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India’s first ska band on  their new album, socio-political lyrics and forthcoming UK tour

From songs aimed at taunting the nation’s prime minister to performing for 2,000 inmates at Tihar Jail, The Ska Vengers, have always attempted to spearhead the anti-establishment movement. Now that the Delhi-based jazz/rocksteady/punk/ska outfit has conquered India’s soundscape — by playing their highly danceable music everywhere from Varkala beach to Haus Khas Village — they are poised to go global, with an arsenal of new tunes from their sophomore album titled XX (pronounced double cross).
We catch up with the sextet, comprising Stefan Kaye (keys), Begum X aka Samara Chopra (vocals), Taru Dalmia aka Delhi Sultanate (vocals), Chaitanya Bhalla (guitars), Tony Guinard (bass) and Nikhil Vasudevan (drums), prior to their gig at The Humming Tree, tomorrow.

Not just critics
Art shouldn’t be hurried, but, three years is a long time for a follow-up release to their debut eponymous album. “We didn’t want to rush this one. When you listen to this album, the music on it is very diverse and its quite sonically rich. These things take time,” explains Dalmia, adding that, lyrically, there’s much more political commentary on the newer tracks because they believe Indian society is changing for the worse (and because their songwriting has improved). This is apparent from their firebrand form of Indo-Afro-Carribean rebel music. The aural crux of XX is composed of tunes including the Afro-beat-infused Double X (written in Telangana after a meeting with famed activist-turned-poet Gaddar) and hip-hop sounds in Frank Brazil (on the life and trial of Indian revolutionary, Udham Singh).

Going global
With over 15 gigs on their UK tour (from July 23-September 11), the seven-year-old band believes that doing shows outside of India is a natural progression for them. “Indians playing Jamaican-influenced music in the British Isles!,” laughs Dalmia, concluding, “I’m excited about the whole tour, but I am particularly looking forward to playing at festivals like Boomtown (Hampshire) and Hootenany (Brixton).”

July 16. At Indiranagar. 9 pm.
Tickets (Rs 500) on insider.in

— Anoop Menon

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