Panjabi MC
w/DJ Anshul, Darek Mazzone, DJ Manpreet, guests

Fri April 30, Showbox, 9 pm, $17 adv/$22 DOS.

Last year, the music of British-born DJ and producer Panjabi MC (Rajinder Rai) finally arrived in the U.S. by way of a remix of "Mundian To Bach Ke" ("Beware of the Boys") that featured rap czar Jay-Z. Though South Asian styles of music were recognized by the world of rap (they had been used in songs such as Truth Hurts' "Addictive" and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On"), Panjabi MC's brand/blend of bhangra and rap, which he has been making since 1993, possessed a fire and excitement that had long been absent from much of mainstream and underground American hiphop.

For example, Panjabi MC's celebrated use of the Knight Rider theme wasn't new to rap; Busta Rhymes employed it in "Turn It Up/Fire It Up." But if you compare "Turn It Up" with "Mundian To Bach Ke," you realize that the former sample is dead serious, whereas Panjabi's version is refreshingly playful. Knight Rider's theme is to "Mundian To Bach Ke" what the Inspector Gadget theme was to "The Show"(1985, Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew)--at heart, both are playful, inspiring fun. Even Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On" is very serious. You have to work hard to get your freak on, and there's no joy to be found in all of this hard work.

The lyrics of "Mundian To Bach Ke" are, however, serious. They warn young virgins to beware of bad boys who are eager to deprive them of their innocence. While the party music is encouraging a young body to open up, the singer/rapper advises it to keep closed. But in another great Panjabi MC song, "Dhol Jageero Da," which has a deeper bhangra groove and an implied hiphop bounce, the message doesn't contradict the festive atmosphere of the music. "She dances really good when she beats the dhol," claims the singer/rapper, "and she is gyrating like a snake/She is in intoxication of her blossoming youth/She is defeating everyone...."

With its lively traditional dhol (drums), the irresistible twanging of the tumbi (one-string guitar), and booming old-school breaks, Panjabi MC's music is bringing joy back to the somber business of rap.