish. The group was interviewed on BBC World News TV on April 1, which was followed by a show at CLF Art Cafe in London the same evening. We talked with Shava's frontman Kiureli Sammallahti ahead of their London trip.  

Tell us about Shava and Suomi Bhangra. How did you come up with this rather distinctive genre?

I would say the music of Shava comes from an inner urge to find an expression and an identity for the 21st century man. Bhangra is a hard-hitting simple type of music from the countryside of Punjab, and the earthy joy and feeling of community is something I wanted to translate to my own ”tribe” of people, by singing about my own life in the concrete suburbia of East Helsinki in Finnish language. This has created a new global beat, a kind of a new suburban folk music we like to call suomibhangra. The main elements from our music originating from Finland and Punjab, some people started calling us Finnjabis.

It all clicked into place more than ten years ago while I was driving home form a gig with a guitarist friend of mine. It was summer & late at night, we were driving through Finnish countryside and blasting Bhangra from the car speakers. Suddenly we had the idea of doing this music in Finnish - and the rest is history.

You performed at Vancouver’s City of Bhangra festival. Can you tell us about the bhangra music scene in Europe and the US? 

Britain is the hotspot of Bhangra music, that’s where it all started as a distinct modern yet traditional music style. Of course, the origins of Bhangra are in Punjab, but it’s very much a global immigrant music phenomenon. Bhangra exists in North America also, but the scene there is not as big there as in Britain. Good live bands are becoming a rarity, and you’ll be hard pressed to find bhangra bands in North America, although our friends from the Vancouver band En Karma are keeping the tradition alive there. Our latest CD Langaton yhteys includes collaborations with Bhangra artists from UK (Suki Chand, Runa Bahra), Canada (Bob Mann, Sukha Kang) as well as India (Pushpinder Kaur).

What kind of reception have you received from the international audience?

We have experienced Indian audiences going nuts when we have sung in Punjabi! We are doing a global crossover music, and so far most audiences we have performed to, regardless of their cultural background, have embraced and appreciated our music.

Shava took part in the New Music Contest (UMK). Has the exposure opened new doors on your career?

There are some exciting things coming up - like the interview on BBC World News - the channel boasts some 350 million viewers worldwide. Also, we are planning on a major musical production with our co-competitors at the UMK, Ooppera Skaala, in 2016. So my answer to the question would be a definite yes!

What plans do you have for 2015?

Play great gigs and bring glory to the Finnjabi music heritage at home and abroad!