Just over a month ago I noticed something. The Asian diaspora were raving about a first which seemed to have gone un-noticed initially in the 'mainstream' media. It was that Jay Sean, a 28-year old singer, had made it to no.1 in the USA 'Billboard Hot 100 chart' with his single 'Down' - notable because it was the first USA no.1 by a British artist in ages and because it was the first British-Asian one (e.g. BBC Asian Network ran this interview on 12 October).
However, other media soon caught on. I was struck by the headline and double-page spread in the Evening Standard (image above) on 16 November. It goes for the 'transformation' angle - though instead of the usual 'rags to riches' it's more 'local to global'. JS was afterall training to be a doctor and his parents were 'well-settled' (to use that particular phrase common in diasporic circles).
The Independent also later had this interview. For those not familiar with Jay Sean, the Evening Standard sums up the basic story like this:
"Actually, Jay Sean — real name Kamaljit Singh Jhooti — is a privately educated former medical student from Hounslow, the son of a second-generation Sikh businessman father and a Delhi-born beautician mother. And his “sudden” success is the result of seven years of hard graft and attention to detail. His meticulous management of his own sound and image has seen him walk away from a £1 million record deal with Virgin, set up his own record label, change his musical direction and even choose a stage name free of ethnic connotations in order to offer “a musical product free of labels, agendas and race."
As you can imagine, plenty more angles to be taken up here - for example, there's some debate about whether he could have made it without changing his name (though the answer may lie in snappy marketing rather than racial affiliation). I was also interested in the Jay Sean frenzy because JS is from Hounslow, next door to my old home town Southall, in West London - there are hundreds of musical wannabes there who will be inspired by his story. Good luck to them all (though, like an Indian aunty, I'd have to advise - try and get your education first, eh?)
You can visit lots of YouTube videos to see him in action - amongst them this live performance at the University of Hertfordshire from 2007 in which he also sings in Punjabi too (something he won't be doing a lot more of, I'm guessing).
Oh, and lastly, I look forward soon to seeing this postive success story about an immigrant son on the front pages of the Daily Mail or Express. No? Just saying.