Unlike most bands, Delhi 2 Dublin didn’t hunker down in a basement to thrash around ideas before emerging with something they liked. The Vancouver crew fell into their high-octane, genre-bending sound that embraces Indian bhangra, Celtic sounds, and dance rhythms quite by accident.
D2D’s Tarun Nayar says Dugg Simpson, the Vancouver Folk Festival’s former artistic director, invited Nayar’s DJ crew, Beats Without Borders, to play “a Celtic club night” as part of the Vancouver Celtic Festival in 2006.
Nayar says they were hesitant to take the gig “since there wasn’t a whole lot of good Celtic club music,” but Simpson knew Nayar was well-versed in Indian music, and suggested he fuse the two sounds.
“We really wanted to write great songs that would stand the test of time.”- Tarun Nayar
“I took the challenge and got together with another BWB member, a couple of great fiddle players, and [bhangra singer] Sanjay Seran,” says Nayar. “It was all very last-minute, but it worked and the crowd went nuts! We stumbled onto a crowd-pleasing combo of beats, bhangra and Irish reels.”
That rollicking mix is evidenced in D2D’s latest album, Turn Up The Stereo, though Nayar says there’s one major difference this time.
“We really wanted to write great songs that would stand the test of time,” he says. “In the past, we’ve written mostly dance grooves, but this time we tried to express ourselves in song form. It meant a lot of learning, because none of us really come from that background.”
Collaborating with other songwriters helped. “Working with people like Dave Genn, Tino Zolfo, Jeff Dawson and Jaron Freeman-Fox was a radical experience,” says Nayar, who handles tabla and electronics for D2D.
Their contributions revolutionized the group’s songwriting approach. While their process often begins with a bassline and drumbeat, or with jamming, Nayar says they focused on building the chorus first for the new tunes.
“The vocal melody and lyrics usually come second, and sometimes that takes weeks, sometimes minutes,” he says. “I’ll often ask Sanjay to sing out ideas just to get the ball rolling, even if 90 per cent it isn’t useable. Then, we focus on building from the good stuff.”
Nayar says the group experienced an epiphany while on a writing retreat in Bali, when they sang all the songs accompanied only by an acoustic guitar.
“It was an amazing exercise!” he says. “The songs couldn’t hide behind the fancy production, and we really saw which ones needed more work and which had a life of their own.”
• D2D has released six albums in the last six years. Besides Nayar and Seran, the other members are Sara Fitzpatrick (fiddle), Andrew Kim (guitar, electric sitar), and Ravi Binning (dhol).
• Nayar co-produced the album with New York-based producer Dave Sharma.
• One of D2D’s early big breaks was playing Parliament Hill on Canada Day – before they even had an album out.