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With a full-length album and the Live Earth concert on the horizon, there’s no stopping Jalebee Cartel

rsiwebadmin Nov 10, 2008
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Anshuman Sen

What do the blokes behind Colombia’s most infamous export and a traditional Indian sweet have in common? Four multi-tasking musicians, DJs and producers ”“ Arjun Vagale, Ashvin Mani Sharma, Ash Roy and G “Force” Arjun ”“ would be it. Ask them where the name came from and the common consensus is, “The real story’s getting old. How about you make something up, and if it’s good enough, we’ll stick with your version.”

It’s hard getting all four in one room ”“ in this case it was Vagale’s home studio (it has some Star Wars memorabilia and a couch that’s almost impossible to get off from, especially when teamed with beers).  There’s always someone flying in and out of the city, rushing from gigs in Mumbai to Kolkata or down south to Bengaluru. International gigs in varied parts of the globe from Cologne and Amsterdam to Jakarta and Korea add to their frenetic schedule. Delhi traffic almost thwarted Sharma from making it to the interview. He did, with a grand, if slightly frazzled, entrance managing a, “Sorry, bro.”

The buzz in the room was about their music video, which was just about to hit the airwaves. Shot by photographer extraordinaire Bharat Sikka no less, when asked to describe the vibe, the entire band responded with laughs that could give Austin Power’s Dr Evil a run for his money. It’s taken two years to see the light, but the video, shot entirely in moving stills, is completely riveting in a manner that only Sikka can manage. “The video was actually made for another track called ”˜Imagination.’ Since it’s been two years, our sound’s completely changed and the current track ”˜Tough Cookie’ totally fit the bill. Bharat loved it as well, so we went ahead and made it our first video,” says Roy, who plays live percussion apart from being the vocalist for the band.

That new sound is techno; Vagale is quick to point out. “It’s been five years since our experimental days and we’ve done house, we’ve done progressive, we’ve done all of it in a big way. The world’s sound is changing in that direction. It’s getting to be all about minimal tech ”“ we just happened to get tuned earlier because we like being a step ahead.”

The facts speak for themselves. The group has had original releases on labels across the continents – Baroque Records and Segment Records (UK), System Records (US), Existence Records (Canada), Helvetica Recordings (Switzerland), Observe Records and Soul Tribe Records (Germany), Pure Substance Records (Malaysia), Moon Tribal Records (Russia) and Underground Lessons (Greece). The new Nokia Navigator advertisement on TV features ”˜Tough Cookie’ as the soundtrack, and they teamed up with Adidas Originals to endorse their clothing (they created a promotional CD Regathering for the brand). Vagale hosts his own show ”“ Deep Fried Jalebee ”“ every alternate Tuesday on Frisky radio (the internet based dance music radio channel which has its headquarters in San Francisco), while Roy hosts a spot on Dance Radio based out of Greece. They’ve had support from massive names: Tiesto, Nick Warren, Moshic, LeRon & Yves Eaux and Eric Enterna to name just a few, have all played their tracks repeatedly. They’ve also earned the respect of their comrades across the EDM scene in the country. Nikhil Chinapa from Submerge HQ explains, “As DJs and brand ambassadors for electronica in India, the Cartel have done us proud. They’ve stuck to their guns, developing a unique sound with their productions and an electric stage set when playing live.”

With music and laughter punctuating the conversation, they seem unfazed. As far as the Cartel is concerned, they really are just four blokes doing what they do best ”“ music. Completing each other’s sentences they say, “We just really like hanging out with each other and we’ve been friends for years. We honestly didn’t expect we’d end up here.”  Vagale says, “The most important thing is that we understand each other very well. We respect the work we put into Jalebee and we know what each other’s strengths are. The reason why we work so well is that we have complete faith and we’d never question each other’s decisions.” Roy adds, “We were just in Singapore doing a music reality show with all these incredible bands from all over Asia [it airs in India  in February with online voting to see which band wins], and I told Arjun”¦ we’re a band. We’re really a band doing the circuit. We honestly started off as a collective of DJ’s who just wanted to do something different.” Tarun Shahani aka DJ Boombaba/ Boombay Central (a DJ and music producer from Bombay who has releases on Third Eye records, Times Music & Music Today) who also has a live electronic band called SpaceBar agrees saying, “When I first heard Ashvin had hooked up with Arjun Vagale and they had started making music together – I thought it would be a great partnership as Arjun is technically a sound producer as well as a kickass DJ. He was into diverse genres of electronica and Ashvin always had his edgy style and manic energy. Madhav [the fifth member of the Cartel who moved to Australia to study early this year] and G Force were great because, apart from being really super human beings they had a real musical background to bring to the table. Ash Roy with his drawly falsetto vocal style was the sealing of the deal in a super collaborative musical project! What really keeps me excited about Jalebee gigs is hearing the tracks and production improve every time I hear them play. Their performances get tighter and the overall act is reaching the calibre of most live electronic acts abroad. Playing electronic dance music live is a difficult thing with synchronising different devices and playing to a computer straight metronome at a relatively fast tempo for most live musicians anyway. I’ve spent loads of long nights with the boys and they are super lads from good homes with good vibes and bound to take Indian electronica to the world. Apart from Shaa’ir + Func and the Midival Punditz, The Cartel looks set to change the face of Indian music scene and judging by the success they’ve had so far, they might just be the ones!”

