Whether or not you acknowledge and applaud the EDM wave and its takeover, it is impossible to ignore the men and women (behind the console) who have brought the scene to a forefront. Festival Sherpa in collaboration with The Coalition talked to a few of these talented young producers about their role and journey in the industry. You’d be surprised and fascinated by the stories they have to tell.
1. Anish Sood
A name and face we often hear and see perform, Anish Sood has become quite the household name in the electronic music scene in India today. For him, 2013 was nothing short of incredible with a total 101 shows in 24 cities in his kitty. To add to that, as a producer (whose primary genre is house music) he has released 2 fairly successful EPs on a Dutch label called 925 Music. The first EP ‘Wanna Be Your Only Love’ even aired on Armin van Buuren’s A State Of Trance 550 broadcast from Den Bosch in The Netherlands, thus laying the concrete for his obvious international recognition.
Just 23 years young, Anish isn’t just what he appears to be, “Most people don’t know this but I’m not a full time DJ/Producer. I graduated as a mechanical engineer and still work a day job with my family business that involves logistics and handling machinery.” His journey into music began by throwing parties in college campuses and wedding hall venues. These gigs were always packed and were places of learning for him – from putting a sound system together to DJing and handling crowds. “From there on I started playing a few local nightclubs in Goa and I guess one thing led to another after that. I was always producing throughout this period and in the early years my stuff wasn’t good enough to release, but I kept putting out edits and mashups that I made on a regular basis and that definitely helped accelerate my growth as an artist.”
What about his challenges, you ask?
Well, making a mark isn’t easy, especially when you have other people’s opinions to deal with, “I wouldn’t call it a mistake but I have this weakness to sometimes second guess myself. I also let people around me influence my thinking and that’s something I’m working on distancing myself from.”
And while the Industry is still pretty small, there is an extreme competitiveness that comes with it. This, however, has not discouraged the young producer but only makes him more wary of people’s opinions. He admits, that his entry into the industry came at a time when dance music was exploding. Making it easy for him to dodge the tide of mainstream Bollywood or the Hip Hop request wagon.
His hopes for the current industry –
“The industry is blowing up right now in terms of numbers. Every day a few thousand kids turn 18 which means they have access to nightclubs and concerts and these kids are already fully clued into dance music through the internet. What’s essential right now is the back end that supports Indian artists. More people need to get into professional management and work with artists on building their brand to a more mainstream level that involves stuff like endorsements and concept shows.”
Advice for the amateurs –
“Focus on making music. That’s the only way forward. With so many people trying to invade the live space and most dance music sounding the same, the quickest way forward is to have your own unique sound that people can identify with.”
What makes Anish Sood tick?
Travel is what inspires him the most. “Every city in the world has this unique vibe that probably stems from its past. For example, Berlin has this very dark atmosphere about it while Barcelona has a more easy-going, artsy ambiance and Ibiza is in your face glamour and excess. If you let this atmosphere sink into you, it can trigger emotions and moods that inspire you to create something similar.”
2. Lost Stories – Rishabh Joshi & Prayag Mehta
Who are Lost Stories?
Armed with the catchy moniker ‘Lost Stories’, Rishabh Joshi and Prayag Mehta prepared a rather… detailed explanation of the concept of Lost Stories.
“From the recesses of a suburban, skimmed-milk-drinking bedroom where only unicorns, fairies and trance were built—sprang forth a creature so mutated, so denigrate and so convoluted—that the dance
music world is taking their formula for Dance Music or whatever they call it—and submitting
their hips, their pelvic, their torsos, their heads and everything in between and saying their minds are not the only things being blown. They are Lost Stories.”
…Coming back to the basics, why this immensely talented and driven duo made the decision to do what they love full-time was essentially because of ‘the overwhelming support from the global audiences and the people from India.’ They insist that coffee has been a faithful and loyal contributor to their success, which is why installing a new espresso machine in their studio has been an achievement they’re particularly proud of.
Their journey with music began independent of each other as the two made music under their own names for a few years. Lost Stories took off only when they decided it would be a good idea to collaborate, judging from how similar (and different) their sounds were. “The journey started with a bang as we got our first record signed to Black Hole Recordings back in the day and delivered 20+ remixes within a span of a year for the biggest artists on the dance music spectrum,” they proudly admit. As far as their ‘sound’ goes they believe collaborations of genres are the genre of the future – a rule they follow every time they sit down to write a record or sort music for a show.
