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Supply is demand

A no-frills collective of electro fiends that only wants to bring the house down

Rolling Stone IN Dec 10, 2008

Abhinandita Mathur

Delhi’s got its share of music fan stereotypes. From gymming car-racing Bhangra buffs to slicked-out nightclubbing techno-pumpers and so forth. But it’s no secret that outside these image-related restrictions, almost anyone is down with almost anything, from Pathetique to ”˜Papa Don’t Preach’, from Keef to Kailash Kher. And that’s the question D.E.S.U. is asking, albeit in the context of electronic music: if we could be grooving to 20 different kinds of music when we turn up the stereo at home, why do we continue to put up with the same old stuff when we find ourselves at a venue?

Formed a few months ago by a bunch of friends following an inebriated conversation along similar lines, Delhi Electronica Supply Unit (the name alludes to the long-defunct Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking; besides the use of pylons in publicity material, DESU. members are known as linesmen and successive gigs are dubbed Phase I, Phase II etc) is a loose collective of DJs, musicians and artists. Their one big aim is to bring to the public music that they’ve grown to love over the years, yet music mostly absent from the business and that which you’re not likely to hear anywhere else. “Not many musicians get their shit together and decide to organise gigs. The seed usually comes from a business plan or an event organiser or a promoter,” says founding member, musician (most notably active recently with East India Company) and veteran sound engineer Brin Desai.

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Besides Desai, the collective also comprises producer/organiser Manu Saxena (who handles sound and finances), musician/DJ/producer Shyam Ravindran (venue, write-ups), textile designer Poonam Pandit (artwork), Aparna Sethi (an administrative worker at a cultural institution, currently away in Japan) and Parikrama bassist Chintan Kalra (an acknowledged ”˜silent/ideological’ partner). “Venues feel like they can tell you what to play because they pull the money,” says Ravindran. “So the whole idea was to have a music policy that’s not dictated to us by anyone”¦ after that if we can work the other terms set to us, well and good.”

What this music policy means is variety: musicians and music that were hitherto confined to countless near-anonymous MySpace pages and personal collections. In the six Phases since July, DESU. has featured close to twenty artists including, among others, Toy Mob, Toxic Urban Groove, Nephunk, Le Monx (from Valencia), Delhi Sultanate, Ravana, Jjj and Nucleya. Many of these acts are avatars used by musicians and DJs to channel their more underground tendencies into alternate, D.E.S.U. identities. DJ San, for instance, takes on Manukrit Kyari while Desai takes on Khirkee Gharana (to set himself apart from his work with EIC) and Ravindran uses Bagula Bhagat (as separate from the ethno-techno outfit Mili Bhagat). Between them, this growing roster has represented sounds from DnB to downtempo ethnic, breakbeat, electro-acid jazz, prog, minimal, tech house, psy, even reggae dancehall vibes.

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Functioning currently out of one room at a barsati in Hauz Khas and pulling favours for sound systems and artwork (if not doing it all by themselves), D.E.S.U. is ready to make this experiment bigger and perhaps even expand to other arts. On their longest break between Phases since starting, they are currently working on a couple of corporate pitches. “There can be various views on this, but I feel people should have this music for free,” says Desai. “Ticketing should be a second option because the corporations have enough money. And if all they’re concerned with is the number of eyeballs, we’ll get the numbers. That’s a model we’d really like to work within.”

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