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Dhamaal Sound System
We nearly missed Dhamaal Sound System’s fabulous live performance last month in Mumbai city when a misinformed PR person told us to head back home as the boys were apparently almost done playing. 11 pm and they’re already done? Didn’t sound like too much of a ‘dhamaal’ situation to us.

Good thing we didn’t listen because when we got to the venue it was buzzing with serious energy and the Dhamaal boys were living up to their name. We overheard someone in the crowd say, “This music is so good it makes me proud to be Asian.” It may not be professional to gush, but we kinda agree.

As they get set to release their first album in India, here are Dhamaal’s DJ Maneesh ‘the Twister’ and percussionist/producer Dhruva Ganesan in conversation with The Record.


The Record: That was a great gig the other night… when you say ‘dhamaal’ you really mean it!

One of the connotations of the name in a Sufi meaning is to take you to a place beyond ~ in the Dhamaal experience we want people to let loose and move to another head space, an outer body kind of experience and vibe. It’s a full audio-visual experience ~ you get live DJs, instrumentalists, VJs performing live, you have a fine artist who does the paintings and tapestries that are hung at the venue ~ when you walk into a Dhamaal night you are fully taken to a new place. It’s kind of a hybrid between a typical rock show where the band is talking to the audience and a DJ experience. What we’re trying to do is give our experience of music from which we’ve grown up but at the same time kind of show the connection between the heritage and what is, for us, a future kind of outlook on tradition.

TR: How did you guys get started?

It started out as a house party ~ we were DJing, we’d called some tabalchis over and told them to just jam. So we’re playing drum and bass and they were going for it ~ people were amazed. The cops came and shut down the party, it was crazy, and people were like, “We want more!” So finally in the end they were like, “You have to take this and do it in a proper club.” I’d already been DJing at some clubs and I already had a connection so they let us try it out. The first night was packed and there was a line outside the door so we realized that this is something that was going to work. We’ve been doing monthly nights coming on seven years.


TR: There’s the cliché about Indian parents wanting their kids only to be doctors, engineers etc. Did you have to deal with that?

I started playing drums when I was 13 years old and before that I played piano ~ and it took a few years of convincing my parents because drums aren’t the most convenient instrument to have in the house! But my parents come from a very appreciative background in music ~ they’re very into Carnatic music and they were involved with the biggest Carnatic music festival in the US which happened in Cleveland, Ohio where I grew up. And my mother is a producer for a dance company so there was always arts in my family, passing through. At the same time, like most Indian parents they would obviously prefer the secure route and I did go to college and I am finishing a grad degree and the point is that they’ve been pretty supportive but they wanted to make sure I’m doing it with a head on my shoulders. Part of [the acceptance] is that there has been a sense of progress that is very tangible each year. So when they see that they see realize that this is not just a whim.

TR: Tell us about the album you’re releasing here.

We wanted to capture what we did in our live performances, the integration of the live elements with the electronic elements in a way that we can send it home with people. There are eight tracks and they come from various aesthetics ~ Carnatic, Qawalli, Hindustani, and there’s also different electronic elements ~ some are more atmospheric, others are more drum and bass, some breakbeat. So there’s a big hybrid of things happening.

You can read the rest of our exclusive with Dhamaal Sound System in the January 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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