A little bit of Ry Cooder, a bit of Peter Gabriel and some Bollywood.  All to be heard on the latest album, DAAYRA, from the Dutch Surinamese-Hindustani multi-musician, Raj Mohan.  Keeping it real, his pop lyrics speak about life in a ‘minority group’ in an urban environment; about freedom and liberty; and of course about love, passion. But we have to take Raj’s word for this, because few of us will understand the language.  Something new has happened.  For the first time in history, pop music is being fused with Sarnami, a dialect of Hindi.  The result:  beautiful songs, unintelligible to many, but amazing to listen to.

Raj Mohan (1962) lived until his 12th year in Suriname, where he slaughtered chickens for his grandmother who sold roti kip, a Surinamese/Indian flatbread with chicken and vegetables, on the market in Paramaribo. Less than a year later, he was living with his seven brothers and sisters in a little flat in Utrecht in The Netherlands. Mother scraped the money together for the family by working as a cleaning woman. As a young teenager, after school Raj was required to hangout with his Surinamese-Hindustani relatives and friends at Hoog-Catharijne shopping mall. But in spite of the fact that the music played at family gatherings was mainly Bollywood or reggae and soul, the young Raj got ‘into’ the white pop music of Led Zeppelin, Queen and ACDC. While his friends went off to play soccer, he disappeared into the various record shops in Utrecht spending his time listening to music.


Through all the visits to Utrecht’s record shops, Mohan discovered his own musicality.  Besides the white rock music, also his own musical roots. He was the only member of his family to be proficient in the light-classical music of northern India. He became a singer in Hindi, with it’s unusual vibrating sound. He created and directed several music ensembles.  He even worked for a while in the Bollywood film industry as an assistant composer and musical director. And through all of this, Mohan continued to question why in his own dialect, Sarnami-(Hindi), was there so little romance. The community explained to him: Our dialect isn’t suitable for the arts. It is too commonplace, too vulgar. Raj disagreed. Not because he was a rebel or an activist; but because he wanted to show the world, the romantic, artistic side, that he felt hidden in Sarnami.


In 2010, Raj brought a few lyrics and melodies to the guitarist Lourens van Haaften who developed further the music. They knew each other from years before in the hard rock band, Van Katoen, where Lourens was guitarist and Raj brought the Hindi language to the band. The largest portion of the album DAAYRA was written in a living room in the Kanaleneiland district of Utrecht. Raj and Lourens finished the songs and filmed a clip in Mumbai, India.  And finally, the album was mixed in Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio in London, England.  The result?  A unique mixture of white pop music and Indian influences.  A dash of Ry Cooder, a pinch of Peter Gabriel and a bit of Bollywood.  Simmered slowly in the capable hands of Mohan and van Haaften.  Unintelligible to many, but a feast for the ear.