British Asians in Music Groups
Updated: Jun 16
With Bohemian Rhapsody film being a biopic of the Legendary late Freddie Mercury. What was great about this was how the film remembered to honour Mercury's Parsi Indian heritage and his Zoroastrian religion. Something that most of his fans around the world didn't know or forgot about. The film didn't shy away from the social issues he faced in his time such as being called a Paki (an extremely offensive racist slur in the UK), something that people outside the UK are not typically aware of. For this article I wanna cover that Freddie Mercury may have been one of the first or the first well known British Asian to make it big in a British Band. But he is not the only one. For this list we are talking all Asians (By that we mean ALL ASIANS. West Asian, South Asian, and the Far Eastern Asians) of the UK are included. Typically Asians are said to not make a huge impact in mainstream music but here's a few we can name in the UK that have been part of popular groups or tried to put themselves out there.
Name: Freddie Mercury (born Farroukh Bulsara)
Nationality: Born in Zanzibar, raised in India then Middlesex, London.
Ethnicity: Indian of Parsi origin
About: Born in Zanzibar to a Parsi Zoroastrian family before moving to Bombay, India and then to Middlesex London. Little did the world know how much a man named Farroukh Bulsara was going to rock the world. He eventually took the name Freddie Mercury as a stage name before legally changing it. Let just we all know him and love him.
Name: Schelim Hannan
Band: Worlds Apart
Nationality: Born in Bangladesh raised in London
Ethnicity: Sylheti Bangladeshi
Genre: Pop, Dance, Euro-Pop
About: Born in the Sylhet region of Bangladesh, Schelim moved to London at an early age. He was recruited to join the British band Worlds Apart being one of its ethnic minority members and one of first British Asians to fit this trend. He last between 1992 to 1997, but left the band to go solo only to be unsuccessful.
Name: Anita Mahadevan
Band: Toto Coelo, Cherry Bombz
Genre: New Wave/Post-Punk, Pop (Toto Coelo) Rock (Cherry Bombz)
About: Not much is known about Anita Mahadervan. Except she was of Indian descent and was part of a New-Wave/Post Punk girl band called the Toto Coelo. She did later leave the band and go into Rock music when she joined Finnish-British rock band Cherry Bombz under the name Anita Chellamah as the lead vocalist.
Name: Anya Lahiri
Genre: Pop, Dance-pop, Teen Pop.
About: Born in Golders Green to Bengali Father and Finnish Mother. Lahiri was scouted at 14 by a Select Model Management where she assumed she was auditioning for a music video and was surprised to discover it was to be part of a girl band. At first she was reluctant but went ahead with it. The band Precious was selected to represent the UK for the Eurovision song contest during 1999.
Name: Abz Love (Richard Abidin Breen)
Genre: Pop, Dance-pop, Pop-Rap, RnB, Hip-Hop
About: Born in London to a Turkish Father and an Irish Mother. Abz grew up in a council estate in Hackney until 16 where he left home to join the band. He won a scholarship with Italia Conti Stage School in which one of his teachers suggested he audition for a boy band that Simon Cowell was forming and that is where he became part of 5ive. He did briefly go solo as an artist under the name Abz Breen.
Name: Kavana (Anthony Kavanagh)
Band: 5th story
Genre: Pop, Teen Pop
Initially a solo artist, Kavana released several songs in the 1990s. He did also do some minor acting as Will in Hollyoaks the City. He appeared on the 2013 series of BBC Saturday night singing show The Voice UK where he failed to progress past the audition stage. In December 2013, it was announced that Kavana, Dane Bowers, Gareth Gates, Kenzie and Adam Rickitt would join together to form a supergroup called 5th Story for series 2 of The Big Reunion. In January 2015, he took part in the Channel 5 reality series Celebrity Big Brother where he came 7th. Later that year he released a new single "Deja Vu"—his first for many years.
Name: Bobak Kianoush
Band: Another Level
Bobak Kianoush is a singer and model. Best known as a member of the UK R&B group Another Level, he released a total of 3 albums hitting the top of the charts in 1998 & 1999 with 7 top ten singles worldwide. In 1998 the R&B group were the solo
opening act for Janet Jackson, on her Velvet Rope European tour. Performing in 33 cities over 2 1/2 months. Bobak currently has active modeling contracts with LA Models & Wilhelmina Models, NY, and has worked with various clients including Hugo Boss, Valentino, Giorgio Armani,
Zegna, Etro, Rolland Berry, Gap, Budweiser, Lufthansa to name a few. He
maintains an active and healthy lifestyle by circuit training daily and playing basketball and has a keen interest in tennis and boxing. Bobak's clear and unshakable value system was formed during his often challenging childhood in Brighton Beach, East Sussex, Great Britain, where he was raised by his single mother along with his three sisters.
