When Delhi boy Taru Dalmia, more popularly known by his moniker ‘Delhi Sultanate’, first ‘felt’ bass music at one his first reggae dances in Europe, he knew he wanted to bring this sonic culture to India.
So, a few years ago when a lot of Indian artistes, a part of artiste management firm Krunk, went to perform at the Outlook Festival in Croatia, they immediately knew what he had meant all along, and decided to take the task in their hands. The idea is to crowdfund and build a mobile sound system in India to take music out of clubs, and straight to the people. The Jamaican-style sound system would consist of powerful, hand-built speaker stacks, with an emphasis on bass.
A worldwide phenomenon today, the sound system concept traces its roots to the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, in the 1950s, when DJs would load up a truck with a generator, turntables and huge speakers, and set-up street parties for the community. Thus, the sound system culture quickly became an integral part of Reggae music. It became a means to relay news, understand the hardships and suffering of those in Jamaica, and to learn about Rastafari.
“Another strong inspiration behind this project has been Janam, a street theatre group founded by Safdar Hashmi, which I joined in 2000 when I returned to India. Apart from street plays, Janam had also constructed a mobile stage, with the understanding that only certain people come to auditoriums to watch plays. He wanted to be able to take the stage to the people, and in a way, the sound system idea is not much different,” says Dalmia.
The lead singer of The Ska Vengers, as well as the founder of the not-for-profit organization Word Sound Power that creates films and musical collaborations around issues of social justice in India, Dalmia believes that music should not just be heard, but be physically felt. He explains, “I feel that independent music culture has suffered not from a dearth of talent in the country, but mainly two things — the scarcity of venues where non-commercial music is played, and the dependence on sponsors.”
“I also like the idea of collaborating with artistes and performers from other fields,” he explains. “Dancers or performance artistes, for instance, could benefit from having a powerful sound system at their shows that will impact people physically.” Having a sound system could lift the limitations to make it a much more inclusive context for music, he adds.
The scoops and kick-bass speakers have already been built at personal cost, with Dalmia investing Rs 5 lakh. While the sound speakers are built and painted by hand, for amps and pre-amps, the idea is to source only the best components via crowdfunding. The campaign for it was launched on Indiegogo on November 17, and the goal is to raise $16,300 in 60 days.
“The first few dances will probably be in Delhi — maybe in JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) — in a low-key way, so that we can learn the ropes of handling the speakers and amps,” he says, talking about future plans. “After that, the North East is probably going to be one of the first places we will tour.”