A major label in world music, Outcaste Records was formed in 1995 by Shabs Jobanputra and Paul Franklyn. Based in London, the record label endeavours to maintain a creative space for artists of world music and produce music for and by young British Asians that reflect their South Asian and British cultural traditions. Outcaste are also dedicated to making this music increasingly accessible and appreciated to mainstream audiences.
The idea for a specialist record label developed when Shabs Jobanputra attended a ‘New Music Seminar’ in New York City. Participants discussed the increasing level of production and promotion of music by African Americans. This inspired Jobanputra to question what he as a British Asian music producer could do to raise the status of British Asian music in the UK. Co-founder Paul Franklyn recalls, ‘We wanted people to realise that British Asian music didn’t have to mean just Bhangra or Bollywood soundtracks.’ So a record label promoting new British Asian music grew out of the pair’s PR company, Media Village.
The name of the record label, Outcaste,was devised to reflect the predicament of being an outsider. The logo is based on the standard ‘no entry’ road signs in the UK, following the same principle. As Jobanputra describes, ‘The name of the label is about trying to take a different look and to convey a positive message – about people wanting to keep a sense of their own identity rather than be drowned in an amorphous mass’.
In the early 1990’s, Shabs Jobanputra saw multi-instrumentalist Nitin Sawhney playing the tabla on Channel Four’s Asian programme, Network East. Jobanputra felt that Sawhney’s material was dually informed by the sounds of London and by classical Indian music. Sensing that Sawhney was an artist who embodied the cultural fusion which Outcaste Records sought to endorse, the company signed Nitin Sawhney, and the label gained its first artist.