But like any other upcoming artists, trials and tribulations are part and parcel of the journey –
“Biggest mistake we’ve made when it comes to Lost Stories is that we waited for the right time for things to happen. It’s only now that we’ve realised that the right time is now and now is all we have. As far as challenges go it has always been a lack of resources. In 2007, there was no way an artist could demo a new synthesizer or a drum machine if he’s looking to pick it up. This is an easy thing to do in the US/UK where you can just walk into a pro music shop and try the new tools first hand. Even if you want to pick up a new tool, the additional costs in India make it so difficult for upcoming artists to purchase it with just royalty money.”
Advice for the amateurs:
“All the advice is autobiographical. What worked for us may not work for you, but there’s one universal maxim that is great music comes from great life experiences. Music is art and art is expression. When you musically express your great experiences and strong emotions, it will shine through in your music. This applies to everything you do. Also, coffee.”
“Networking is really important these days. You see all these artists’ busy networking and not making music. It’s really important.”
3. Sandunes – Sanaya Ardeshir
What really sets Sanaya Ardeshir (better known as Sandunes) apart from her contemporaries is her ability to make music outside of the genre box, – her own perfect and crisp blend of London-influenced underground music with organic and electronic elements – something she refers to as ‘mellow, thought-inspiring electronica’. With 3 EPs out and a freakin’ brilliant debut album to boot, Sanaya’s compelling live sets are the main reason behind her steady popularity over the last few years – in India, Sri Lanka and even Germany.
Between trying to establish herself as travel writer and doing sessions work for a few music projects, Sanaya realized her need for an education in music production and engineering. This promptly made her take up production at a university in London, after which she began looking for work. By then, she was pretty sure that she had to put her 100% into making music as a full time occupation. It was then when she was struck with a peculiar yet obvious challenge – playing music that isn’t necessarily as heavy and dance floor oriented as people are used to here in India, and having it translate as dance music nonetheless.
Admittedly, the main challenge was (and still is) to get people out of the habits of bollywood/big room/commercial and other mainstream music that is accessible. “Only once they’re exposed to stuff that’s slightly more left of center, can they decide if they like it or not.”
But the industry is changing for the better, she admits.
“More artists, more content, more promoters, more venues, more gigs, more styles, more music writers, collaborators, curators, festivals and just more MUSIC! There seems to be a domino effect – the more we’re putting into the scene, the more people are responding. The future looks sunny!”
Along with some solid encouragement and advice aimed at aspiring producers….
“Practice like mad, then raise the bar! The time to get into the music scene is now – there’s much scope, plenty of opportunity and new sounds/areas to be explored. Remember, marketing your music is something that’s representative of you and your personality. I personally think it’s important to go for gigs and support the kinds of music you like. Online, but in reality too! Lots of my work in the early days came to me while I was attending various gigs across the city.”
And lastly, to create something we must sometimes break some..
“I’m deeply inspired by people who are able to break barriers of genres and stay true to their sound. I’m trying to incorporate that ideal into my music making and performance process. It’s been a journey of self discover.”
4. KOHRA – Madhav Shorey
With a sound that can be best described as minimal, futuristic and intelligent – Kohra or Madhav Shorey is the first Indian producer whose music hit the top 10 charts on Beatport, while also being signed by a couple of international record labels that include Trident Music and Sounds of Earth. Getting into electronic music was never really a conscious decision for him especially as a 13-year-old fascinated with the sound and the idea of making it. His family had a major part to play in his development and understanding of music, as it was through them that he heard everything from The Doors to Talvin Singh, Prodigy to UK Drum & Bass.
Fast forward a few years, and a 16 year old Shorey was one of the youngest DJ/producers in the country.
“It’s not been easy and it isn’t for any creative professional to be able to do what they love doing, for a living. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do this full time at this point in my life. It’s taken me over ten years and it’s been quite a natural process of evolution into doing the things that I am currently doing.”
But with growth, come mistakes
Like many others before him, Shorey was unsure about sustaining himself as an artist. This is when he decided to let his music take a backseat while he pursued an education in communication design. This put him out of the scene to an extent, even though he was Dj’ing extensively within Australia.
