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Make It Loud
For 37 years, British DJ and RJ Bobby Friction has been putting the spotlight on music from the South Asian diaspora, in the UK and beyond. And yet, he feels he’s only just getting started
Nidhi Gupta

On Thursdays, Bobby Friction returns from work around midnight, and begins the long task of going through his inboxes – email, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat. In every one of them, a fresh pile of new music awaits. Until the wee hours of Friday morning, he hears out all these musicians, from every corner of the planet, who remotely solicit their beloved radio personality’s attention over SoundCloud links and A/V files.

“I get over 20 rap records every single day,” Bobby says over a Friday morning call from London. “Last night, I found 14 amazing new tracks, a couple new ones from DIVINE, but also guys writing in from Peshawar, Karachi and even a small village in Punjab. I’ve got rap from mixed-race Asians in Germany. It’s incredible – everyone’s making music now!”

It’s also exhausting, but this is his labour of love. “Every time I find myself getting overwhelmed, I remind myself that, 37 years ago, this is all I wanted to do. Now, I’ve done this for 17 years at the BBC, and I might be the oldest swinger in town, but it’s no time for a full stop.” It’s why he stays accessible, responding to the kids who’ve slid into his DMs, even when he doesn’t think they’re quite ready to go live yet. From DIVINE to Raja Kumari, Anik Khan to Leo Kalyan, Nucleya to Bohemia, everyone’s been on the Bobby Friction show on the BBC Asian Network; and most often before they arrived on your streaming playlists or friendly neighbourhood festival stages.

Bobby Friction aka Paramdeep Sehdev, now 48, has owned the BBC spot in various forms for the past 17 years (remember Bobby and Nihal?), and built his reputation as Britain’s favourite “stoned and hungover DJ”. In that time, his mission has, by necessity, evolved from “representing the British Asian sound” to putting on for the global South Asian diaspora.

The fact that Friction’s mildly frustrated with the Brit desis who are “having a rest” presently has little to do with this. But even as he exhorts his countrymen to “look within themselves”, to “not sell out” and to “not overthink everything” over viral tweets, he has hope that they’ll catch up. How could he not, having adulted in the 1980s and 1990s, when Asian music was synonymous with a notorious underground movement in the UK?

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November 2019

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