‘Tyari’ is the debut album from UK artist Singh Mahoon and follows on from an EP he released earlier this year titled ‘Miri Piri‘. Hailing from west London, Singh Mahoon is a twenty-something Sikh who has built up a steadily growing following through social media and live performances where he is at ease rapping, singing or playing instruments. ‘Tyari’ marks his move into the studio to create a significant body of work that makes up this debut album; does it pass muster?

I need to start this review with a disclaimer: some of our readers may be familiar with Singh Mahoon through his contributions to productions at naujawani. Not only has he appeared in a number of our Youtube videos, but he has performed at three of our NU:Live events showcasing underground acts from the Sikh and Punjabi communities. As past reviews will attest though, we stay fair and unbiased as best we can. As always, the comments facility is there for you to highlight your opinion. On a different note: this album comes with an ‘explicit content’ warning – take note!

Singh Mahoon has a range of vocal styles, switching from aggressive rapping to harmony singing on a number of tracks in ‘Tyari’, so much so that I figure it is now his signature on a record. What you get with this album is what I like to call in-your-face rap; lyrics with a clear message and direction, unashamedly simple even, in some cases. His words cover imperialism, migration, and Sikh statehood amongst other topics, but it’s the latter that provides the running thread in this work. It is a topic that works well with his vocal ability and natural sound, but it is the diversity of his performances that caught my attention. There are a few occasions in the album when he veers on shouting into the microphone, his voice blaring, grabbing you by the collar and smacking you cleanly on each cheek of your face. But these are countered by other occasions when his deep tones softly speak to you, quite literally as if he were telling a bedtime story. This range is quite impressive and keeps things fresh – nineteen tracks might sound like a lot, but the little over an hour playing ‘Tyari’ from start to finish doesn’t feel like it. Whilst Singh Mahoon’s singing is certainly distinctive, if not always hitting the mark, his classical training is evident in the way he performs chorus lines and it gave away his west London roots which aren’t necessarily clear from his rapping. His words generally flow well and as a debut album, he should be pleased with what he has created.

The album is produced by Nutty P, an extremely talented individual whose name I did not know before ‘Tyari’, but will be looking out for from now on. This is music that you want to play at high volume on your car stereo (preferably in a residential area) to appreciate how captivating and crisp the sound is. Like the vocals, the music is in-your-face but doesn’t overpower things. Choice sound effects and samples compliment the beats only where necessary and show off the talent that both the producer and artist have. There are contributions from other Sikh personalities on the album: Bigg Taj, Hipster Veggie, Behind the Netra, and Shamsher Singh, but for me the vocal contributions of AVneet Kaur on two of the tracks stood out, unsurprising perhaps as she is his sister and a regular collaborator.

‘Chosen One’ is the break-out record from this album and wouldn’t look out of place on the soundtrack of the right Hollywood film. The sharp difference between the chorus and verses mirrors the album as a whole, and I’d argue perhaps the artist himself too. My other favourite tracks included ‘Dunning-Kruger’ – I had to google it – which demonstrates Singh Mahoon’s rap flow and lyricism better than any other track; ‘Big Man’ which is an acoustic triumph of hip hop stabs and horns, aptly accompanying the educational and entertaining lyrics; and ‘Lion’, which has an infectious energy that demands you shake and not nod your head in time.

‘Tyari’ is an album that is well worth the eight pounds it cost me on Amazon (take note artists: some of us don’t use iTunes). I was genuinely surprised at the production quality across the album as a whole, and at the diversity in Singh Mahoon’s vocals which I hadn’t realised before from live performances alone. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you drink your chaa with laichee and laung in a steel glass etched with the name of an elder on the base, you’d be a fool not to add this to your playlist.

‘Tyari’ is available now on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.