West Vancouver hosts the Harmony Arts Festival every summer. This is a ten-day outdoor festival right by the sea, with a craft market, exhibits, interactive sessions of all kinds, and concerts during the day and in the evenings. On the two August weekends it crosses, the place is teeming with both locals and visitors, and the evening concerts, on outdoor stages, are packed.
This year’s lineup of concerts included Delhi 2 Dublin on Tuesday night. Having seen them at the Folk Festival, I was keen to see them again. But when I arrived, I wondered what kind of a reception they would get. The audience seemed to be composed of a lot of locals — at first glance, it appeared most had grey hair. I assume this was because it was a weekday evening and the retired members of the population had lots of time to reserve their seats close to the front. The younger crowd started to fill in, but they seemed to be in the minority.
I focused on a woman sitting across the aisle, whom I guessed was in her seventies. She was stylishly and expensively dressed, but she had a disapproving face. When the band members came out and started doing sound checks, she looked alarmed and annoyed. The sound system was powerful and the singer (shades and modified mohawk hair), who was shouting instructions to the technicians, looked menacing.
Delhi 2 Dublin is the perfect multicultural mix. Sanjay, the vocalist, brings it all together with his neo-bhangra sound, his “80s hair metal” and his leaping and dancing around the stage. Andrew, the Korean, kilt-wearing electric sitar player, is an ideal foil, since he tends to stand still and smile while his hands have a life of their own, playing at high speed. Ravi plays the dhol. Tarun, the tabla player, is the exemplary mix: half Punjabi, half Irish. Kytami plays the fiddle faster than any I’ve ever heard.
Their energy is startling; their music is a brilliant fusion of bhangra and Celtic, and their style is infectious. By the second piece, it seemed half the audience was up dancing. Sanjay whirls around the stage and shouts to the audience to all put their hands up in the air. And we do: all of us, including the grandmas and grandpas, the Indian families, and the well-dressed West Van matrons. It’s not long before we are all chanting: long wailing phrases or sharply shouted “hah, hah, hah” sounds, following Sanjay’s lead. Kytami plays faster and faster and we clap faster and faster.
The woman across the aisle with the disapproving face is up dancing and clapping and making “hah” noises along with the rest of us. She looks over and smiles, just for a moment.