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How Dubfire Took Over Delhi

All the action from Friday night’s secret set

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Ambika Muttoo Apr 15, 2013
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Dubfire at Zoo in Delhi

Dubfire at The Zoo in Delhi

Twitter was taken over by a number of mysterious hashtags on April 12th. Some said “secret rave,” others, “slick turns 2” and another proclaimed, “techno takeover.” This was all within Delhi’s circles and it seemed odd because there was no big gig slotted on any calendar. A single tweet by techno legend, Dubfire, made it all clear. “Who has time for a cold? Not me. Surprise Delhi: playing a secret set tonite [sic] ONLY for my fans!” 

Ali Shirazinia, better known as Dubfire, was in town for two days, to celebrate the second anniversary of Slick, an event management company, which is rolling in some serious DJs all year including Carlo Lio later this year. Delhi wasn’t on the roster, and then it was, thanks to an eventful lunch.

Slick founder Prateek Pandey invited this writer and Dev Bhatia, UnMute co-owner (UnMute’s partnered this tour) for a meal with Ali and his team – Ryan Saltzman and Tim Price. There was some masterful emotional blackmail, like Dev’s, “Deep Dish was my first electronic music concert, back in 2003 in Dubai. It’s upsetting that I’m missing your sets in India.” I added an, “I’ve seen you in two different countries and it’s a shame I can’t see you in my own.” Soon, Ali and Dev were discussing a possible, “after-hours set at a friend’s house.” And then it snowballed and turned into a pop-up rave.

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Within 24 hours, Sapna Kumar offered her space, The Zoo, for the gig. The Zoo’s been witness to some stellar underground parties by the likes of Arjun Vagale and Matthieu Josso over time, so it was the prime location. Madhav Shorey (Kohra) and Gaurav Malaker (BLOT!) were on for opening set duties. But more importantly, this was going to be Delhi’s best-kept secret, Ali decided. One blast of an SMS was to be sent out. Nothing on Facebook or Twitter, until Ali tweeted the news. Nothing like this had ever been done before, in Delhi.

D-Day had Ali battling a cold and a sore throat, so things seemed precarious at best. But he powered through, as he didn’t want to cancel, and arrived to a packed house filled with 300 ravers already in the mood thanks to Shorey and Malaker, who were setting the tone perfectly. Zoo threw a party, in a manner that I haven’t witnessed in a very long time. Ali DJ’d, sipping on his cup of tea, for three relentless hours, gathering and expelling energy to a crowd that would not quit. What was originally supposed to be an hour-and-a-half stretched on. This was a different Dubfire than most of us have seen. The arena gigs and big festivals don’t hold a candle to being up close and personal in such an intimate setting. Old-school, bouncy techno spliced with deep, dark, intrinsically “Dubfire” elements filtered through the night. “You know what they say, old school is the new school,” he laughed at the end of the night. He closed with an emotional, gut-wrenching track that’s still resonating: Rocketnumbernine’s “Matthew and Toby (the Four Tet remix)”. Will something like this ever happen again? A free gig by a Grammy-winning techno savant pulled together in the space of 24 hours? Who knows? Dubfire’s become a legend for more reasons than just his music in this town now.

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