Although, the challenges he’s faced as an artist are two sides of the same coin.
“The scene has taken almost a decade to develop into where it’s at today. The fact that it wasn’t such a massive culture always made it difficult to stay happy and content with the work I’ve been doing. But on the other hand, it’s because of the same reason one has been a part of this build up and awareness about underground dance music. I feel happy to have been a part of this movement.” His hopes for the industry go down a pretty obvious and optimistic road. Agreeing with the fact that India is now being looked at as a global dance music hub and a powerhouse of talent he’s been quick to notice an inherent curiousity among international artists when it comes to performing here. To him the scene can only get bigger and better from here.
As far as advice goes, networking is a great way to push the envelope
“Well, the internet is the biggest tool at the moment and artists should learn how to use it well. It’s only though the tools we have digitally that we can spread our sensibility and aesthetic as an artist. It’s how people can differentiate one from the other. I don’t have any investors and never have, but many brand endorsements over the past few years have helped solidify my work and get me more credibility as an artist. In saying all that, if your music is amazing – it’s only a matter of time.”
5. Akshai Sarin
Touted as one of the most proficient and internationally well known young Indian producers, Akshai Sarin is a self proclaimed ‘experimenter’. His original journey with the basics of music began at the wee age of 11, with the Tabla. By the age of 14, the wizard was making his own sound with a mixer and turntable. What followed after were years of commercial success with his remixes and collaborations with various musicians including DJ Yahel, who pioneered the Israeli trance sound along with Infected Mushroom. In 2009, Sarin was was nominated for the “Young Music Entrepreneur of the Year” award by Rolling Stone Magazine and The British Council. Three years later he was even a panelist at the International Music Summit Ibiza, alongside Pete Tong and Tony McGuinness.
“My general life philosophy is to be the best person I can be. Which means I’m putting in 100%, and living a life with purpose. This is personally fulfilling, and also ensures I’m a constructive contributor to the world.I love my independence, and love music. So I chose to opt out of what society had prescribed, and chose to do what made me happy.”
And this journey of experiments has been quite the life lesson..
“I’ve experimented with everything – from working as a sales rep at Harrods in London, to working at a PR agency, and most recently a 3-year stint at energy drink, Red Bull – setting up and heading their Culture Marketing function for India. All this experience shaped and brought me closer to understanding what I didn’t want to do. I always had a vision and a clear understanding that my purpose in life is – to encourage self belief, mutual respect and love among the people I interact with. To keep creating platforms for them.For this to happen, I needed to shift to an environment that looked beyond money, beyond making people ‘consumers’ or numbers in an excel sheet.I now approach everything with the intent to add value to the people and projects I work with.”
Leaving Red Bull and releasing his first EDM album on Universal Music was an effort at breaking out of his comfort zone. EDM was never his domain as a music producer because of a mental block that it is too ‘commercial’. That’s when decided to try something new, for personal growth and produce his dance album titled ‘Connected’ which he believes is unique in many ways as it focused on Indian heritage as well as featured collaborations with internationally respected artists from 9 countries DJ Qbert, Moonbeam, Yahel, Mason, Kitchie Nadal and more.
But for Sarin, the biggest mistake he ever made was letting a newspaper call him a ‘DJ’ because of their lack of knowledge about production in the dance music industry, “I’ve since then had to work very hard to help people understand I make and perform my own music with a vocalist (and live instruments where feasible.)”
How the industry is changing and can change for the better –
“It’s changing for the better. Its more democratic, thanks to technology and the internet. I managed to independently release my music worldwide in 1998 thanks to Mp3.com (when all the major labels in India wanted Bollywood remixes from me.) The industry needs more official bodies to create understanding that music is a legitimate and viable profession in India. Lobbying for reasonable venue closing times (its 11pm in Bangalore, thats where I live!)”
Advice for the amateurs?
“You’re lucky to be in the current environment. Always remember that. Always believe in yourself. Don’t wait for others to notice and nurture you.You need to put in the effort to reach a tipping point – till you are worth the attention of platform and career creators, if you’re lucky. For most of us – no one’s going to do it for you.”
Last but not least, it’ll all about how you network yourself
“The most important question comes last in line. Unless you want to be recognized for your work after you’ve cut off your ear and been dead a couple of decades – networking is everything. Making real friends and supporters is even more important.”