From blaring bhangra to the new grime: 30 years of brilliant British Asian broadcasting

While I was growing up in Hounslow, my grandmother lived with us for 10 years. I remember many things from that time: the rich smell of her cooking; the endless TV she would consume, from 60s Bollywood movies to Neighbours; the thickness of her reading glasses. But above all, I recall the constant crackle of an AM signal tuning in to Sunrise Radio.

For my grandma, Sunrise was a connection to the India she had left 30 years before. People she knew would ring in to debate current affairs or gossip; the high-pitched voices of singers Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar would ring out. Prayers would be played on festive occasions. To me, this was all just noise. I wanted Kiss FM or Choice. I found Asian music embarrassing and shrill, and the talk shows made no sense. But to the over three million British Asians living in the UK, independent radio stations such as Sunrise in London, Asian Sound in Manchester and Sabras in Leicester were a way of connecting to their fragmented communities.

This month, Sunrise celebrates its 30th anniversary. It is now a nationwide service and the world’s first commercial 24-hour Asian radio station. It is a clear example of how Asian music and its broadcasting platforms have flourished in Britain to cater to its demographic, despite changing tastes. Even the establishment has taken note, with the BBC’s Asian Network reaching its 17th year of broadcasting, having recovered from the threat of closure in 2010.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 23/01/19]