Dum Dum Thievery (updated)

Thievery Corporation and Gunjan from Bally Sagoo’s label roll into a radio studio for a hypnotic, downtempo version of ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram‘ (thanks, Arun and Turbanhead). A later song in this video reminds me of the velvety Bebel Gilberto. Watch the video.

Whoah, these serious-faced sitarists and tabla players look way less edgy than their music. Especially when it’s the soundtrack at a chill lounge with a good rioja at hand. Then again, have you seen Bollywood playback singers? I guess I virtually expect rental silicone in the age of the Black Eyed Peas.

These next two rockin’ videos came out last year (inspired by Amardeep’s quiz). First up is Dum Dum Project with the punny-named ‘Punjabi 5-0.’ There are shades of ‘Mundian To Bach Ke‘ in the image mix, it’s much grittier overall than a Bally Sagoo video. The faux lesbian, Asian-exotic groping is very Robert Palmer. An infamous fashion-mashin’ lookalike makes an appearance. Watch the video.

In ‘Supafly Bindi,’ DDP samples ’OPP,’ which is so acro-apropos. The video rips Soul Train, but the hook is catchy as hell. Watch the video.

More on DDP:

DDP started in my bedroom studio, Lower East Side, NY and now it’s got “branches” in London, Bangkok, and Bombay…

… I love the name of the group. How did you all come up with it?… Took it right off the back of a bunch of old Hindi film records: Dum Dum-India.

… How did… The1Shanti… come to be a part of the troupe?… I discovered him rhyming for loose change at the Atlantic Ave. subway station in Brooklyn.

Update: Here’s the kicker: the group’s founder, Sean Dinsmore a.k.a. DJ Cavo, isn’t desi. And his India story reads like a breathless backpacker’s. Just how badass is this guy that he can just walk into a musical subculture and start innovating?

… I went to India in ’97 and I thought I was going to get off the plane and walk straight into a temple, like everybody lived in a temple and did chants all day, because I’d been collecting a lot of Indian devotional CDs I’d been checking out from Jackson Heights…. And of course the second I stepped off the plane, you just get smacked in the face with whatever is the biggest Hindi film song, you’re gonna hear it everywhere you go, and at that time it was “Dil To Pagal Hai,” and it was just everywhere and I was kinda feeling it, so after I travelled around for a while, I went to go see the film in Delhi, and then I just fell in love. I fell in love with Madhuri Dixit… I found a guy who was selling vinyl in Chandani Chowk and bought like 200 records off of him, old records like “Sholay” and big big films, I had no idea what they were. I was just like “That one’s cool, that has a nice cover.” That pretty much was the birth of Dum Dum Project… I was making little skits, snippets to put in between the tracks, of just a break beat and an Indian sample, and I just became so much more interested in those middle bits… I needed a name so I just pulled it off of the back of those records, you know, Dum Dum, India, and that was it.

Shanti, who is desi, may be the first musician ever to complain that his profession makes it tough to get laid:

… I’ve got a joint called “Come Closer,” about growing up when Indian girls wouldn’t dig me. They’d only date black dudes, white dudes or other Asians. The Indian guys were the last ones they’d ever wanna date. But when it comes time to get married, they’ve got their proper doctor/engineer on lock down… That leaves people like me in the dark because I love Indian women. This track is about having lots of dope, bangin Indian friends that were girls that would never consider me a romantic interest because I was Indian. I wrote that shit general enough in a hip hop vibe, you know, “come closer, we supposed to be together” but what it’s really saying is, “you haven’t even given me a chance because of who I am, but who I am is who YOU are.”

The ‘Punjabi 5-0′ backstory is literally a story, and the song is much catchier than the U2 track which Rushdie inspired:

Panjabi 5-0 was a story out of Vikram Chandra’s Love and Longing in Bombay about a Panjabi cop… so one day we were all going to… London where we see a homeless sardarji… tattered jacket and all, sitting on the curb. We all think, “Man, we gotta help uncle… out,” because we just don’t see homeless Indians in the US. So, just as we stop the cab a robbery was taking place up the street… When the homeless Panjabi dude sees this he turns around and opens his jacket to pull out a walkie-talkie and all of a sudden all these cops rush out to bust these dudes… And both of us at the same time were like, “OH SHIT! Panjabi 5-0!”

