Touted as ‘One of the Most Fun Indie Acts to watch out for’, Delhi-based The Skavengers can set any stage ablaze as they bring together ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub, jazz and punk mixed with Cuban and Latin influences to create that magic vibe.
Having toured abroad extensively, India’s first ska band was nominated for ‘Best Indian Act’ at the MTV EMA Milan 2015 and have a 30-minute documentary on themselves titled Rude directed by Wanphrang K. Diengdoh. Their unabashedly liberal political views make them an exciting act on the Indian independent scene. Songs like Vampire, Jail Mein and Frank Brazil and their music videos, speak a lot about what the band wants to say musically.
Dressed in sharp suits, and singing about anti-political resistance movements, they are a visual paradox. Comprising of Stefan ‘Flexi’ Kaye on keys, vocalists Samara ‘Begum X’ C and Taru ‘Delhi Sultanate’ Dalmia, ‘The Late’ Nikhil Vasudevan on drums, Chaz Bhalla and Tony Gurnard on guitar and bass, the band has that groove to put you in a dancing mood.
After watching their power-packed performance at a music festival recently, VERUS FERREIRA met them and found that they differ from other bands with their unique presentation and political overtones.
How was The Ska Vengers formed?
Stefan Kaye: I was playing in Emperor Minge with Tony and Nikhil and later Samara. This band was a type of quasi classical disco rock band with pretensions of grandeur. There were a couple of ska songs in the set and I hit on the idea of a separate band that would focus on more songs that were simpler in form yet more danceable than the standard material. At that time around 2007, there were very few non-mainstream dance-oriented bands in India, or at least as far as I was aware.
Delhi Sultanante: When Stef first approached me with the idea of starting a ska and rocksteady band I was very excited. I grew up on dancehall and reggae music and the idea of playing in a band that would explore the genres that gave birth to most, if not all, genres of bass music, that too in my hometown, sounded too good to be true. I met them for the first time at one of their early gigs. I was asked to jump on stage for one of their songs and improvise with them. During sound check, we came up with the song Vampire that has become a regular part of our sets to this day. While I was excited about being part of a reggae band, I was also a bit sceptical. I didn’t want to play in a reggae band that would end up like some polite uptown monkey band entertaining Delhi society people at venues. After all this was meant to be rudeboy music. The first few gigs I would only be on stage during songs I was featured on. The first few shows in Delhi however dispelled my fears.
Begum X: The last thing I imagined myself doing was fronting a band. When I met Stefan, I was in an interesting phase in my life. I had no particular responsibilities and was looking to come closer to who I really am or even re-invent. Everything that I do today began at that time. Stefan is rather modest here but he was instrumental in bringing us all together. It’s like he handpicked us. I imagine that he watched us for some time. I certainly wasn’t as confident as I am today. I think that he has the ability to imagine what could be.