Award-winning crossover reggae star talks ahead of Music Room gig
After 25 years in the music industry, seven British top 40 hits and a Lifetime Achievement Award, Apache Indian tells us about success in the ’90s, a new album and his upcoming Dubai gig.
Steven Kapur, better known by his stage name, Apache Indian, has enjoyed 25 years of success. He was one of the first ever Asian artists to make an impact on the UK charts and after releasing his first album in the early ’90s, he is often credited with creating a new genre of music, a cross-cultural fusion of reggae, dancehall and Indian influences dubbed ‘Raggamuffin’.
In a glittering career to date, the artist has released eight albums, collaborated with major artists such as Shaggy and picked up three UK Asian Music Awards, for which he earned a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. Having toured across the UK, America, India and Asia, his next gig is at The Music Room in Dubai. At 47 years old, Apache Indian is busier than ever.
What’s it like to be still gigging after 25 years? It feels fantastic to still be around after so long in the business. I’ve just released a new 20-song album, It Is What It Is, produced by an American producer, Jim Bean. He’s worked with Timberland, Nelly Furtado, Shakira and Britney Spears. He’s a very dear friend of mine and I just went to visit him and we ended up recording an album. The album title, It Is What It Is, is because it wasn’t really planned, it just happened. It’s borderline pop and a cross of Asian and all the influences that I’m known for.
You are known for your distinct vocal style, who were your earlier influences? I started off in Birmingham, so one of the biggest influences was reggae. UB40, one of the biggest reggae groups in the world, are from Birmingham, so I came along and just mixed that style with my Indian influences. I am first generation Asian born in Britain, so my music was really a reflection of all those cultures. It was almost like a movement saying, ‘We’re here, and we speak a different language and have different customs.’ It wasn’t money or fame driven, it was just to make a mark and a statement because back then Asian artists hadn’t made a mark in music. Bob Marley was also a massive influence of my whole career and life. He died on my birthday and I ended up being signed to his record label and worked in his studio with his team.
Your hit single, ‘Boomshackalak’, has appeared in seven Hollywood movies, including Dumb and Dumber and Scooby-Doo 2. Where you surprised by its success? In the ’90s there was lots of reggae mixed with ’60s style rock, ‘Twist and Shout’, and Shaggy had ‘Oh Carolina’. I kind of came along with the blues and a reggae mix. I was surprised that it was so popular because it only took me half an hour to write. That song is all about having a good time.
What about a new song for the Dumb and Dumber sequel? I have actually been asked for ‘Boomshackalak’ to feature in the new film. I am very proud of that song. I’m just a simple kid from Birmingham, so to have a song in a Hollywood movie is a great achievement because there aren’t many Asians that have songs featured in Hollywood.
What have you been up to lately? I’m touring a lot this summer and promoting my new album. After Dubai, I will go to Kenya, then Scotland and the USA. I’ve actually got even busier in the past few years than I probably ever have been before. I work with schools and colleges and in 2013 I opened my own music academy in my hometown, Handsworth in Birmingham, the Apache Indian Music Academy, which is free for anyone who wants to get involved and learn industry techniques. Music brings people together, and together we can bring change. People will probably see me involved in politics more in the UK. I’d like to open an academy in India and Dubai, maybe if we had the help and support. I think it’s important for communities to work together.
Tell us what we can expect from your gig in Dubai. Dubai is one of my favourite places in the world, I have been many times and have a great fan base. I’ll be performing songs from my new album and stuff from the past. I want to reach the new generation as well as old fans. My music is fun, happy and you can dance to it. I’m a people person so I’m happy to meet people and talk to the fans. I’m calling any local musicians who want to come along and jump on stage and give me a few bars. Apache Indian Live@Dream the 7th Edition. Dhs100. Friday August 15, 8pm-3am. The Music Room, Majestic Hotel & Tower, Mankhool Road, Bur Dubai (050 248 4054).