Name: Strider (Mustafa Omer)
Band: Blazin' Squad
Not much information is out on Strider from Blazin' Squad but he supposedly from London born to an Turkish Father and Italian Mother. In fact his middle name is Amando an Italian name. Mus teamed up with fellow bandmate Flava to create a producing and writing partnership MoJam. You’ve unwittingly heard their stuff, they’ve written for Pro Green, Naughty Boy, even Leona Lewis.
Name: Ben Vishala Thapa
Genre: Classical, Easy Listening, Operatic Pop, Vocal
An unusual one to appear, before Zayn Malik popped up on X-Factor as the Asian member of One Direction. Well Ben Thapa was the Asian member of G4 in 2004 during X-Factor's first series. He specialised in Opera and Low Tenor. Born in Cambridge, Thapa was raised by a single mother from the age of four after his father left, and entered foster care when he was eleven. It was during this time Thapa started singing lessons and sang in his local church choir, and played the clarinet in an orchestra while at Hills Road Sixth Form College. Ben continued touring and recording with G4 until April 2018. Then on 19 July he announced on social media that he was leaving G4 with immediate effect to concentrate on his solo Operatic career.
Name: Sonny Jay Muharrem
Band: Loveable Rogues
Genre: Indie Pop
He was born in London, England and grew up with a sister named Seri and a brother named Elliot. In 2012, The Loveable Rogues were asked by Britain's Got Talent producers to audition for the show. They performed two of their original compositions on the show, "Lovesick" and "Honest", both which were positively received by fans and the judges alike and were written by the three boys themselves. They had a fanbase before appearing on the show. Sonny Jay Muharrem joined Brentwood radio station Phoenix FM as a presenter in June 2015. His show "Sonny Jay's Phoenix Nights" can be heard on Friday nights from 10pm-midnight. In 2016, Sonny joined Capital FM to present Thursday and Friday overnights. After just a year he joined Capital Breakfast with Roman Kemp and Vick Hope.
Name: Tariq Jay Khan
Nationality: British born German
Born in London to a British Pakistani family. He moved to Berlin when he was 4 years old. In 1998 his mother moved back to London with his two siblings (sister and brother). Khan stayed with his father in Germany. Two years later he graduated from school in Berlin. After leaving school, he studied journalism in England for a few semesters. Jay Khan's musical career began at the age of 16 when he met the producers Mike Michaels and Mark Dollar from the Berlin production / record company Triple-M Musik. The album reached platinum status in Germany. Khan made his own musical breakthrough in 2005 when music producer Lou Pearlman started US5. In the band, he acted as band leader, songwriter and producer. US5 made it to number one on the German single charts in Germany and number six on the billboard sales charts in the USA. Up to 2008 the band landed nine top ten hits in Germany. In the years 2005 to 2009, US5 sold over 12 million records worldwide. In 2011 Khan participated as a candidate on the RTL show I'm a Star - Get Me Out of Here! part, in which he finished fourth. As a solo musician, Khan appeared immediately afterwards with his debut single Nackt , which reached number 59 on the German single charts. In 2012, Khan stepped into the ring at ProSieben celebrity boxing, where he boxed against Martin Kesici and won the fight on points.
Name: Mutya Buena
Band: Original SugarBabes now MKS (Mutya Keisha Siobhan)
Genre: RnB, Pop, Dance, Soul
Born in Kingsbury London to a Filipino father and Irish mother. Mutya Buena is best known for making up part of the original SugarBabes before the band was replaced with three new singers altogether. Mutya and her former Band mates did reunite under the name MKS (the letters of their first names). In 2019, she appeared on the fourth series of Celebrity Coach Trip alongside Lisa Maffia.
In September 2019 Buena regained rights to the Sugababes name and rejoined the band alongside original members Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy. They featured on a track on a DJ Spoony album and confirmed that they had plans to release new material and tour in 2020.
Name: Vanessa White
Genre: RnB, Pop, Dance-Pop, Soul
Born and raised in the UK to a Filipino family. Vanessa White attended Sylvia Young Theatre School in West London where she would go on to meet Frankie Bridge her future band mate in the girl group the Saturdays. In fact the Saturdays became one of the most successful music groups in the UK during the 2010s era. In 2015 after the group took a hiatus and retired from their musical careers. Vanessa began a solo career with her latest singles being released in 2017. In January 2010, White participated in the first series of the ITV celebrity reality television programme Popstar to Operastar. She was the second contestant eliminated, on 22 January.
In November 2017, White was confirmed as a participant on the seventeenth series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!. She was the fourth to be eliminated and finished in eighth place on 5 December 2017. During her time in the jungle, White became a popular topic on social media due to her lack of knowledge about the music industry which was highlighted during a 'bushtucker trial'. In 2018, she participated in E4 show, ‘All Star Driving School’.
