Meet the Curry Smugglers

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Have you ever wanted to start listening to music podcasts but found that it was too difficult to pick through all the boring and irrelevant ones to find what you want? Well, look no further because Paresh and Sachin aka The Curry Smugglers are here to help! The two men run a desi music podcast that covers everything from Bollywood to dance music to rock. Each episode features hilarious banter, discussion of the latest songs, and extra special picks from each Smuggler’s playlist. They also interview different DJs and artists, including S-Endz from Swami, and include a 20 minute music set at the end of each episode.

We caught up with Paresh and Sachin to get the inside scoop on one of the best desi music podcasts out there!

First a little intro to the men behind the microphone:

Paresh: “Tall, Fair and Dorky. That’s how I’d describe myself. The air is much cleaner when you’re 6 feet 2 inches tall. Really. The music sounds clearer up here too! I remember my first CD purchase and how it changed my life. Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. Raised in Dubai, fed on Bollywood, snacked on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 and partied to the underground DJ scene. Did my first mixes with two Aiwa decks side by side with rotary volume controls that were my crossfaders and once that was successful; I was in love. A Quality Assurance professional by day, a Smuggler by night and a solo Broadway musical performer in my mind; I rule my entertainment universe with every kind of musical note that moves my soul. Introspective, quiet and observant until someone turns the music up. Then I’m like James Brown in an encore performance at the Apollo Theater. I’ll dance that night away. I try to live this life in the moment and find that lines are for people who are afraid to cross them.”

Sachin: “Mumbai born boy who grew up in Dubai and now in Dallas, TX for the past 11 years. Systems Analyst by day. Smuggler in the evening. DJ SRB at night. Even though I live in Dallas, mentally I reside in NYC. I visit the city often. Hopefully plan to move there someday. To me, life needs music. Period. I love music so much where I really think about the different soundtracks to every phase of my life. It’s a cool concept, and everybody should think about one for themselves…or ten. I have been traveling quite a bit in the last few years. But even though I’ve seen a lot of places, there’s a LOT more to see. So I know what lies ahead of me in the distant future. Humor plays an important part in my daily life – I take it with my morning coffee. I like to speak my mind. I don’t sugar coat everything. I sometimes use high fructose corn syrup. I work hard when I am not procrastinating. I play harder and never procrastinate about that. I am not usually good at writing about myself, but as an optimist, I’ll leave with this: Life is good. It gets better.”

What inspired you to start a podcast?

PG: Really it was because we wanted to share our libraries and tastes with the world and bring a sense of overall quality to the underground desi music scene here in the Western Hemisphere. The podcasts we checked out had poor editing, non-interested hosts and overall just seemed like something they were doing on a whim. We wanted to educate, inculcate and entertain the masses, desi and non desi alike, with the music being produced in Bollywood and by various producers around the world.

SRB: The lack of a good one out there. Desi radio stations here in the US, at least in Dallas, stick only to Bollywood OSTs. They prefer to either ignore the Punjabi/bhangra vibes, good remixes from DJs or aren’t aware of it. Add to that we’ve found the business is carried out more like a ‘classified ad’ radio station, where cheesy ads are run for 9 minutes straight, and one or two songs are played with the hosts talking over it. We then pondered podcasts on iTunes store, and yet again, were disappointed. We felt the need to share our libraries with good programming. A simple, yet comically opinionated musical podcast that spreads our knowledge of the music we broadcast, the artists behind the music, and the voice behind the work. We wanted to put together something upbeat for listeners to forget about their daily rut, and submit themselves to our world of slapstick talk with awesome energetic music.

What is the process like? Picking out songs, etc.?

PG & SRB: There is a production method that we use and it usually revolves around the ability to sit down for 2 hours to record the show and then one of us goes into a post-production role for the rest of the week to prep and release the show on Sundays. The actual nitty gritty really just involves a lot of listening/reading the Bollywood wire and releases by DJs around the globe and coming to a tape session with opinions etc. Songs are picked out based on our moods and what we feel the show energy levels should be. So there may be 5 songs on a shortlist with only 2 making it onto the show per presenter depending on whether or not we have a guest on the show. We then put together a 20 minute non-stop high energy remix set at the end of the show highlighting some of the best DJs on the planet.

What has the response been like to the show?

PG & SRB: We are rocked by it! It’s been an ever increasing fan base that is engaged in the development of the show from Day One. Every suggestion, tweak, thought given to us is weighed and we apply it to the show if we can. At first we weren’t ‘out there’ as much as we had hoped but over the course of 4 months, we’ve taken the show to a different level – music wise and production values as well. We are talking to the right people in the industry and bringing them onto the show. Additionally we are figuring out better ways to make the sound ‘richer’. Music is a very tangible experience. It has to be enjoyed to the fullest so when we hear that a show “rocked” or that it was an amazing hour of music, which totally makes our world.

Where is your main listener base? USA? UK? India? Somewhere else?

PG & SRB: It’s all over. Most of our listener base is India/Pakistan and then the US. All other countries are then behind those two listener geos. Our main listenership comes from the iTunes store. For countries where it’s not available, we make it available on our website and on Soundcloud.

What do you listen for in a ‘good’ song? (i.e. a song that you want to share with listeners?)

