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Delhi Sultanate – The Interview



When we sat down with Taru aka Delhi Sultanate he had loads to talk to us about.

Here are some choice snippets exclusively for Hennessy


What do you love about music?

On a basic level it ‘s about communicating things that cannot be expressed in mere words and bringing people together.

My personal relationship to music is defined by rhythm and rhyme but what fascinates me about music in general is the ability to express meaning powerfully on so many levels, ranging from the explicit semantic meaning of the words used in lyrics, to the forcefulness of delivery and the more abstract and primal emotions contained in the sound itself. Dead Prez and Bob Marley said ‘when music hits you feel no pain’. Music is an integral part of human living and can be tremendously empowering. All revolutionary and cultural movements are accompanied by music. 


Tell us your story. What inspired you to become an MC.

As a youth of color growing up in Europe I was tremendously inspired by the charisma and assertiveness of early rappers like Ice – T and Chuck D. When I was 15  years old I was running a Reggae Dancehall Soundsystem in Germany and used to learn from listening to old Soundsystem tapes with legendary mc’s like Ricky Trooper or Tony Matterhorn from King Addies hyping up the crowd. My style still borrows a lot from that time. It was not just empty hype, the Dancehall was a communal space and mc’s used to talk about life and politics while hyping the crowd. As youth, we did not identify with mainstream culture at all and listening to Dancehall and Hip Hop at the time gave us a whole different cultural orientation. We became politicised through these genres and started questioning things around us. For me it started with rap music but I went on to read a lot about post colonial studies. Like Frantz Fannon as well as Indian thinkers like Ashish Nandy and Partha Chatterji. 


What is the experience like, collaborating with musicians, MC-ing on shows and improvising on the spot?

It has been a very enriching journey so far. Music brings people together and I have been fortunate to have met very talented and inspiring individuals. 

One of the most ambitious and satisfying collaborations in recent times would have to be our ‘Bant Singh Project’ which is part of a bigger venture we call  ‘Word, Sound & Power’ venture. I had heard of this amazing Dalit singer in Punjab called Bant Singh, his songs are revolutionary and he is also a political activist who has faced tremendous hardship. In 2006 he was attacked by Jat Sikhs and lost most of his limbs as a result. He still continues to sing and both his songs and persona are tremendously inspiring. Earlier this year, after a few phone calls, I went out to his village with producers Chris McGuiness and Audio Pervert, as well as a cameraman in order to produce and records songs with him. I will not recount the story here because it is long and most it is in the movie we made but I want to say that it was an amazing experience for all of us. We were nervous before because we did not know how well we would be able to connect both on a personal level as well as musically but somehow, in spite of a language barrier we were all on the same page and on the very first day set up our equipment in his farm and produced a banging and hard hitting track. Chris made the music on the spot and Bant and me flowed together. Dancehall music and hip hop have somewhere always had a revolutionary or subversive element, this is what I wanted to represent in India and to build meaningful linkages and synergies with local traditions. I think this project is something I will always look back on.


What was your best show?

That is very difficult to say. There have been so many memorable moments and all for different things. I suppose somewhere the early BASSFoundation nights stand out for me because at the time the scene was still kicking off in Delhi and we were still not entirely sure whether we would be able to make a drum and bass and dubstep soundsystem work. I am very proud of what we created and The New Delhi Junglist Movement is growing strong now.  The early dances were absolutely crazy and way beyond what we expected. People were so hungry for non commercial subversive music. That being said musically I can do more when I am working with live musicians and when it is a proper concert rather than a rave. I remember rocking a show spontaneously in Berlin with Blessed Love soundsystem and General Levy. I had met him before the show and he suddenly called me on stage. We clicked well together and managed to rock the crowd… all unrehearsed and entirely spontaneous. 


What are the plans for the near future?

I am currently working on my own album with Chris Mc Guiness and a series of producers. It has been in the works for a long time and I can’t wait to get this wrapped up and released. I am also a part of a group called SkaVengers in Delhi. It’s a live band that plays mostly Rocksteady and Ska music. This very different from the electronic music I am usually involved in so I am very excited about this project. We are the first band in India to play Ska music and it gives me a chance to do a lot of things musically that mcing and BASSF dances does not allow for. A Skavengers EP is in the works at the moment.

Closest to my heart though at the moment is the Word, Sound & Power project. We are drawing up a map and looking for singers all over the country. This project, perhaps more than the others is a great learning experience for me. India is on many levels very segregated and this is a chance for me to break out of my social bubble and make meaningful music at the same time. We are currently working to build links in Kashmir. I want to build Word, Sound & Power as a label and platform for conscious and revolutionary Indian singers. There are so few outlets besides a handful of commercial producers and labels in Bombay.



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