Listen: The Ska Vengers Release New Album ‘XX’
7 July 2016
Delhi based reggae/punk/rocksteady/jazz band The Ska Vengers are back with their new album ‘XX’ (pronounced double cross) and are all set to play in 3 cities across India (after their launch at antiSOCIAL in the capital last week) and at various festivals, including Secret Garden Party, Boomtown and Bestival, along with venues across Europe over the course of two months.
It isn’t particularly surprising that The Ska Vengers’ (a head-scratching, motley crew of musicians from Britain and India making largely Jamaican and Latin influenced music that often references India’s politics, history and society) latest offering is politically charged and left leaning. If you’ve ever followed the band before or seen any of their videos you’d be aware that political and social conversations plays a key role in their identity. Obviously, simply having an ideology isn’t what makes a band (or for that matter any art) good, it’s the ways in which those bands choose to convey those opinions and statements (after all, art and aesthetic is what separates music from more prosaic forms of expression). And in this matter, there are few bands in the country as well versed on the balancing act of making political music accessible and enjoyable as The Ska Vengers.
They’ve never been so straightforward before as on ‘XX’, an album whose lyrics are clever, contextual and defiant (ringing true to the nature of the genres that have influenced the band, be it punk, ska or reggae) with a pinch of cheeky humour to cut across the self-righteousness that inevitably tends to permeate any music with a message. Furthermore – The Ska Vengers know that they are musicians first and foremost, and never for a second sacrifice the quality of music for the sake of stating an opinion.
‘Kick Up A Rumpus’, while not the strongest on the album tune-wise, sets the rebellious tone. ‘El Cumbanchero / Red Fort Rock’ on, ‘XX’ features more movement inspiring, body music with elements of the energetic percussion and Latin & Jamaican sounds that they’re so well loved for. There’s also a surprising little interlude called ‘Badda Kirwani’ towards the end that used classical Indian string and tabla. Delhi Sultanate and Begum X (who really shines on tracks like Afro Fantasy) lend their recognisable voices to the album, with Stefan Kaye on keys, percussions and backing vocals, Tony Guinard on bass Chaz Bhalla on guitar and Nikhil Vasudevan on drums and backing vocals.
Overall, ‘XX’ is a vast, ambitious project that sees far fewer lows than highs, and has an opinion in an age where most music thinks it can really exist in a vacuum (its time to start psychoanalyzing this generation’s obsession with made up outer-space themed genres and album-art). It’s easily one of our favourites of the year so far. Listen to it below and support the artists by buying the album on Bandcamp and OK Listen. Follow them on Facebook for updates.
Words: Diya Gupta