Khalid Akhtar on ‘Asian Music Radio’ & Desi Industry
Khalid Akhtar is an established radio DJ who has created an online station named, Asian Music Radio. The focus of the stations is to showcase the best in Desi music and much more
The station is booming with classic 80s hits, Bollywood anthems and the latest Bhangra tracks. The platform was imagined during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Khalid wanted Asian Music Radio to play music, relay vital health information and give back to the local community.
The DJ has worked across the industry, from multiple radio stations to touring the UK with wedding roadshows.
Therefore, his knowledge and passion for music are undeniable. He really engages one when listening to him on Asian Music Radio.
Khalid has worked for other platforms such as Ramadan Radio and Club Asia Radio. Thus, he is aware of how powerful this medium can be.
Wanting it to be for the people was a core reason to create his own station. Playing the best music that the Desi industry has to offer, he wants listeners to feel nostalgic, uplifted and positive.
Along with a magnificent array of playlists, audiences can also expect competitions, light-hearted stories and even an ‘agony DJ’ segment.
Asian Music Radio plays music 24 hours a day. Som whether you work day or night, the station is there to keep you entertained.
DESIblitz spoke exclusively with Khalid Akhtar about his inspiring career, the ambition of Asian Music Radio and the industry.
Could you tell us how you got into the radio world?
Hi, my name is Khalid Akhtar, I was born in the early 70s in Wolverhampton. My parents had only arrived in the UK in the late 60s.
My mother had me when she was only 16. Hence, she was quite young herself bringing up a family in a new country.
As young parents, they would often go to the cinema to watch the latest Bollywood blockbuster from India.
I remember vaguely watching these films in black and white and the audience jumping up and dancing to the soundtracks from these films.
I think this must have inspired me to listen to the soundtrack of movies. My parents had invested in a VHS video recorder and used to send me to the local video shop to rent new Bollywood films.
I was fascinated watching and listening to Bollywood tracks and started collecting music tapes of films from an early age.
In my mid-teens, I used to help a local DJ. We used to cover the whole of the UK, entertaining people at weddings, birthdays and anniversaries.
“After saving some money I finally ventured out on my own and set up my own roadshow.”
I remember the first wedding I did, I made more money on tips (Varna) and then charged the groom for hiring me.
I took that money and went to a record shop, Oriental Star Agencies, and brought every Punjabi record available and still had change left over.
The daytime discos were at their peak when I started DJing. It proved very lucrative for me and I didn’t have to take any equipment to the show, just take my records to the venues.
This helped me to save more money to invest in better lighting and sound for my own roadshow.
When I started doing the wedding and birthday scene, there was only a handful of DJ’S covering the whole of the UK.
Our services were in high demand, we used to help each other and give each other work. Working full-time and DJing on weekends finally took its toll, especially when my family started to grow.
I made a decision to retire from DJing to spend the weekends with my family. A few years later I was approached by a local radio station to do some shows for them.
Initially, I started doing an overnight show once a week, which quickly changed to a few late evening shows.
This then developed me to do the drive time and breakfast shows. At one point I was attracting 250,000 listeners to the station. However, I was not getting rewarded for my efforts so decided to move on.
After a long break, I was approached by Ramadan Radio Wolverhampton who was awarded an FM licence for one month. They approached me to help them set up and do a show for them.
I was definitely out of my comfort zone but with the help of a local scholar, we delivered a very good and informative show.
Club Asia Radio later approached me and was looking to launch their station in the Midlands. I still do a show on this station every Friday morning.
How did you get the idea for Asian Music Radio?
The idea to launch my own station started when we went into lockdown because of Covid 19. Most people were not allowed to go outside of their homes, meet loved ones.
The public was panicking, there was so much confusion on what you could and couldn’t do.
I thought to myself if only there was a platform for the local community that we could use to get information across to them.
Combined with my passion for music and entertaining audiences, setting up my own radio station seemed like the obvious thing to do.
