“Conceiving the album has been a complete labour of love, though one we have enjoyed every minute of! Things that are worthy of people’s precious time and attention are made from love and passion” — Shamil Thakrar & Rob Wood
Music and food are a great pair. Indeed studies have shown that music directly influences your ability to taste. Despite this, however, you rarely come across a project that actually links food and music in a deliberate and insightful way and, from a dining perspective, all too often the music playing in restaurants becomes a hinderance to your eating experience.
The nice people at Dishoom, however, are very much an exception. Rather, the founders of the Bombay-inspired London restaurant group, take music very seriously and put a huge amount of effort into the playlists and atmosphere they curate in their restaurants. Shamir Thakrar (Dishoom’s co-founder) and Rob Wood (music consultant for Dishoom), have worked together since the brand’s conception in 2010, to develop a musical identity that reflects their mutual passion for vibrant and eclectic music. “Music changes an environment”, Thakrar tells us at a Q&A inside Dishoom’s Carnaby Street restaurant. “Food, service and design all effect the dining experience, but music is equally as important.” Every Dishoom restaurant starts with a story, and a specific musical identity is built into the narrative to make the experience specific to the restaurant you visit, from the acoustics, to the mood of the playlists at different times of day. Given the musical passion behind the culinary project, it seems a logical next step for them to curate and release their first compilation.
The idea for Slip-Disc emerged in conjunction with their Carnaby project on Kingly Street, upon discovering how much the 60’s music scene of the area had influenced a similar boom in Bombay. Indian artists were directly influenced by London rock ‘n’ roll – covering songs, emulating and borrowing sounds – and bands like the Beatles ensured the exchange ran both ways. Thakrar and Wood had also become concerned with how disconnected Indian and English culture has become since then, feeling the need to “revive a complacent relationship”, which had retreated behind clichés of cricket, Bollywood and curry houses.
Slip-Disc, named after an underground club in Bombay, is made up of songs that range from renowned Indian musicians covering well-loved western bands, to original songs from 60’s Bombay, heavily influenced by London’s own rock ’n’ roll scene. Psychedelic sounds, Bombay groove, swinging-sixties British rock and so much fabulous sitar makes this project a truly unique release. Beginning with a bang, Bengali musician and former Hendrix collaborator, Ananda Shankar’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ works so well it makes you wonder why the Stones didn’t incorporate more of the Bombay sound in their music. Next Ravi Harris’ spaced out and groovy sitar twangs turns the Meters’ ‘Cissy Strut’ into an even more funkadelic track (not that I thought that would be possible).
The first of my personal highlights comes from The Savages ‘Born To Be Wild’. Now don’t be confused, the Savages don’t make post punk, but rather are a rock’n’roll band formed in Bombay back in 1965, by Bashir Sheikh. They are a central act of the small, self-contained Indian rock scene, but this unbelievably groovy tune is a seminal demonstration of the cross-cultural pollination that took place between British and Indian music in the 1960s.
Better still is BB Davis & The Red Orchidstra’s adaptation of ‘Get Carter’. Originally written by Roy Budd for a 1971 British film score, this super psychedelic, transcendental sitar rendition will whisk you away from even the most delectable of Keema Paus. Those who don’t know Indian music past the Bollywood stereotype, should have their preconceptions totally overturned by this sophisticated piece of pure groove.
While this collection is an acknowledgement of a rich yet under-appreciated cross-continental musical heritage, Thakrar and Rob Wood were keen to stress in person that Slip-Discs “isn’t a history lesson, rather a flavour of Dishoom,” set within an an Indian context. Indeed the closing track of the compilation ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’, covered by Gábor Szabó, has nothing to do with India; Szabó is in fact Hungarian.
What relevance does Hungary have to the Dishoom narrative, you may ask? Despite being born in homage to the Bombay Irani restaurant scene, Dishoom is a brand with its finger on the pulse in a fast-paced and modern metropolis. They are enthralled by multiculturalism and are influenced by an amalgamation of tastes and sounds, unrestricted by national border. Coming back to the holistic dining experience, it is very important for them to “reverse the perception that Indian culture in the UK isn’t cool”. Through food, service, design and music, they seek to bring a fresh approach to how Indian culture is contextualised and represented.
With the Mumbai musician and pioneering synth legend, Charanjit Singh having finally featured on festival bills over the UK in the last two years, we are clearly paying a lot more attention to the East’s contribution to music. Thus Dishoom’s mission should be met by an audience eager to learn more about a culture that is such a big part of our own, yet we know so little about.
Slip-Disc: Dishoom’s Bombay London Groove is out now. Grab more info from the Dishoom website, and buy the vinyl from most online stores.