Tarun “Tspoon” Nayar could be the poster boy for cultural fusion.
Born to a Punjabi father and a Canadian mother of Irish and Scottish descent, Nayar is one of the founders of Delhi 2 Dublin, a Vancouver, B.C., band that blends the musical traditions of India and Ireland with dub reggae, rock, hip hop, and electronic music. As one magazine wrote, “Delhi 2 Dublin is the United Nations of rock ‘n’ roll.”
“We’re the only ones doing this,” said Nayar, a DJ and producer who handles electronics and plays tabla in the band. “We definitely don’t feel like there are any limitations at all.”
Although Nayar is known today for his contributions to electronic music, the Montreal native played Indian classical music into his late teens.
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“I grew up almost living two lives,” he said, dividing his time between tabla recitals and rock concerts.
As he grew older, Nayar found himself drawn to Asian Underground artists such as Talvin Singh and Nitin Sawhney, known for merging traditional Asian music with Western genres including jazz, electronica and drum and bass.
“Indian classical music doesn’t have to be in a world of its own,” the musician realized. “It can meet other places.”
According to Nayar, Delhi 2 Dublin grew out of a St. Patrick’s Day concert in 2006 organized by Doug Simpson, the former director of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.
Meant to be a one-night gig, Dehli 2 Dublin grew into a phenomenon. Soon the genre-bending band, which released its self-titled debut album in 2008, was playing concerts and festivals across North America.
Dehli 2 Dublin’s current lineup includes fiddler Sara Fitzpatrick, singer Sanjay Seran, electric sitar and guitar player Andrew Kim, and Ravi Binning, who plays the dhol, a double-headed drum common to Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
Nayar describes the band’s sound as “a slightly outrageous mash-up of all sort of styles,” from Celtic reels to the Bhangra dance tunes popularized by Punjabi immigrants.
“It’s not traditional music by any means,” said Nayar, who released his debut solo album, “22 Degrees of Beatitude” in 2011. “We sometimes get criticism from the older world music crowd. They just don’t know what to make of us. They want to put us in a box.”
For instance, he said, one reviewer complained that Delhi 2 Dublin’s latest album, “Turn Up the Stereo,” had “not enough Dublin and too much Delhi.”
Although Nayar doubts the band will start scientifically measuring its music, he said it is moving toward a smoother, more comprehensive sound.
With “Turn Up the Stereo,” “We wanted to take our songwriting to the next level,” Nayar said, acknowledging the band was “good at writing dance grooves but not too good at writing songs.” “We’re in a really good place in terms of the dynamics and the chemistry (of the band).”
Nayar said the album, released in August in Canada, offers some “much-needed perspective.”
Asked why Dehli 2 Dublin has proved so popular, Nayar said the reason goes beyond the band’s energetic dance beats.
“People are responding to the energy that comes when two long-lost cousins reunite,” he said, noting the cultural ties between Ireland and northern India. “It’s like seeing two people sitting on opposite ends of the bar finally come together, have a conversation and party.”
Plus, Nayar added slyly, “They’re the two great drinking cultures of the world.”