I suggested to my wife that I would like to set up a radio station where we can play music, relay vital information to the public and at the same time raise money for the less fortunate.
It was about time that I gave something back to the local community. The concept would be to play the best music the Asian industry could offer.
If anyone wanted a dedication or a song of their choice played, they donate any amount they can afford to the local charity.
We picked a local charity that is not associated with one religion but for everyone in the community. The charity that we chose was called Secret Angels.
They provide food packs and clothes packs for people who cannot afford to put a meal on the table.
Secret Angels also provide computers and laptops for the elderly and vulnerable and will also come into their homes to teach them how to use them.
They also provide fundraising events for Cancer Research and much much more. We started building the studio in September 2020.
But due to bad weather, the pandemic, getting materials and then trying to source equipment from other countries, we finally saw the project come to an end in July 2021.
I would have liked the project to have finished much earlier. However, it was out of my hands and in the hands of the almighty.
What type of genres and hits do you play on the station?
At Asian Music Radio, we play all different types of genres of music.
From Punjabi to Hindi, from ghazals to qawwali, bhajans to geet’s, nasheed’s to hamd o naat, Indian pop to the latest Bollywood and Bhangra tracks.
We play all the hit anthems, old and new, from a library of music that has thousands of tracks to choose from.
Our aim is to keep the listener happy with a diverse range of music and as the station progresses, to have shows for different communities.
We also have plans to get youngsters to do their own shows and play top ten music from around the world.
I personally have a soft spot for Punjabi music from the 80s and 90.
Bands like Alaap, Apna Sangeet, Azaad, Chirag Pechan, DCS, Heera, Holle Holle, Pardesi, Premi, The Sahotas, Shaktee are my favovurite.
When I am on air I like to play these bands’ songs just to take people back down memory lane.
“Gurdas Maan is a big influence in my life so he normally features a lot with other great artists like Diljit Dosanjh.”
Only recently I did do a two-hour tribute show for the late great Lata Mangeshkar, one of the most iconic playback singers in the world who sadly lost her life to Covid-19.
AP Dillon is the new kid on the block so the youngsters like to request his tunes. As you can see we cater for a lot of music genres on Asian Music Radio.
Besides music, what can listeners expect to hear on Asian Music Radio?
The listeners will hear us bringing laughter to everyone’s ears. We do this through our light-hearted stories from around the world.
Stories that everyone can relate to one way or another or stories that could have affected the listener if we didn’t bring it to their attention.
We try to bring a variety of fun competitions ON the weekly show. Winners get a choice of keeping a prize or donating it to our supported charity.
We do a segment called ‘This Day In History’ where we educate everyone, delving back in time on events and birthdays from the past.
Another great segment is ‘Did You Know’. Here we share facts about anything imaginable from around the world.
We read jokes, do a bit of romantic Shayari as well. We have a new segment, which will feature us being ‘Agony DJ’S’.
The listeners can ask us for solutions to their problems but will we give them advice they either want or don’t want.
Basically, if our team can make you smile and laugh then we would have accomplished part of our goal. We also touch on all the breaking news headlines, weather warnings etc.
What’s the importance of having this type of radio station?
It’s very important to have a station that is not only for your local community but also reaches out around the world as long as you have internet access.
You must remember that some of our listeners have families in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and so forth. This is another way of connecting with them.
By playing them a song of their choice, sending out birthday or anniversary messages or just to say hello and say we are thinking of you.
Our station is your station, we want the listener to partake in the shows, we want them to be part of this venture. Our success is ultimately the listener’s success and we want to take them on this ride.
They can do this by calling in, messaging or emailing the studio, joining in with the fun at our local melas. Ultimately I want the listener to be part of our team and family.
This station was aimed at the community, we are seeking local talent to come forward and do a show on the station.
“We want the next generation of radio presenters to have come from Asian Music Radio.”
This is the listener’s radio station and we are always listening to their feedback. If they have an idea, we will listen and if it works we will bring those ideas to life.
