By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
"The music, of course."
"That's right. The music. In Goa the music is the high. Get together, hold hands with people while you're at the party, enjoy the music and let that be your high. You have more drugs in your own brain than they have in a laboratory. You don't need to escape. You need to enjoy every moment."
To some extent, Baba G has done in Los Angeles what he claims to have done in Goa: united several fragments of cultures around an accessible brand of South Asian music -- and, for that matter, food. His true legacy is as a chef. In Agra, India, his mother ran a restaurant called the Lotus, and in 1997 Baba himself opened a restaurant in Los Feliz called the Electric Lotus. He sold the restaurant two years later to care for his ailing mother, agreeing not to open another Electric Lotus within a five-mile radius. Instead, last year, he opened one 6.1 miles away, in West Hollywood. "There is confusion about this," Baba admits, "but people always find me and come to eat where I am. It's not just the name, it's the quality of the food. People follow me because I use the same ingredients I learned about from my mother."
One journalist accused him of a particularly "Indian form of blarney," and I admit that when I first heard Baba talking, I wasn't sure I should believe any of it either -- So many celebrity encounters! So many pioneering moments! -- but then I ate in his restaurant, where the curries and vindaloos taste clean and wholesome. You can't fake good food. But also I suspect that Indian food doesn't taste like this in India. As with Baba's music, his food is to Americans' taste, sautéed in olive oil instead of ghee, its vegetables crisp and fresh. It's not inauthentic so much as obliging -- even, perhaps, generous.
Every musician I've brought to hear Baba play has been offered an opportunity to play with him; late last summer, he doled out free samosas at the electronic-music festival Nocturnal Wonderland to kids who said they couldn't afford to eat. In Baba's world these are related activities, sharing music and sharing food, intertwined and equally significant. "My friends always told me, 'Baba, you can mix the masala. So you can mix the music, too.' Now I do both."
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