A first in the series of columns where artists discuss their roots and musical inspirations
In the late Nineties, when I stepped into the world of electronic music, it was a very different place from what it is today in India. Holding residencies and training with experienced DJs was the norm. Every last bit of what you earned was spent on records or saved to get your own pair of Technics 1200s. There were no record stores here and a lot of the time, DJs depended heavily on pirated music, which they played on old beat up Denon 2000s. Yes, those CD players with the plus and minus buttons that were used to – as we called it – pitch bend.
Here’s how it worked. The Internet was uncharted territory for a lot of us, so among a group of DJs, there was usually this geeky one who would spend all his time sourcing music for the rest. The judges can decide whether this was right or wrong, but in hindsight, it led to a musical education that wouldn’t have been possible without these tracks being passed around. There were a handful of us stubborn DJs who insisted on playing on vinyl and had to travel halfway across the world to buy and fill our record bags with them. But we still wouldn’t turn down the compilations that our geek friend would give us every now and then.
A few of these CDs with typewritten playlists still lie with me. They were from Global Underground, its sub-series Nubreed and Renaissance – then two of the most respected labels in our little Progressive House world. Some of these compilations we circulated included mixes from DJs like Nick Warren, Sasha, Dave Seaman, Darren Emerson, Lee Burridge, Danny Howells, Hernan Cattaneo and John Digweed. Little did we know that these CDs would turn into gold for us and forever influence the way we played music.
The list we discovered was endless. Lexicon Avenue, Satoshi Tomiie, Steve Lawler, Timo Maas, Carl Cox, Anthony Pappa, Luzon, Deep Dish and so many others were unearthed during that residency at Someplace Else in Delhi. Simultaneously, while I trained in Amsterdam, this research helped me narrow down the sound I most connected with. I’d bring back records from labels like Bedrock, Baroque or Yoshitoshi and I remember that we handled these with kid gloves in the console back home. None of my short trips to Europe went without me seeking out clubs or festivals where I could catch these artists live.
Those were giddy times. I’d drag my feet home as day broke, lugging 40 kilo record bags on either side, but with the biggest smile pasted across my face. I know I can’t bring that camaraderie back from those residencies, however, there is one thing that I can … the DJs who became our legends.
Clubbing culture in India now faces the brunt of restricted timings and deep prejudice. Residencies aren’t that easy to come by because there simply aren’t that many clubs entering the fray. The commercialization that has crept in is needed in the face of all these odds, but alongside that, I would like nothing better than to have one foot firmly placed in the past and bring to our newer audiences the magic of these legendary DJs.
Pearl is a Mumbai-based DJ who co-owns dance music promotion company Submerge with Nikhil Chinapa and Hermit Sethi. She has curated The Legends Tour featuring UK dance music DJ and producer Dave Seaman. The Legends Tour kicks off in Mumbai on May 31st.