Nurtured by equal parts raucous underground bass parties and all ages folk festivals, Delhi 2 Dublin’s always distinctive sound has evolved over the past decade into its own decisive genre, freshly styled, “Subcontinental Pop” — a name that conveys both its deep South Asian roots and its expansive, crazy-fun appeal. The beautifully supercharged complexity of their sound flows from high-level folk, alternative-pop, with contemporary training, blended and delivered across an array of acoustic instruments — dhol, tabla, violin, guitar — and electronic beats, immersed in smart, heavy, sometimes gritty, and almost invariably joyful beats.
The band averages 100 shows a year in places that have ranged from grimy, mid-2000’s LA dispensaries, to Glastonbury and Burning Man, to performing as invited guests in the Kingdom of Brunei. This isn’t too shabby for a group that was essentially pulled together last minute for what was intended as a one-off performance at the 2006 Vancouver Celtic Festival. That initial public jam session instantly galvanized the festival attendees into wildly dancing fans of a band that technically didn’t even exist. The surge of performance invitations that followed ensured that the hypothetical band had to become a reality. They were instantly part of the fabric of Vancouver’s dripping-with-sweat electronic scene and California’s jam band festival circuit. By 2007 — in other words, about a year after the first time they ever played together — they had released a self-titled album (which sold out in under ten minutes the first time they brought it to a festival) and had performed for a live audience of 100,000 at official Canada Day celebrations in the capital city. This gift of immediately connecting with masses of people, pulverizing their inhibitions, and getting them moving, has been an intrinsic part of Delhi 2 Dublin’s appeal.
As might be expected with a spontaneously generated act, some skilled musicians have rotated in and out over the years. But the three core founding members, Tarun Nayar, Sanjay Seran, and Ravi Binning, have always remained and followed their own paths to that fateful first gig. Originally from Montreal, Tarun studied classical tabla from childhood with a seriousness that would eventually lead him to spend long periods of time learning from mentors in India. While Indian classical music is generally performed in concert halls, Tarun moved to East Vancouver in his early 20s and found his way into the frenzied rave scene, and began to envision the tabla’s possibilities in warehouses. He soon co-founded Beats Without Borders, one of the first Canadian West Coast electronic outfits to throw big parties that incorporated various non-Western musical styles and traditions.
Sanjay describes growing up as a ‘brown sheltered suburban kid’ with a ‘what the fuck is quinoa?’ kind of perspective on the world. He was always singing, he recalls, like a ‘human jukebox.’ Encouraged by friends’ reactions, he picked choir as a senior high school elective, and then joined extracurricular Vocal Jazz. At university he found a Bhangra Club and started hitting Vancouver’s massive network of Desi dance parties while binging on Napster’s generous offerings of UK garage infused bhangra. He started his own bhangra act, Signia, that included Ravi, who had spent his entire life filling rooms with the sounds of his traditional Punjabi drumming and folk dance, and has brought that experience to the current line-up. For the past four years D2D has been touring and recording with violinist Serena Eades. Raised on the Sunshine Coast and Berklee trained, Serena deftly blends her classical and folk influences, bringing a new dimension to their sound.
Delhi 2 Dublin’s initial musical modus operandi was aligned with sound system-based freestyling, generating hours of intense spontaneous sound with guest musicians and MCs jumping in and out, riffing over loops. But, in recent years, the group has been honing its songwriting skills, which is most evident on their newest collection of songs for the upcoming album, We Got This, to be released through Warner Canada in Fall 2018. The album was produced by Toronto hitmaker Gavin Brown (Barenaked Ladies, Metric, Tragically Hip), who helped them focus on crafting the best songs of their career thus far. Turning their socially conscious sensibilities and awareness of their place in the world toward their songwriting proved to be the vehicle that made this collection of songs their most personal and meaningful since their inception… all produced with a strong pop-centric focus that will make this album their most appealing yet to their audience and beyond.
With tracks like “My People,” “Home (Everywhere I Go)” and the title track, “We Got This,” Delhi 2 Dublin is speaking directly to their experiences as “brown people” in society and how that may translate to people of all of colors and backgrounds. The songs have an accessibility that you might compare to the endlessly transcendent songwriting of Bob Marley in which he would speak to his own culture in the most personal way, yet have such depth and meaning to people of all cultures, backgrounds and ages. That’s where they laid their aim and hope to share the experience without it feeling separated from any other human experience. And, of course, the songs are just fun to listen to, filled with sing-a-long choruses, easy melodies and sharp production throughout. For their first time as a band, the members of Delhi 2 Dublin feel as though they’ve been able to pull together everything they’ve been through and everything they’ve experienced and put it into a collection of songs that they hope will reach everyone, while also leaving people thinking, as they’re dancing and singing along.