Vancouver global fusion group Delhi 2 Dublin released their brand new CD, We’re All Desi, in late September and I was thrilled when the entire band dropped by the studio during my weekly radio show so we could talk about how the whole creative project came together.
Settling behind the microphones a few hours before the band takes the stage at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo, I’m introduced to the newest members, guitarist James Hussain and violinist Serena Eades, and it becomes apparent that these new recruits exude the kind of positive and amiable vibe that I have always felt from rest of the D2D family.
Lead singer Sanjay Seran hands me a fresh copy of their new recording and points out that the photographic collage that adorns the cover consists of the band members family photos. And from the conversation that ensues, I come to learn that this is a central theme of the new album, how ultimately, we are all one human family.
“Desi means pure,” explains Seran. “Like when you get desi ghee, pure clarified butter. But it can also mean someone from South Asia. Like they are fresh off the boat.”
“For me it’s this kind of feeling that we are all from somewhere else,” adds D2D tabla and electronics man Tarun Nayar. “In Canada, except for the First Nations people, we’re all from somewhere else. So there’s a feeling of unity that can come from that diversity. With that in mind we thought we’d throw pictures of all our ancestors on the album cover.”
We’re All Desi is Delhi 2 Dublin’s fourth studio album since the band first came together in 2006, but their discography also includes last year’s Live! album, the Delhi 2 Dubland dub remix EP from 2011, and the full remixed versions of their previous three studio records.
This time around the band approached Nick Middleton of the Funk Hunters to see if he was interested in producing a couple of tracks on this year’s release. It turns out he wasn’t just interested in working with the band again, but he insisted on producing the whole album and releasing it on his own label, Westwood Recordings.
Seran is quick to sing Middleton’s praises. “Nick was really good at dealing with everyone’s feelings, He told us we needed to pick the parts that served the songs, that it’s all about the song in the end.”
Before bringing Middleton into the process the band set an agenda to commit to a series of rigorous sessions to establish the framework of the songs. This would be a new approach to songwriting for the band.
Guitarist James Hussain filled me in on this approach. “We were fooling around with these old school funky breaks. Then Nick came in and he took that vibe and modernized it. Through him it became bigger, with more forward thinking.”
Speaking with members of D2D over the years it’s apparent that positive evolution is something that is always valued, and Seran is quick to identify new knowledge. “One of the best things we learned this time around is to just listen. Let there be space. You don’t have to beat everyone over the head with everything all the time. Less is more really works.”
“There was definitely a magic present during those jam sessions,” Nayar points out, “and that’s how we decided to write the album. We didn’t go to any outside writers like last time (on Turn Up The Stereo). We took what we learned from that experience and focused on what we wanted.”
An incredibly dynamic live unit, the band released their Delhi 2 Dublin Live! album in 2014 with the hope of capturing some of that electric energy. But capturing that spirit on studio recordings has always been a big goal of theirs. Something this new approach has brought them closer to achieving.
“It was cool to write an album with everyone who knows what it’s like to perform those songs on stage. For me it was the most fun writing experience this time around,” says Seran.
I totally agree. We’re All Desi definitely stands out as the best thing I’ve ever heard from Delhi 2 Dublin. The members like to say “we’re Delhi 2 Dublin and everything in between,” and this new recording lives up to that description. D2D’s Bhangra Celtic fusion remains front and centre, but the songs also reference funk, soul, hip hop, pop, reggae dancehall, dub, folk and a big dose of global electro psychedelia.
New member, violinist Serena Eades, not only brings her knowledge of Cape Breton fiddling to the table, but she is also well studied in a variety of Americana and international violin styles. She also brings an experimental flare to their sound, and strikes a strong presence on stage.
Asked whether they plan to put out a We’re All Desi remix album, percussionist and programmer Nayar is quick to affirm. “We’re definitely working on a remix version, and we already have an exciting array of producers on board for that.” Proudly adding, “These are the best songs we’ve ever written, so that definitely leads to better remixes.”