Name: Zayn Malik
Band: One Direction
Genre: Pop, Teen Pop, Pop Rock, RnB, Alternative RnB, Electropop
Born and raised in Bradford, Yorkshire to a British Pakistani father and an English/Irish mixed Mother. Zayn had felt like he didn't fit in at some of his schools due to his mixed eurasian heritage. However he was encouraged to go into singing after meeting British Indian singer Jay Sean. He entered X-Factor as a solo artist but was put into a group called One Direction. After the groups major success, Zayn became a British Asian icon for the public and one of the most popular music celebrities of the 2010s. He decided to ditch the band and go solo as he felt the band limited him too much with the boy band image and he wanted more control over his artistry. Being the most flexible singer of the band he is capable of more than their usual pop music, ranging from RnB style, to Falsetto and even Asian style Qawwali warbling which he demonstrates for the Aladdin soundtrack. He also sung in his native Urdu as well as doing his own cover of Allah Dua Hai from the Bollywood film series the Race in full Hindi no less.
Name: Siva Kaneswaran
Nationality: Irish (part of the British Isle not the UK tho)
Ethnicity: Sri Lankan-Irish
Genre: Pop, Dance-Pop
From Dublin, Ireland we have Siva Kaneswaran him being Irish maybe stretching as Ireland is an independent country from the UK. But as the Wanted are a British-Irish band we will include him plus Ireland is part of the British Isles so why not. Growing up with a Sri Lankan Father and Irish mother, a twin brother and 6 other siblings. Siva made his own way to stand out for himself. He along with his Brother Gail went into modelling at the age of 16. His sister Hazel and brother David also got into Music. As for Siva, he got selected to audition for the chance to be part of the Wanted. Due to the Wanted being compared to One Direction at the time. Siva was compared to fellow Eurasian singer Zayn. Siva did recently release his first single as a solo artist in 2019 named: "Breathe In".
Name: Tasie Lawrence (Anastasia Dharanj)
Band: Kitchen Party (formely named Woowoos)
Genre: Pop, UK Garage
Originally part of the trio girlband called "WooWoos". Tasie was essential the Mutya for this new girl band that was intended to fill the void after the SugarBabes disbanded. Whilst the band had to renamed themselves to Kitchen Party, they were not too well known but one of their songs called "America" was used on the soundtrack for the 2012 film Now is Good. Tasie did eventually leave the band and begin an acting career with one of the best known roles being Mara Jaffrey in House of Anubis. Her more recent roles have included Priya Nair in the Resident and Stella Bentley in The First Wives Club. She will appear in the upcoming film Domino: Battle of the Bones as Namita Sodhi.
Name: Khatereh Dovani
Band: Kandy Rain
Genre: Pop, Dance, Burlesque
So heading into the more risque territory. Here we meet X-Factors Kandy Rain a girl band that aspired to be just like their idols the Pussy Cat Dolls. Among the four beautiful women included Khatera Dovani. Not much is really known about her except she is of Iranian descent as her Persian names didn't make it very obvious. She allegedly met her band mates and friends when the were working together at as dancers in a club at London. Unfortunately their glamour and burlesque style did not exactly give them the best reception during the X-Factor Live Shows and the girl band were eliminated within the first week. Many have argued that their chances were ruined due to the controversy of their former jobs as exotic dancers was why they were judged so harshly and that it comes across as hypocritical or short sighted due to many female artists and girl group would use the same sex sells angle that Kandy Rain seem to embody.. Still we will include Khaterah Dovani as part of this article as Iran is an Asian country and the girls did put themselves out there.
Name: Jade Thirwall
Band: Little Mix (Formerly named Rhythmix)
Ethnicity: quarter Yemeni quarter Egyptian and half English
Genre: Pop, RnB, Dance
Jade Thirlwall was born in South Sheilds, Tyne and Wear to an English father and Egyptian/Yemeni mother. Growing up she struggled with problems like anorexia nervosa, bullying and due to her mixed heritage she was bullied. In fact she specifically detailed her experience of being called a Paki, having bleach powder thrown at her and a had a bindi drawn on her head by her classmates and bullies. Despite not being South Asian we put her in the article as her Yemeni heritage makes her West Asian. She auditioned for X-Factor as a solo artist but was put together into a group to form Rhythmix. Unfortunately they had to change the name to Littlemix as the name Rhythmix was already copyrighted by a charity causing confusion. Jade would go on to have a successful career as a singer alongside her bandmates. Due to her half Arabic heritage and her singing ability she was a fan favourite for the role of Princess Jasmine for the Aladdin film and was said to have screen tested for the role too.
Name: Asami Zdrenka
Band: Neon Jungle
Nationality: Japanese Born British
Genre: RnB, Pop, EDM, Hip-Hop, Grime, Bashment, House
Finally we get to Asami Zdrenka, born in Japan to Japanese and British parents. Her family would encourage her to sing and her mother and grandfather were also singers. So it is natural this talent pass on to her. She was notably scouted to try out for the girl band Neon Jungle when a scout had spotted her singing videos on YouTube and enlisted her to this new band which included Scottish Belizean Shereen Cutkelvin, British Jamaican Amira McCarthy and finally actress and singer Jessica Plummer who is best known for her acting roles in Wizards vs Aliens and her latest Chantelle Atkins in Eastenders. As for Asami she is currently working on solo music as the band have taken a break from being a group and working alone.