Album Review: The Ska Vengers Celebrate Dance and Dissent on ‘XX’
The Delhi ska/reggae rockers get trippy, heavy and biting on their second album
When you think of the word “rumpus”, it sounds like a dignified way of describing something quite undignified. Maybe that’s why Delhi dance/reggae band The Ska Vengers can ascribe the word to their music. Ever since 2009, they’ve been suiting up and jumping around stages across the country with songs that talk about oppressors and the oppressed, set to choppy guitars and a prominent horn section that features the likes of ace trumpeter Kishore Sodha and saxophonist Shirish Malhotra.
Of course, it’s not all serious ”“ their 2012 self-titled debut had a range of reggae/ska covers alongside down-and-dirty songs like “Rough and Mean.” What changes on their second album XXÂ [pronounced “double cross”] is the palette they draw from, incorporating punk, psychedelic, Latin, jazz and more into their bedrock sound of ska and reggae. But co-vocalist Taru Dalmia aka Delhi Sultanate has honed his many more barbed bars on XX, against everyone from lawmakers to businessmen to India’s police and army officials involved in suppressing fundamental freedoms. The other side is the history lesson he weaves, saluting revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad and Udham Singh [“Double X,” the hip single “Frank Brazil”].
Sonically, keyboardist Stefan Kaye adds a trippy twist on hazy, jazzy jams such as “Jail Mein” [drawing from his own experiences locked up in Tihar Jail in Delhi in 2011] and the 10-minute “Afro-Fantasy.” The band ”“ bassist Tony Guinard, drummer Nikhil Vasudevan and guitarist Chaitanya Bhalla ”“ keeps that unmistakably fun-fueled rhythm going as singer Samara Chopra aka Begum X is sentimental [“Frank Brazil”] and sharp [“Shut Your Mouth”] in her croons.
XX is definitely for partying down to protest music, and The Ska Vengers are just getting better at finding the right mix between creating inquisitive minds and making feet move.
Key tracks: “011,” “Frank Brazil,” “Afro Fantasy”
Stream and buy ‘XX’