Indian DJs want to go worldwide

October 2009 -

The words 'Indian DJ' are usually accompanied by requests for popular Bollywood songs and their remixes. But now, a relatively new breed of Indian DJs are fighting the stereotype with electronic dance music.


Performers during the 9 Feet high Festival in Chennai

In an October 2009 event, The 9 Feet High Festival of Music and Art in Chennai, a mixed crowd of hip 20-somethings, their parents’ generation and hyper children were treated to 12 hours of music from the biggest local names in electronic music. The festival is significant because it marked the expansion of the audience profile for electronic music.

In India, raves and other events centred around electronic dance music have a dubious reputation connected with drugs, alcohol and unlawful activities. The clubs, outdoor concerts and parties are heavily monitored by the state governments and police, and strict curfews are imposed.

Shiv Gupta, better known by his stage name Shiva Moon, is one of the organisers of the festival. He said, the reason why Indian DJs are not on par with international DJs is because of a lack of exposure. With the infrastructural restrictions such as 11.30 p.m. curfews at clubs and concerts, it is difficult to reach the mainstream audience, so electronic music continues to be a niche consumption, he explains.

Thus Indian film music and Bollywood music shadow any other indigenous sounds due to mass-marketing and heavy exposure on radio and television. But Shiva, who has two albums to his name and seven years of playing to international crowds, says it is just a matter of time till Indian DJs get the recognition they deserve. He says Indian DJs have a distinct as Indian classical music is heavy on creativity and improvisation, and not structured like Western music. "We have access to unique sounds not available in the West. I have played live sets many times with the violin, tabla and flute."

Tuhin Mehta, another DJ who plays at many international gigs, says that he is often invited to play in the West, only to dicover they want him to play Bollywood music. Tuhin is part of an electronic dance music movement called Submerge, that was formed by a group of friends to fight the stereotype that all Indian DJs play Bollywood muisc. With its annual Sunburn festival in Goa, it is helping Indian DJs gradually get the international exposure to make their presence felt globally.