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Each member brings something fresh to table blending genres ”“ techno, progressive, tribal, psychedelic ”“ into a sound that is unpredictable and unique. Their live act is raw and potent combining Roy’s vocals and percussion, Vagale on the laptop, mixing and scratching, Sharma on the laptop and synths with G Force rounding the set up with bass and synth-lines. They did live electronica served with a twist (Roy’s vocals sound like an electric Depeche Mode, he’s been told) when no one else had even thought about he concept, and music folks from all over are sitting up and taking notice. “We get calls from kids who are starting bands all the time asking us how we do it, but the thing is, I don’t think we can answer how!,” Roy says.  They’ve also done their bit in changing the perception about the accessibility of electronica; G Force says, “We played at the Eastwind festival which was mostly rock and we really thought we’d get booed. By the end we had hardcore rockers come up to us to say ”“ you turned our heads right around.” That’s what keeps the Cartel ticking ”“ pushing the envelope, getting to new sounds before anyone else does and staying true to their identity. Vagale nails it; “If you keep playing the same shit, you’re only as good as a juke box!”

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That’s the attitude that was probably responsible for getting them invited to play at the massive Live Earth concert which is being held in Mumbai on December 7. “We got the invite for this awesome event back in September. We’ve heard that 150 artists are going to be part of it and it’s going to be an honour to share the stage with them. We’ve been asked to keep tight-lipped about it”¦ but trust us, it’s going to be one of the biggest gigs we’ve ever done. So far, that is!” they laugh. The concert is telecast to over 53 countries worldwide, and we know that the Bachchan clan are involved so far. Last year saw artists like Alicia Keys, Bon Jovi, The Dave Matthews Band, Fall Out Boy, Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, John Mayer, Kanye West, KT Tunstall, Ludacris, Melissa Etheridge, Rihanna, Roger Waters, Smashing Pumpkins and The Police take the stage to support the cause, so chances are this year will have an equally stellar line-up. All proceeds go to charity – The Energy and Research Institute (TERI) ‘Light a Billion Lives’ campaign (headed by Nobel Laureate Rajendra Pauchari) and to ‘Climate Project India.’

It’s been a good year for the boys and there’s barely controlled excitement on their faces when the mere mention of their album comes up. It releases early next year and Sharma reveals, “It’s a contemporary reflection of where we are now at this point in our lives. A lot of techno, slightly more minimal and some chill-out too. Something you’d like to listen to over and over again as opposed to party monster tracks.” With everything that is going on in their lives, the bottom line remains, “We’re not big at all. If Madonna was sitting next to us in this interview, that’s when we’re big.”  However, that’s when they grin, “Though the master plan is to win a Grammy.”

****

Jalebee Cartel’s top 5 gear picks

  1. Access Virus (synth)
  2. Motu Ultralight (sound interface)
  3. KA oscillator (synth)
  4. Hand sonic (electronic percussion)
  5. Gibson guitars

Jalebee Discography

Top 5 singles

”˜Beautiful Rising’

Helv Recz (2006)

Remixes by LeRon, Yves Eaux / Matt Rowan, G Force, Ash Roy and Nature Club

This was the first single Jalebee Cartel released. Due to its immense success, it was remixed by many artists after release. It’s a melodic track with breaks and uplifting vocals.

”˜Angels Deserve To Die’

Segment Records (2008)

Remixes by BP Zulauf, DJ Harsh

One of their most popular tracks – it’s a club anthem with haunting vocals.

”˜Tough Cookie’

Maktub Music (2008)

It’s a techno track with vocals and strings. It’s also their first video.

”˜Acid Pants’

Vise Versa Music (2008)

Remixes by F-Sonik, Fog aka Elastic

Tiesto plays this track regularly on his radio show “Club Life” and his DJ sets.  It’s a stomper of a tech house track.

”˜Maula’ feat Rashmi Aggarwal

Mummy Daddy Records (2008)

It’s a sufi based track with a lot of soaring violins. The track takes the listener through an aural journey. It’s on many compilations as well globally.

Top 5 remixes

Matt Rowan ”“ ”˜Self Inflicted’ (Jalebee Cartel Mix)

Proton Music (2008)

LeRon, Yves Eaux & Luke Star ”“ ”˜Whatever This May Be’ (Jalebee Cartel Remix)

Existence Records (2007)

Karran & Porter ”“ ”˜Half Light’ (Jalebee Cartel Remix)

Only Records (2007)

Cbass & Mikobene ”“ ”˜Never For Ever’ (Jalebee Cartel Deep Mix)

Groove Industry (2008)

Logiztik Sounds & Baunder ”“ ”˜The Lazy Teacher’ (Jalebee Cartel Remix)

Supernova (2007)

Top 5 compilations

VA – Regathering (Mixed by Jalebee Cartel)

Promo (2008)

VA – Globetronica (Mixed by Pathaan)

Platipus Records (2008)

VA – Deep Electric India

Soultribe Records (2007)

VA – Mummy Daddy Records Compilation Vol 1

Mummy Daddy Records (2008)

VA – The Underground – Delhi Vol 1

HMV India (2008)

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