Jalebee Cartel

Arjun Vagale of Indian dance band Jalebee Cartel tells Yalda Gerami about throwing a mean party and how to stay positive


Do people make unfair assumptions about your music?
People tend to assume that our music is heavily influenced by Indian classical music, but it’s quite the opposite – we were brought up listening to Hendrix and The Beatles. Once people give us a chance and listen to us, those misconceptions begin to fall away – good music is good music regardless of where in the world it comes from.

You’re doing a live set at Chi – what will it be like?
Our sets are an outlet to express ourselves, but they’re also about having fun. If you’re up on stage looking utterly bored, the audience is going to feel the same and completely disengage. But if you have a good time and enjoy yourself, that energy is infectious and gives everyone a great experience. We try to make the performance as interactive as possible because the music is very layered and intricate. We want the audience to see what’s going on and how we create our sound, be it percussion, vocals or bass. We love to live in the moment.

Your music’s generally very positive – why is that?
It’s very important to us to keep a positive outlook on the dance music scene because of all the negatives attached to dance music: we often have cops shutting down clubs or see kids completely losing it on drugs, so we try to tell people that they don’t have to go to crazy lengths to have fun. All you have to do is come, dance and be a part of the music.

Where does that positive energy come from? What would you say inspires your tracks?
All of our tracks come from different moods, dreams and phases of our lives. Around 90 per cent of the music we play is influenced by gigs, because those have become landmark moments that inspire songs. So our music depicts our personal journeys within music and where it has taken us. We’re also inspired by many other genres. Thankfully, India’s performing arts scene is really growing, so we try to absorb as much as possible to give us new ideas to play around with.

Lets talk about your most recent release: your debut album, Onepointnothing. How does it differ from your older stuff?
It’s far more mature than our older work. All the travelling and performing has definitely nurtured our sound and helped it to become deeper and more eclectic, rather than the typical four-to-the-floor, ‘bang-bang’ music. It was a new experience for us – we layered it vocally and sat with songwriters to focus on lyrics. It’s definitely an album that people can listen to in the car or at home as easily as they can in a club.

Speaking of changing sounds, how do you keep up with all the changes that dance music goes through?
Electronic music is the only genre in the world that changes so rapidly and has so many subgenres. It’s almost dizzying. But evolution is at the heart of the genre and we’ve lived by that rule. If you listen to our earlier releases and then to our music now, you’ll hear that they are totally different in style and sound.

Are you excited about having the chance to showcase your new sound in Dubai?
Definitely – we’ve been to Chi before when we’ve played in Dubai and we really dug the vibe. We also have the latest copies of our annual mix CD, Regathering, which we will be giving out to people at the gig. This way people can take a part of the night home with them. It’s going to be super fun and we’re totally pumped.

Jalebee Cartel play Chi on February 4.

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