PG: In my case, a few simple rules of thumb – Do I replay the song ad nausuem? Does it make me want to do my own private Broadway musical performance? Does it bring some sort of emotion out of me? If I can answer yes to those then it’s a song worth bringing to the shortlist. Some of the tracks are from Bollywood OSTs and that’s ok but most of them are very left field things people haven’t heard before.

SRB: When it comes to remixes, I look for attention to details. If it is an electro remix, were the standard 2 measures applied, or did the artist/DJ deviate from that norm and risk it? Did it work? Every beat, every hook and every synth applied matters. If it’s a Bollywood OST, then the singers matter. The way the song is sung matters. The lyrics matter. Does it strike a chord? Sonu Nigam does this the best, hands down. But I am also aware that not all his songs are good. That’s just the fair judgment we bring to the show.

Do you think non-desis would be able to understand your show?

PG & SRB: We try to be as culturally agnostic as possible when doing the show. Every song has some sort of intro around the context, technicalities or artists who produced the track. Remember, we may be doing a show on Urban South Asian music but it only works if we can build an appreciation for the tracks we play.

What do you think of current Bollywood music? Favorite music directors? Singers? Songs? Etc?

PG: It’s up and down and it’s such a personal taste deal. I find that quality Bollywood OSTs that work top to bottom are hard to come by anymore. I loved Rock On as an album; the only albums before that that I totally fell in love with were Guru and BluffMaster. I’m sad that we have to have ‘item’ or ‘A side’ tracks to sell albums and even accomplished people like Rahman admit to pulling that kind of stuff to get sales up. I’m not partial to a music director/singer in particular but I’ve enjoyed the new stuff that Shankar/Ehsaan/Loy and Salim/Sulaiman have brought out lately.

SRB: I think it’s getting better. We survived the wrath of Anu Malik and the 90s somehow. The 2000s brought in a lot of new music on the early part of the decade. While Hip-Hop and pop dominated the western countries, Bollywood seemed like it was still catching up. Either that, or torn between whether to stick with typical Bollywood tracks or experiment. At some point I think they realized that they could do both, which was a blessing. We are now seeing hip-hop elements in Bollywood where artists from the western world are merging in. Sometimes the result is questionable, but overall it’s a good thing. As of now, my favorite composer would have to be A.R. Rahman. He has never failed to win my heart over his compositions. As far as current singers – Sonu Nigam, Kailash Kher and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan top the charts.

What do you think of the desi rock scene?

PG: It’s a travesty is what it is. There are so many bands out there like Faridkot, Indian Ocean, Parikrama etc who make such fantastic music and can’t get a leg up on the [insert region here]Wood industries in India because of the pervasiveness of that genre. It’s also an image thing. From my research, a lot of the rock scene enthusiasts/fans look like they’re from the grunge generation that hit the US in the 90s. And it doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re in, no parent will accept grunge/Goth as a lifestyle choice. Anything that influences that is equally marked as bad. Then you have the industry side of things that won’t take rock seriously enough to get bands signed. It’s a vicious circle.

SRB: Ask a true rocker fan from Mumbai who lived through the times of Indus Creed and popped in Zeppelin in his Maruti, and he’ll tell you that Rock music had hope back then. It was beginning to come alive. So what happened? Well, my take is mainstream Bollywood took over. Underground bands couldn’t get signed like Paresh mentioned because there was more money in the bank to market commercial soundtracks and pop albums. Meanwhile, bands like Junoon were taking the South Asian rock world by storm. Being the awesome desi rock band and given their success, one would think that record labels in India would pay more attention to this genre. They didn’t. Although, times are changing. Rock is coming back. Bands like SuperFuzz, Them Clones, Avial & Another Vertigo Rush have great music. MTV India started a “Rock On” show inviting underground rock bands to come and participate in contests and allow for viewers to vote in. It’s been getting a lot of attention as it should. Does the movie Rock On!! have anything to do with that? Doesn’t matter. One thing promoters need to understand is that Bollywood may adapt to the audience-at-large, but if they want to promote rock music – then they need to let rockers BE rockers!

Do you have other favorite music besides desi music? Like rock or hip hop?

PG: I’m fairly open to all genres of music. I’m not big on certain things like death metal and music that’s loud because it can be type of stuff. If your music annoys me for whatever reason, you are not on my playlist.

SRB: Aside from desi music, I listen to a lot of progressive house, EDM, dance, Arabic and Farsi music, alternative and lite rock. I’ve always loved jazz. I have to listen to a jazz piece at least once a day – classic stuff like Dave Brubeck and the newer sounds by St. Germain.

What are you currently grooving on?

PG: Right now, a lot of new releases out of the DJ world for the show and in my personal collection, a lot of easy listening, soft rock, and acoustic stuff like what we played on the Chill Edition of the show released on 1/1/10.

SRB: ‘Sajda’ from MNIK, Electro Groove series by DJ A.Sen, David Guetta, Eric Prydz, Bilz & Kashif, Imran Khan & more.

Finally, what do listeners have in store for them in the second season?!

PG & SRB: Evolution. We are going from ‘podcast’ to ‘show’. We want to be the premiere desi podcast because we’re honest and open about our love for music and brutally honest with our opinions on the state of the industry. We want to bring various segments to the show to bring a more accessible look to it. Right now, while true, it’s still a bunch of guys who are spouting opinions on things and putting it on the web. It needs to and will become a collective ‘experience’. We want people to listen to us, then tell their friends to go get the Smugglers because it’s your no B/S option.

Don’t forget to check out their podcast on their website.

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