15 thoughts on “Dum Dum Thievery (updated)

  1. The music was nice – thanks for the post Manish. I only wish a better photo of the woman singing can be used than the one where, at a glance, her microphone seems to be a goatee on a guy wearing a jumpsuit. If I may, I would suggest using a snapshot from the video at 8:01.8, it has a nice side profile of her face and you can see her mouth not hidden by the mike.

  2. I love the name of the group. How did you all come up with it?Â… Took it right off the back of a bunch of old Hindi film records: Dum Dum-India

    I always thought it was from the airport in Calcutta :(

  3. Manish, ah you’re right about 8:01 – Gunjan can be seen clearly @ 2:11.6 and 2:15.7

  4. The first time I heard ‘Desi Vibes’ from DJ Cavo, I was like WOW. The whole album is awesome with my two favorites being, ‘Jackson Heist’ and ‘Bajaj Breakdown’. For those that are going to buy the album now, becareful it was reissued last year and is actually been shortened. Go to the DDP website and the Audio page, and you will see the original album issue, it now is listed as ‘Desi Vibes, vol 1′. I haven’t heard the reissue so I don’t really know how different it is other than 1shanti on the last song. “Export Quality” is also a great album. Can’t wait to get the new album. There is actually a better interview with Cavo on the ethno techno website. That is nice new version ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’.

  5. Bobby Friction and Nehal played that song on BBC Radio 1 a month back followed by an interview with Gunjan herself. She came across as intelligent, astute about the music business and pretty laid-back.

    I’m also happy that she got to work with Thievery Corporation.

  6. Love what Gunjan has done on Thievery Corporation’s latest album Cosmic Game. She’s also given her voice to a mix of 50cent’s ‘Just a Little Bit.’ I think there’s more to come…she’ll be on Apache Indian’s album too and working on releasing her own (Thanks to the interview by Bobby Friction on B+N). Lastly, she’s no longer a part of Bally Sagoo’s label, she’s now w. Sunset Entertainment Group.

    And the Dum Dum Project, those guys are coo. Been hearing them on the BBC for last couple of years and wish them well as they musical pursuits. Come Closer is a wicked play for the summer!

  7. I LOVE Thievery Corporation…this is a fantastic video. If you have a chance, yuo can’t lose with pretty much any of their albums – all amazing.

    With people I’ve met in LA, being a fan of Thievery Corporation is like code for those who are into weed. It’s kind of funny…

  8. Lots of responses:

    1. I like Thievery Corporation, but up to a point. I don’t think their music quite stands up to all the hype, though it is nice as ‘workalong’ background. I listen to a lot of lounge music that way. I completely reject the Eighteenth Street Lounge ‘cult of cool’, however.

    2. I should also say that there are lots of non-desis who have made big contributions to the general genre of Asian Underground music. Bill Laswell has been a huge influence. He’s done a couple of India themed CDs, and was a couple of years ago playing bass with the Tabla Beat Science supergroup (which also had Zakir Hussain and Talvin Singh).

    3. Also key is Dan Nakamura (aka Dan the Automator), who did the production and remastering on Bombay the Hard Way. I think he kind of helped to spark a lot of American interest in 70s Bollywood sounds. Some people were already obsessed with it, of course.

    4. It’s cool that Gunjan is branching out of her Ishq Records space. I think she has a pretty good voice.

    5. Manish, while we’re at it, here’s another suggestion: Johnny Kalsi, of Dhol Foundation and also Afro-Celt Sound System. He is an east-African sardar.

    I wonder if there’s any video of him doing his thing on the internet (if there is, probably you are the one to find it).

  9. Ummm, Punjabi Boy and Manish…you “de-constructed” the video rather carefully, I must say :)

  10. Thievery Corp. is playing the 9:30 (i.e. in DC)on Thursday, July 28th. I’ll juuuust be finishing up the CalBar.

    The good part is that I’m not bitter about it.

  11. According to my London associates who housed The1Shanti on his trips here, the story about seeing a faux-homeless Punjabi undercover cop is a total lie, and that it is very definitely Sean’s love of the author Chandra that inspired it.

    I was with Sean and the aforementioned associates in Bombay for their MTV gig two summers ago, and Sean explained to interviewers that he was the weird kid whose favorite Beatles tracks were the Indian-influenced George Harrison ones. I cracked up when I heard that — I was that kid too.