Rob Wood, Creative Director and Founder of Music Concierge has been helping us curate and evolve the Dishoom musical identity since Covent Garden first opened in 2010. Six years on, he has now helped us to compile and bring together the groovy vinyl that is Slip-Disc: Dishoom’s Bombay London Grooves. Here he has kindly penned a few words on Dishoom, his love of music and the legend that is Asha Puthli!
Personally I have always loved piecing together music. Segue-ing tracks or styles together, or juxtaposing different sounds to create something that feels exciting, or surprising. I started doing it in my early teens. Like thousands of other music fans I would stay awake listening to John Peel under the duvet covers, away from the eyes and ears of my parents, recording new releases by The Fall, The Smiths, Kraftwerk or Orange Juice on to cassette tape. I graduated on to making tapes for my mates’ parties and as tokens of appreciation to girlfriends, before organically falling into DJing just as acid house arrived. I’ve been doing it ever since and have been lucky enough to make a living out of curating music for record labels, and for the music magazines I worked at, and more recently for brands through the music agency I now run.
I’ve worked with Dishoom since its birth. Co-founder Shamil Thakrar had a very clear vision for the exotic and wonderful Irani café idea. It needed to feel like a café for sure, but like its design, its music needed to evoke its Bombay inspiration going back to the 1930s, and at the same time have a very unique Dishoom eye-twinkling twist. As a fellow music fan, Shamil was fun to work with and we had fun poring over various tracks and artists from cult ’70s Bollywood soundtracks, to jazz greats, to quirky niche micro-genres from the 1950s and ’60s.
As with all the immaculate attention to detail and little design touches that have been lovingly stitched into each Dishoom restaurant, the soundtrack we created seemed to find a place in people’s hearts which was very satisfying for everyone involved. As soon as he knew Dishoom would be opening a restaurant on Kingly Street in Soho, in spitting distance of Carnaby Street, Shamil was keen to put out a Dishoom compilation album. The Carnaby connection was too good to ignore. Thus we came up with the idea of Slip-Disc: Dishoom’s Bombay London Grooves. Our first record release was to zip between the Bombay Beat scene of the ’60s and the peak of Swinging London, with some off-the-hook cult Dishoom tracks along the way. What’s more it was going to be released on vinyl.
Using the book ‘India Psychedelic’ by Sidharth Bhatia as a reference point, The Savages were a good place to start. Playing a key part in the then-tiny Indian rock scene, their cover of ‘Born To Be Wild’ captures the Bombay beat scene’s passion for the sounds coming out of the UK and US at the time.
The nephew of renowned musician Ravi Shankar, Ananda was also clearly “feeling the vibe, man”. He had after all been hanging out in California with Hendrix no less. His sitar and Moog drenched version of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ is arguably one of the few Stones’ covers that betters the original. It was always going to be on this album.
But Slip-Disc was never going to be just a history lesson. Dishoom evokes the past to create something fresh. We weren’t interested in simply creating an historical document to the cross-pollination between two counter cultures. We wanted to add some essence of Dishoom. Hence The Bombay Royale’s blistering homage to Bollywood is included in all its Technicolor magic. BB Davis & The Red Orchidstra bring a dark re-rub of Roy Budd’s seminal ‘Get Carter’ soundtrack. Most colourful of all is probably the song taken from the legendary Bollywood film Gumnaam: ‘Jaan Pehchan Ho’. Once seen and heard in context, it is an unforgettable Indian twist on the actual ‘60s themselves. The dance scene is one of the best on film, but for Shamil, me and my team, the music was one of the key inspirations when we first put our heads together in 2009. If Dishoom had a soundtrack, this would be it.
I have been asked to pick a favourite. It would have to be Asha Puthli’s contribution on the Peter Ivers Group’s ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’. We knew we wanted her on there, but we ummed and ahhed about which track. Many of her tracks that I love best are from her album ‘The Devil Is Loose’, such as ‘Space Talk’, but were too disco-tinged for this record, so this Marvin Gaye cover won the day.
It was amazing to have the legend that is Asha herself turn up to the Dishoom Carnaby launch party, and too tempting not to play a couple of her tracks whilst I was DJing that night. I wondered if she had spotted them (which she had) when I was privileged enough to hang out with her and Gilles Peterson a few days later at a recording of his Radio 6 Music show with included an interview with Asha. It was clear she was loving her experience with Dishoom and was even talking about live shows and a new record.
If and when it becomes time to piece together a second Dishoom compilation album, I wouldn’t be surprised if Asha finds her way on to it. What’s for sure though is it will be fun putting it together. All the best things are a labour of love after all, much like Dishoom itself.
Creative Director & Founder of Music Concierge
These are the last few days, the dregs of 2019. It’s my habit to sit here in the Permit Room at this time. I am the be-stubbled and dishevelled regular, cherishing his precious drink at the end of the bar. Weary, I sit here pondering the year, attempting to figure out what it was trying to teach me. What wisdom can I glean from it?
I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.
We have arrived at a very sad, but inevitable and clear choice. As of now, all Dishooms are now closed to diners.
BOMBAY, 1949. A sultry June evening. Lights glow golden. Candles flicker in the warm breeze that arrives gently through the large open windows of the café.