For the listeners, our aim is for them to listen to the station just as if we were a soap on your TV.
We want the listener to go to Asian Music Radio for their go-to relaxation period where they can chill, listen to good clean banter, playing the very best in Asian music.
“Our unique selling point is that Asian Music Radio runs 24 hours a day interruption-free with no adverts. However, this might change once we get businesses to sponsor shows.”
We also have some presenters coming on board, which will bring more energy to the station.
LIVE shows are broadcast every Thursday evening from 7 pm to 10 pm and repeated on weekends at the same time.
We replay the show just for the listener, just in case they were busy doing something else and can listen back.
Have you had or planning to have any special guests on the show?
We have contacts for the majority of the UK Bhangra artists. We’ll gradually introduce them to the station for interviews and to share their experiences in the music industry.
We also have plans to have the biggest Punjabi artist in the world, in my opinion, to join us at some point – Gurdas Maan.
We will also be the official online radio sponsor for the next Gurdas Maan UK tour.
We’ll be talking to medical professionals in the fields of mental health and other important issues such as the rising levels of diabetes in the Asian community.
Our charity partner, Secret Angels, will make regular visits to update us on funds raised, where this money has been spent and promote new ventures.
We have plans to do interviews with our local football teams players. This will hopefully attract both young and old football fans to the station.
Do you think enough is being done to showcase/promote Desi music?
In my opinion, social media has changed how news is exported around the world. Gone are the days that there were only a handful of Asian radio stations and TV channels.
Millions of people instantly share information through social media to hundreds of stations/TV channels.
Social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can showcase music straight away and is watched by millions of people within hours.
“The mainstream media however are not doing anything towards Punjabi and Hindi music.”
Lata Mangeshkar passed away and only a handful of top news channels highlighted who and what she had done.
We need high profile Bollywood stars and singers from the UK to headline shows on mainstream channels like the BBC and ITV.
What new things have you learned so far since launching Asian Music Radio?
I have learnt that setting up a station was a challenge within itself. There are so many hoops that you have to get through just to get online.
You need the patience to overcome these obstacles. I have also experienced that not everybody is as kind as you in promoting new ventures.
I am finding it difficult to open certain doors in the industry where I can get a helping hand to promote the station.
The hardest part starts now, trying to get the Asian Music Radio brand at the forefront of the Asian people.
Something that has surprised me is how many English listeners listen to us and how much positive feedback we’re getting from them.
What would be your ultimate goal for the radio station?
The ultimate goal is that every household listens to the station. I want people to enjoy listening to the music we play.
I want to bring music to a wide age range of listeners as I feel the youngsters are losing touch with their Asian heritage. This will also help in improving their language skills.
I also want the station to appeal to the older listeners, giving them the chance to remember their music from their youth.
My goal is for this radio station to help raise thousands of pounds for the less fortunate.
“Charity starts at home and Secret Angels is a local charity that will help people in our local communities.”
Secret Angels have pledged every pound raised will go directly to those in need. This charity also wants to expand into other cities.
I want us to produce young talent for the future. This is by hosting radio presenter workshops for the children to practice and become professional presenters.
I would also love for raw talent to come out of the community and become stars on this station and maybe a stepping stone to TV careers.
With such a fantastic and dedicated focus on how big Khalid wants Asian Music Radio to be, you cannot help but feel engaged by his aura.
The intimacy between the station and listeners also adds that cultural twist of Desi friendship and bond.
Whether you are a fan of Apna Sangeet, The Sahotas or AP Dhillon, Asian Music Radio plays it all. This is great as many platforms only stick to one period or genre of music.
But, this unlimited catalogue bringing together different artists means the station takes you through all your music needs.
Asian Music Radio is definitely fun, energetic and refreshing. It is diversifying the industry and allowing more representation for South Asian sounds.
Listen to Khalid LIVE on Asian Music Radio every Thursday from 7 pm to 10 pm.