BBC honoured two pioneering British-Bangladeshi DJs – Haroon Shamsher of pioneering collective Joi and Saifullah 'Sam' Zaman of State of Bengal on June 15, unveiling Blue Plaques at their places of residence.
As part of BBC Music Day on June 15, all 40 BBC Local Radio stations in England teamed up with the British Plaque Trust to unveil 40 historic Blue Plaques celebrating iconic musicians and venues. The Blue Plaque commemorates innovative, influential and successful people who are no longer with us. It's the first time that musicians of South Asian descent were honoured with an official Blue Plaque for their contribution to music and shaping the cultural landscape. Haroon's Blue Plaque was placed in Brick Lane, where he lived with his family and Sam's Blue Plaque was placed at his home and studio, East London, where all his albums were created and his eclectic music collection was housed.
Haroon and Sam began their musical journey together, as part of the League of Joi Bangla Youth community collective. Sam and Joi's remixes of 'Nusrat' were featured on the hugely successful Real World Record's tribute album, and Sam's remixes of 'Nusrat' were a big part of his DJ set.
The duo Joi was founded by brothers Farook and Haroon Shamsher (November 14, 1965 – July 8, 1999) who grew up in the East End of London. Their passion for music developed at a young age as their father was a professional flautist who had a shop in Brick Lane selling saris and musical instruments. He also had Hindi, Indian classical and traditional Bangla music records, and ran a traditional music shop. Their father would organise sessions and record with Baul artists, and sell the tapes.
Joi was formed originally under the banner of the 'League of Joi Bangla Youth', a collective set up in 1983 to promote Bangalee culture to children in East London. They started out in the context of community work and events and subsequently became active members of a growing Asian dance scene in England. Out of this, the Joi Bangla sound system was formed by Farook and Haroon Shamsher, fusing Asian influences with Western beats and fusing the sounds of traditional Bangla music with hip-hop and contemporary dance styles. They spun records in local youth clubs around the Brick Lane area of London. In 1983, they mixed these elements together and began DJing at clubs as the Joi Bangla Sound System, before becoming the more dance-oriented Joi six years later.
Saifullah 'Sam' Zaman (April 16, 1965 –May 19, 2015) of State of Bengal was one of the Key DJ/producers to have emerged from the British Asian Music scene that emerged in the late 1990's that gave birth to the 'Asian Underground' movement. State of Bengal was set up in 1987 after Sam returned to London from a visit to the village of Noakhali in Bangladesh where he met and interacted with traditional musicians and dancers. Inspired and drawing from his experiences, Sam set up a sound system, which included rappers, DJs, dancers and musicians. The team mixed Bangla and Western street style dance to create a style that reflected the diverse cultures of Britain at that time.
Sam's reputation for pushing the boundaries and 'stepping out' to produce eclectic 'out of the box' albums as well as his archives of dance tracks gained him respect as one of the innovators and pioneer's of the British Asian music scene.