The dhol and the console

Anjali Jhangiani
Thursday, 12 April 2018

DJ Faith collaborates with dhol players to give his audiences an authentic Punjabi vibe and get them to the dancefloor

There are two types of people you will find in a club — those who dance and those who do not, for whatever reason. They could be shy, they could believe they have two left feet, they could not like the music, or their bodies just can’t pick up a rhythm. But there’s something about the dhol that makes Indians lose all inhibitions and raise their fingers in the air to do the bhangra. Even the prudes can’t resist the sound of the desi beat calling out to them. Abhinav Girdhar aka DJ Faith noticed and capitalised on this observation and that’s how he came up with the concept of adding a few live dhols to his set. 

Coming to Pune from Delhi in 2004 to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Vishwakarma Institute of Technology (VIT), DJ Faith found his true calling when he was dancing in a club. “I thought when I can enjoy this music, why can’t I do it? I approached a very senior DJ to teach me the art, but I had no extra money to pay for the fees, so I told him I’ll pay when I earn from the vocation and he agreed. But at that time, the club scene in Pune was very different. I was playing commercial music and Bollywood when needed. Almost everyone was playing Bollywood, so I thought of making my mark in Punjabi music. Some established DJs told me that I have to find something special if I want to make my mark and have my crowd follow me to whichever club I perform in, so I thought of syncing my set with a few dhol players,” he recalls. 

In 2013, he performed this concept at the Baisakhi festival at One Lounge. “After that went really well, I started approaching places like Area 51, Bombay Barcode, Classic Rock Coffee Co. and a few other places with the same concept which I branded as ‘Born for Bhangra’. I didn’t want audiences only in the Kalyani Nagar-Koregaon Park area to enjoy something new like this. I wanted to take it all over the city, even to places like The Big Chill Hinjewadi. And later I took it to Mumbai and Goa too. Audiences liked the vibe when I mixed Punjabi beats of my set with dhol beats. Then I started experimenting more, I added a bit of hip-hop to my set and trained the dhol players to give beats on that too,” says DJ Faith, who will be performing this concept at Classic Rock Coffee Co, Kalyani Nagar, tonight. 

It is vital to train the dhol players so that the beats don’t fall out of sync with the set. “The ‘dholsters’, as I prefer calling them, come to my studio where we rehearse a couple of times to get the synchronisation. Since they were used to performing at wedding parties and other such functions, where people don’t pay that much attention to every beat, we had to do a lot of training because even if one beat goes amiss, it has an impact on the flow of music,” says DJ Faith, who will also be launching the fifth volume of his bhangra album. 

About what goes on in his studio, he says, “There are many different kinds of dhol beats — Chokdi, Rabbi, and so on. At the studio, we listen to the tracks I’m going to play a couple of times to recognise which dhol beat would work on it. Then we practise it till we unanimously agree that it sounds good. We try and keep it as natural as possible and have fun while performing because that’s what this is all about,” he concludes.

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