SANJAY SERAN DISCUSSES HIS BAND, RADIO SHOW AND UNIQUE INSPIRATION
by ASJAD NAZIR
WHEN Sanjay Seran entered the Vancouver desi music as a teenager in the late 1990s, he probably didn’t imagine the amazing path and achievements that lay ahead.
The most notable of these would be forming the acclaimed band Delhi 2 Dublin, creating mesmerising music with them and touring globally, including performing at major festivals like Glastonbury and Burning Man.
Such was the band’s popularity that he was averaging over 150 shows a year at one point and creating songs that were influencing other artists. Today, he balances creating music and performing live, with hosting a global radio show.
Eastern Eye caught up with Sanjay to talk about his marvellous music journey, brilliant band, radio show and very unique inspiration.
What connected you to music?
I’ve been hooked since day one or at least very early in my life, through my dad’s record collection, including Bollywood classics to ABBA, and Diana Ross to contemporary pop that would be on the radio in the car growing up. This love affair with music is all I’ve known. Are there people out there that don’t have a connection to music, what?
How did Delhi 2 Dublin get formed and what inspired it?
It was supposed to be a one-off collaboration performance between some of us local Vancouver musicians for week-long music festival, Celtic Fest. We all brought in our own influences and sounds for the performance. Some of us came up through the Asian underground scene and combined it with the Irish fiddlers and dancers for the collaboration. The original performance was slotted for the Thursday club night called Delhi to Dublin. The collaboration went so well that we just started getting booked more and more, until we became a band. We ended up keeping the name of the night, thus Delhi 2 Dublin was born.
How do you look back on the Delhi 2 Dublin journey?
Like a proud dad! We have done some incredible things, played at some incredible places, broken down barriers and brought many walks of life together. All this, while being able to see and experience so many pockets of the globe.
Which of the group’s achievement are you most proud of?
I think that being able to last 14 years is a huge achievement. It is after all a marriage of sorts and a lot of those don’t make it this long, and that’s only involving two people.
Which of the group’s music isclosest to your heart?
The early stuff like Dil Nachde and Apples have a special place in my heart because those songs allowed me to get really creative and break away from what the traditional Punjabi vocalist trajectory looked like at the time.
What about your albums?
I had the most fun creating the We’re All Desi album, especially the writing process with our guitarist James Hussain. Our last album We Got This is by far the closet to my heart because it allowed me to see what it looked and sounded like to create a pop album with a big well-known producer. And from that album, My People is the magic song. Hearing that played on mainstream commercial radio was a childhood dream come true. It was also the song that led to us being signed to a major label, which is not always what it’s cracked out to be, but was a dream I’d been holding on to as a kid – and we did it!
What has kept the group together for so long?
Who knows, the flow of energy I guess. I think that sort of thing is out of my hands, but will say that we were willing to put in the work and our live show is kickass, no joke, but again, I’m not taking the credit for that either – I’m just the vehicle for that energy.
How much does live performance mean to you and what has been the most memorable?
The live show, especially for a band like D2D, is everything. That energy has never been able to be captured on recording – the true essence is in the live show. We’ve played well over a 1,000 so it’s hard to narrow down the most memorable because they all have their own special moments, but let’s say playing six shows in 52 hours at Burning Man was very memorable. Being invited to play in front of 150,000 people for our Canada celebrations was pretty rad too. And I’ll never forget being in Iowa City and playing for exactly one person in some club, so ya, we’ve done that too.
What is your own master plan?
Currently, my focus is on my solo project, SNJÜ, which is kind of r’n’b, soul, chill and sexy vibes. I am just addicted to creating and writing for this project. I do not know if I have a master plan, but rather than that I am just trying to have as much fun as I possibly can, and thus far, the results have been just pure joy.
Tell us about your radio show?
I basically play whatever I think is dope; it’s a mix of urban desi to electronic vibes to harder Punjabi stuff. I keep it music heavy and less talk, and try to showcase Canadian talent, and at the moment, there is an abundance of it.
What music dominates your own playlist?
Right now, I’m obsessed with Saint JHN. I can’t get enough of what he is putting out. I feel he is connecting with me on a molecular level. It’s so fun to be obsessed with music like a suburban teenager locked in a room pissed off with my parents or something. Otherwise, I’m feeling A.Chal. Khanvict, SkinnyLocal, Gashi, Jasmine Sandlas, Sidhu Moosewala and Happy Singh. There is so much good music out there. It’s exciting.
Who is your hero?
I don’t have one; I don’t think there is only one person I have put into that category. I really draw and learn from multiple artists. I feel if I had one idol or hero it would keep me in the past and subscribing to an old model from a time that no longer exists, and thus isn’t really valid. I listen to new and relevant music, and feel that I vary as the paradigm continues to shift.
What inspires you?
Sexual energy is amazing. It’s so powerful it can move mountains and destroy families. It will motivate people to do almost anything. I think that is what SNJÜ is all about, capturing that vibe, that little slice of energy in song form. I also think that’s why the word jawani is so important because it means more than just youth, but the connotation of youthful sexual energy. It works in reverse too; the energy makes one feel youthful. (Laughs) Keep the drive alive!
If you could ask any artist, alive or dead, a question, what would you ask them?
I would like to ask John Lennon if he would join me on an LSD experience, because that would be so rad and why not? I think it would be a session full of love.
What is the best advice you got?
Don’t tell someone you love them, just to get them into bed. I never have and I’m sure that has saved my ass a lot of drama. Don’t need that at all.
Why do you love music so much?
I don’t know any other way. It’s just who I am and all I’ve ever known. I guess a song can take you places, some can instil the feelings of nostalgia while others are a form of escapism. It’s like three minutes of pure power to transform you to any space or time. It’s magical.