DJ Lyan, in sync with South Asian music | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The recent emergence in South Asian music and the spotlight on South Asian artists can be attributed to today’s unprecedented global connectivity, allowing cultural influences to spread rapidly. If one looks at past moments when South Asian music enjoyed popularity, such as in the 2000s, there is now a renewed interest.

DJ Lyan, a formidable name in the London music industry, says as cultural trends have crossed regions such as South America with reggaeton and Africa with Afrobeat, it is now Asia’s turn, highlighting the diverse diaspora and widespread presence of South Asians contributing to this global phenomenon. He says, “This cultural wave means more than a fleeting trend. It establishes South Asian music as a significant and lasting component of the global music landscape.”

On a video call from London, the Bangladesh-origin British DJ, producer and songwriter Lyan, who hails from the vibrant cultural melting pot of East London, stands forth on his artistry that fuses traditional sounds of South Asia with contemporary western music.

Lyan has teamed up with the UK’s two emerging Punjabi stars, Juss Nandhra and Khushi K, to create a garage-infused single, ‘Kokka’, released under the Desi Trill label. A homage to the UK Garage classic Body Groove, Lyan has reimagined ‘Kokka’ into a modern-day hit. Says Lyan, “’Kokka’, set in the heart of London, strikes a balance between the classics that many grew up with and fresh sounds and talents that appeal to the younger generation.”

‘Kokka’was born at the end of a studio session when Lyan and a few friends were listening to UK garage music. “I was inspired by the body groove, cooked up a loop, and thought of Kushi, whom I had met a few weeks earlier. She was enthusiastic about the project. I also thought of Juss, whom I had met at a video shoot. His authentic, traditional-sounding voice complemented Kushi’s youthful energy perfectly. Despite working on their sessions months apart, our chemistry was incredible, and the song came together beautifully,” says Lyan.

Brown buoyancy

Agreeing with Desi Trill’s slogan, Brown is Everywhere, Lyan says it reflects the growing global presence and influence of South Asian communities. With India now the most populous country and significant populations from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, South Asians are found worldwide, bringing their culture with them. This is evident in the prevalence of South Asian restaurants and businesses globally.

On Punjabi music making its mark on the global stage as a genre of its own, Lyan says it is due to the popular music distribution platforms like Spotify and YouTube, which have amplified its reach. “The genre’s infectious energy and cultural appeal, collaborations with international artists, and integration into Bollywood have reinforced its popularity worldwide. Social media and a strong global diaspora further contribute to its popularity.”

london moorings

Lyan’s journey into music and DJing is rooted in his upbringing in London, particularly Hackney. He describes a childhood filled with diverse musical influences; Bollywood from his mother and the emerging sounds of British Asian fusion from artists like Bally Sagoo and Rishi Rich. These musical experiences laid a foundation for his eclectic taste in music, blending genres like grime, hip-hop, and dance.

Recollecting his interest in music production, Lyan shares it began when he was a teenager, when a friend introduced him to beat-making software. “This led me to spend countless hours creating beats, often prioritizing my music over social outings.”

As he honed his production skills, Lyan eventually ventured into DJing to share his music and showcase tracks from other artists he admired. “By this point, I developed a keen ear for what sounded good and had become a tastemaker in my own right. “This transition into DJing came naturally as a way to connect more deeply with my audience and the broader music community.”

Spending his formative years in Hackney, Lyan enjoyed exposure to various communities, including African, South Asian, and Caribbean cultures.

Team support

DJ Lyan (center) with the Desi Trill members Ty Ty Smith (left) and Shabz Naqvi

DJ Lyan (center) with the Desi Trill members Ty Ty Smith (left) and Shabz Naqvi | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

In his musical journey and being part of the Desi Trill movement that is very rewarding, says Lyan. “Collaborating with a supportive team and depicting our cultural message over just the music has been crucial. It is deeply fulfilling when people from the South Asian community understand and appreciate the cultural narrative we’re conveying through our music. Representing South Asian culture through our work has been a special and rewarding experience.“

Lyan has some exciting projects lined up; an EP album titled Thank you. Come Again, which blends dance electronic beats with South Asian sounds. Additionally, he hints at having some significant records later in the year that he believes he will be ‘needle movers for the culture’. “I cannot disclose specific names yet, but it will impact the music scene.”