In Defence of “Burban” (Editorial)


It seems as though the “Burban” movement is creating quite a fuss. If you’re unaware, various artists such as Shizzio and RKZ have utilised the phrase – which stands for “Brown Urban” – as a replacement for the defunct and meaningless “Urban Desi.” Now, there appear to be various levels of friction as a result (predictable, of course). What’s all the noise about, then?

It seems like Asian artists that create a hybrid of rap, R&B, dubstep, dance, whatever falls under the umbrella term “urban,” continue to be the bastard children of the music industry, the little orphan Annies trying to do something in this hard knock life. Nobody wants to sign them to a label, or at least incredibly rarely and with minimal success. The older generation look down on it all as “black people music” and the middle generation just want to listen to Nitin Sawhney and Norah Jones. As some have pointed out, the future lies in the youth – create an exciting new scene, and they will be drawn to it. We’ve been following the various tweets about it, the bizarre Wikipedia page and we even put up a poll about the name “Burban.” What we’ve managed to glean so far is that, in the early stages at least, there is a lot of resistence to the concept of change.

That’s hardly revelatory, but the problem arises when someone like DJ Kayper puts it on blast. She ranted the other night, and actually was (initially) spot on – talking about how the output level of new music just isn’t high enough, and how artists are always promising her new music to play, but don’t deliver. It’s a fair point, and you’ll notice that we tend to post in fits and starts – we are ultimately reliant on when new music is or isn’t available. All good points, even if she does underestimate the effects of the recession, where the Asian artists are either in full-time employment or students (generally). In the harsh light of day, she’s totally right. Then, she decided to continue her rant, and started complaining about the use of the word of “Burban.” Her point was that good music is good music, and why does it need pigeonholing? The problem with short-sighted people is that they haven’t got the vision to see the bigger picture.

Kayper is a talented DJ and an alright presenter – the exact dichotomy of Bobby Friction, not really a DJ but an engaging presenter who endlessly champions up-and-coming artists. Kayper is cold, collected and precise – perfect for a club. Bobby Friction is loose, messy and warm – perfect for the radio. But Bobby (or Bob, as Wiley likes to call him) realises that no matter what, artists need a break. They need help. Even as the importance of the Asian Network dwindles amid savage cuts, it’s still helpful to an artist to be able to say “Hey, I was played on the BBC!” Sometimes, they get airplay on Radio 1. Swami Baracus just got played on 6 Music, which is actually pretty huge (it dwarfs the Asian Network). Kayper’s complaint about productivity rings true, but her putdown of the Burban scene was foolish and unacceptable. Sure, many people are hedging their bets, but why? Is it not better to get behind something that at least has a positive goal? DJ Fricktion’s sudden bandwagon-jumping could be labelled as “dick-riding” – he’s shown virtually no interest up until now – but at least he’s prepared to put his money where his mouth is, even if he’s late in the day. There is such little help that practically any kind of support is better than nothing. It’s easy to forget that there is no record label behind them: these artists are in need of rebranding, and the attempt to create a scene is the right decision.

Whether it works or not is a different matter entirely. But it’s practically irrelevant – the victory lies in the attempt. Shizzio shouldn’t have to talk to Kayper on the phone and somehow make her back down, then promise to create the “second official Burban mixtape” – it all comes across as ridiculous and disingenuous. We ourselves aren’t entirely sure about every aspect of the Burban plan, but we are happy to support it – it’s in the embryonic stages, and needs help, just like the many artists that can’t catch a break. There must always be free speech, and the ability to voice your opinions or concerns. However, with free speech comes responsibility. Kayper’s point about good music being good music is true – but only in an ideal world, and clearly we aren’t in one. This is a world where the artists must band together and forge their own path, somehow, some way. It would just be better if people with a bit of influence cheered them on instead of putting them down. Let’s all get behind the Burban movement and see where it ends up: it might just turn into something even bigger.


4 thoughts on “In Defence of “Burban” (Editorial)

  1. For a “scene” or “movement” to be legitimate there has to be interest from people outside of it. I’m not seeing it. Burban seems juvenile and like a pool of mediocrity.

  2. In the second paragraph of this piece you say there is a lot of resistance to the concept of change in relation to the Burban movement, but have failed to show where that resistance lies. All you have reported is a twitter spat between @Shizzio and @DJKayper, accused @BobbyFriction of not being a proper DJ and accused @DJFriktion of “dick-riding”.

    It’s not just the UK Asian community who have to be persuaded to accept the new Burban movement and not just BBC Radio stations and DJs who will champion it. You have failed to mention the commercial Asian stations who are supporting and playing Burban artists such as @AmyKPresents on BuzzAsia. A little more intelligent thought and research behind this piece might have brought some more interesting reading.

    1. For an example of resistance, please see the comment directly above yours. We also held a poll in which no result was positive for the term or ideology of Burban. Many artists have openly made their disdain for all things Burban apparent. Perhaps we should have gone into more depth within the article.

      Regarding your second point, that’s entirely accurate and our failing. You’re right – we should mention people like Amy K and other such DJ’s/Presenters that really help to push artists. Many thanks for your comments.

  3. Superb Article – I like Shizzio, I’m keen to see where this goes. There are no mechanics in the music industry, or within the fanbase, to support this idea by Shizzio, BUT at the same time, there are no rules about what can/not work. It’s worthy of debate.

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