My favourite Indian sweet is the sticky, hot, juicy, sweet and crispy jalebee. Downing a half kilo in 20 minutes used to be no problem. The sugar buzz just what a teenaged body needed to make it through to lunchtime!
So imagine my curiosity when one sweltering afternoon I spot a CD in a Delhi bookshop by a group called the Jalebee Cartel. Like a hungry mahseer I snapped at the glitter and found myself hooked.
This is contemporary club music of the genre officially known as ‘EDM’ (electronic dance music). DJs mix and scratch and the beat is knocked out on instruments that during the daylight hours send email and connect to the internet. The Jalebee Cartel is India’s most accomplished and internationally reputed electronic music group. Made up of four Delhi-wale, Arjun Vagale (laptop and mixes and scratches), Ashwin Mani Sharma (laptop and synth), Ash Roy (vocals and percussion) and G-force Arjun (bass and synth), the sweet monopolists have toured all over India and world, earning ever more euphoric accolades from clubbing DJs and winning fans from New York, to Moscow and from Delhi to Jakarta.
This is music of the times. I’ve not yet been able to discern anything distinctly Indian or Hindustani or desi in their album OnePointNothing. Indeed, it appears the boys are intent on making truly global sounds that will fit comfortably into the globalised virtual disco. This is not a criticism. Though the Cartel do not bring as refined a focus and commitment to their music as some EDM acts, like the Gotan Project with its distinctive electronic tango, their music is of a very high quality and interest. I especially like the back-to-the-70’s vocals of Ash Roy on several of the tracks. One wonders if he learned his trade from the LPs his dad listened to at Delhi hot spots, The Cellar and Wheelz circa 1972.
This is infectious, addictive, hot and crispy music. Just like the sweets the supply of which they claim to control.
They are also the first band in India to release an album on USB! You got to love that!
1. Blue Over Red
2. Back Up
3. Dark Shadows
4. Beautiful Rising
5. Tough Cookie
6. Random Reason
8. Midnite Madness
9. A Crazy Virus on Akerstraat
10. 33 Beyond a Hundred
11. Fade Away