In Conversation with Rishi Rich and Dave Bawa

Chances are pretty good that you have at least one artist in your playlist that was produced by Rishi Rich. In the early 2000s, Rishi Rich was soul food for the South Asian diaspora hungry for a taste of their culture with modern, updated interpretations. He crafted a sound that was the perfect blend of Bollywood, hip hop, pop, and dancehall.

Rishi Rich Dave Bawa Unit 404 Interview

Rishi Rich is known not just as a producer, but as a scout for talent. He’s helped launch the careers of Jay Sean, Juggy D, H Dhami, and now Victoria-based singer Dave Bawa. We sat down with Dave and Rishi while they were in Vancouver to talk about their musical journeys and inspirations. Here’s what they had to say.

Rishi, we’ve been following your career for almost 2 decades. Here were three west London boys making music that blended an R&B style with Punjabi style (dhol included) that was just so original! Did you have a sense back then that you were a voice to a new generation of fans?

No! Like you said, it was just three friends [Rishi Rich, Jay Sean, Juggy D]. For me, growing up in London when I used to go out, I would see a lot of Indians in R&B and Hip Hop clubs, and I said we need to make a record where people can say, “These guys are ours.”

I started doing music when I was 16, so by the time I was 24, 25, I was ready. By 26, when Dance with you came out, I really wanted to perfect a sound which was mine, with the influences that I grew up with, living with my mom, whether it was James brown, R&B music from America, or Indian music.

When we did it, we didn’t think much of it, and I was just saying earlier in an interview, that record changed our lives. What it did, is it created a new genre for all the South Asians around the world.

Right now, there’s such a trend around nostalgia, with people taking a second look at the people that influenced them. What’s your reaction been like from fans about the Freak collaboration coming up?

That was very cool! You know, all three of us have had amazing solo careers. I still to this day love helping new artists. That’s always what I’ve wanted to do, I was doing that when I was 13. I was calling my friends over to my house, saying, “I want you to be my artist!” When we came together for Freak, I was in Atlanta, so Jay [Sean] and Jugs [Juggy D] came to Atlanta. You know, the first time we tried to make a record together, it went really wrong. That was in London, and we just ended up going out, and we partied, and we were always hungover. We just had such a laugh! So in Atlanta when we came together, it was really cool! Again, we just did it because the three of us, when we’re in the studio together, there is something very magical, because it is really just like 3 friends making music.

Who’s on your wish list to work with?

I’ve always said someone like Shinda, Adnan Sami. The thing is, everyone that I’ve wanted to work with up until now, I have. And I’m so humbled to be working with so many people.

To this day, I want to work with new artists. I love that. I love seeing the journey from when I meet them on the first day to when they actually release a record, to when they go down the street and get mobbed, to when they become superstars. I love seeing that, I get a good buzz off that.

So Dave, can you tell us how you and Rishi met, and how you collaborated?

Rishi was actually looking for a rapper when he was in Atlanta working on his album. I’m by no means a rapper, but I was like, hell, let’s go! So I got something together. I was singing in it, and I was doing my thing where I mix Punjabi and English, so I sent him the demo, and he sent me an email back a couple of weeks later, saying I would like to work with you. You’re not what I was looking for, but I would like to work with you. From there, we just talked, and he said come down to Atlanta and we’ll work together on a record. And we did “Don’t Stop,” which is the fourth single on Unit 404. That day, my manager looked at me and he just kind of hid behind the couch and threw up two fingers. I didn’t know what he meant, so I texted him saying, what are you on about? And he goes, “Dude, you need to do your album.” I had only released my EP with Rishi, but I was like, OK! We were just going to do one song, and I thought, how are you going to ask for more from a legend? But that night we went out, and we were very very happy with how “Don’t Stop” went, and I just asked him, I said, “Rish, will you do my album for me?” and he said, “Thank god, someone actually asked to do an album!” Because nowadays people just want to put out singles in this industry, and I’ve always been very album based, because I don’t listen to singles when they come out. That’s just one example from recent times, but that is our story!

This is an edited version of a longer form interview conducted by Nimritta Parmar and Rumnique Nannar. Listen to the entire interview on the Jugni Style Podcast and subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher