BBC Music Day Blue Plaque Awards

BBC Local Radio, the BBC Asian Network and the British Plaque Trust will unveil 47 new blue plaques on Thursday 15 June to commemorate people or places that have influenced the musical landscape across the country.

We’re delighted that three of these new blue plaques commemorate artists who have a strong connection to Real World Records; two plaques will be unveiled on the day in East London in honour of Haroon Shamsher (founder of pioneering collective Joi) and Saifullah ‘Sam’ Zaman (aka State Of Bengal). Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan will then be commemorated with a plaque in Birmingham around the 20th anniversary of his death on 16 August.

The initiative is part of BBC Music Day a UK-wide annual celebration of music that aims to unite communities and generations through their love of music. Singers, musicians, songwriters, producers and broadcasters, as well as significant locations that played a major role in our musical heritage, are being commemorated.


"BBC Asian Network and BBC Music, with the British Plaque Trust, are really proud to honour three music icons with the first Blue Plaques for South-Asian artists. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Haroon Shamsher and Sam Zaman all made a profound difference throughout their careers and left a lasting legacy. Their cultural significance continues today. Real World Records are amongst a core number of platforms who have played a critical role in supporting and exposing them to wider audiences." ~ Mark Strippel, Head of BBC Radio 1Xtra / Asian Network

Farook Shamsher will be interviewed on the Bobby Friction show on BBC Asian Network on Thursday, at approx 8pm.

Haroon Shamsher and his younger brother, Farook, applied a DIY aesthetic to their career from the very beginning, starting out as Joi Bangla Sound System, an outfit that saw them spinning records in local youth clubs around Brick Lane with a vibe that was inclusive and outward-looking from the get-go.

By the early 1990s Joi were at the vanguard of the Asian Underground, a clubland movement that also saw the rise to prominence of Talvin Singh, Asian Dub Foundation, Cornershop, Fun-da-mental and Nitin Sawhney.

“Real World first saw us playing at the Blue Note,” says Farook Shamsher of the now-legendary venue in east London’s Hoxton Square. “We used to get a very cool, very mixed crowd. We’d pin our mother’s saris on the walls and get our incense going, and then we’d let our records speak for us. Wherever we played – London, Britain, Europe – we rocked it. We made music that changed minds.”

Joi progressed through DJing to writing and recording their own music, releasing numerous singles – breakbeat workouts, techno experiments, mystical instrumentals – before signing to Real World Records.

Photo credit: Tim Kavanagh

They had just released their debut for the label One and One Is One and were gigging and travelling intensively when tragedy struck: Haroon Shamsher developed a blood clot and died from a heart attack. He was thirty-four years old.

After a period of mourning, Farook – as Joi – returned in 2000 with We Are Three, a tribute to his late brother “Haroon’s vibe is there on every single track,” says Farook.

Haroon Shamsher, musician, dj, songwriter and producer
Born Bradford 14 November 1965; died London 8 July 1999

Saifullah ‘Sam’ Zaman, the east London DJ and producer, aka State of Bengal, was a regular visitor to Real World Studios over the years and also released two albums on Real World Records, 1999’s Walking On, with Ananda Shankar and in 2004 Tana Tani, a collaboration with Paban Das Baul.

He collaborated with many South Asian musicians, most memorably the celebrated psych-rock sitar maverick Ananda Shankar, but was always looking to bring something new to the music rather than simply falling back on traditional methods and approaches.


"I want to feel that I'm moving things on, not just regurgitating music that's being played for centuries." 

As well as the album releases Sam was a key component in the burgeoning Asian Underground scene of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and an accomplished DJ. He was also renowned for his innovative and exciting remixes for a host of other artists such as Bjork, Massive Attack and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Saifullah ‘Sam’ Zaman, DJ and producer
Born Karachi 16 April 1965; died 19 May 2015

  • Joi

    United Kingdom

    Joi sounded like the future, back in the day. The original Asian fusionists were always one step ahead of the game, what with their DJ-led mix of breakbeats and Eastern grooves, their electronic roots and real playing values, the way they would gig as both a sound system and as a fully-fledged band with vocals, keyboards and guitar as well as tabla, flute and sitar.

  • State of Bengal Vs Paban Das Baul

    India, United Kingdom

    Saifullah 'Sam' Zaman, the east London DJ and producer who records as State Of Bengal, was first introduced to Paban Das Baul when he attended a tribute to the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at the Royal Festival Hall, shortly after the qawwali legend's death in 1997.

  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan


    The late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is one of the key artists on Real World Records and certainly one of the most influential. His voice is universally recognised as one of the great voices in musical history and he was key in bringing the Qawwali music tradition to the Western world.

By Online Editor

Published on Wed, 14 June 17

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