Delhi 2 Dublin: My Ears Are Confused And I Love It

Imagine you are at a day party in a downtown penthouse during the last day of South By Southwest. You have seen countless bands, and are feeling burned out. The event is well-attended, but you find that instead of admiring the Austin skyline or partaking in the free Bloody Marys, everyone is crammed into the upstairs, jamming out to music from a guitar, a violin, and a… dhol? The lead singer is bouncing, alternating between Punjabi and English, and the entire crowd is clapping along, completely mesmerized. You don’t know what is going on, but you suddenly feel re-energized, dancing around, wanting more. At the end of their set, the singer says, “Our manager is going to kill me for this, but take a CD! Free!” He is instantly mobbed, the box is empty in seconds. Again, people ignored free alcohol to listen to this band. This was my introduction to Delhi 2 Dublin.

Photo by Scott Clark

Hailing from Vancouver, Delhi 2 Dublin created a genre entirely their own by combining upbeat, drum-powered bhangra from India with Celtic fiddle and jigs—plus electronica and some reggae vibes thrown in for good measure. The result of this unlikely combination is the ultimate good-vibes dance music. I know you probably have a lot of questions, but once you hear it, it makes perfect sense. I recently had the chance to chat with lead singer Sanjay Seran, who says he can recognize the confused faces (like mine) of first-timers in the audience—before they get swept up in the scorching beats and start dancing like mad.

Delhi 2 Dublin was formed as a “happy accident” during a Celtic festival when Tarun, a DJ from Beats Without Borders, was called to put together an electronica night for the festival. He pointed out that his music had more of an Asian/Indian vibe, and the event producer said, “Then make the music that you want.” So he called upon Sanjay, who was singing in a bhangra band at the time, sa well as another a dhol player and a fiddler friend. The group met at soundcheck and proceeded to blow the crowd away with their unique sound. Their instant chemistry resulted in calls and shows, and eventually they decided, “Hey, we should probably put out an album.”

Nine years and nine albums later, Delhi 2 Dublin continues to wow audiences with their can’t-help-but-move style. The band currently features Sanjay on vocals, Tarun on tabla and electronics, Ravi on dhol and dholak, and rotating guitar and violin players. Delhi 2 Dublin has been called “the United Nations of rock n’ roll,” but don’t get the impression they are touchy-feely world music. Their high-energy shows have included crowdsurfing in a canoe (Sanjay tells me their pre-show ritual is to yell the name of a band together—anything from Tiffany to Led Zepplin). “We were performers first,” he says, “and we fuel off that live performance, so we’re doing stuff that works for us live and feels good for us live.” 

When asked for his theory on why the mix of sound works so well, Sanjay points out that the Romani people actually traveled between Europe and India, which resulted in musical connections between the continents (though they did not know this when forming the band). After the history lesson, he adds that both cultures are passionate and fun-loving, and the music Delhi 2 Dublin creates stems from a truly happy place, which clearly resonates with audiences.

From talking to Sanjay, a parallel emerged that I knew would speak to Literally, Darling readers: Delhi 2 Dublin is unapologetically themselves. When I asked if he had any hesitations about singing in another language, he said, “No, I had no reservations at all.” He goes on to explain, “Some stuff is just cooler in Punjabi… In, English, it’s going to come across as cheesy—but in Punjabi, it’s totally acceptable… The energy of any different language is different than English.” He elaborates, “I’m not trying to do pop music. I’m trying to represent something that feels good to me and express something that I am.” Delhi 2 Dublin is the best example of sharing your true self—though it is a niche view of a Punjabi kid from Vancouver, others can easily relate because of the purity and strength of the emotion that radiates from their art.

For the first time in almost three years, Delhi 2 Dublin has new music coming in August (though you can pre-order the album now). When asked how their sound has evolved, Sanjay explains that, “The focus [for this album] has definitely been on songwriting and the pop sensibility—not to change the type of music we’re doing, but because the catchiness of pop music is really hard to get.” This progress is definitely evident in their new single, “TumbiWOW” (currently a free download on Soundcloud), which has a feel-good, bubblegum beat and an equally playful video:

I have not been this blown away by a band in years—as soon as they opened with “Our House,” I was sold. Not only do they truly excel at performing, but their songs will stay in your head and make you feel good all day. Check out their website, pre-order their new album (the music is $8 or you can upgrade to perks like tabla lessons from Tarun), and encourage these musical pioneers and overall positive, awesome people, on their journey. Delhi 2 Dublin is soon embarking on a tour through the U.S., and if you are within a 200 mile radius, I use all my Literally, Darling powers to compel you to go—I guarantee you won’t hear anything like it!

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