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Danish Electronica Producer Djuma Soundsystem’s India Tour Kicks Off This Week

After two back-to-back gigs at the recently held Sula Festival, Danish DJ producer Mikkas Skuldstad readies to woo Pune, Gurgaon and Bengaluru

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Feb 05, 2014
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Djuma Soundsystem Pic 02

Mikkas Skuldstad aka Djuma Soundsystem

Twenty years ago, Mikkas Skuldstad made a trip to India as a tourist and fell in love with the country. The Danish producer returns for his fourth visit as a DJ and like most international artists before him have sworn, he says that India’s exuberant music fans keep bringing him back. He says, “From what I’ve gathered, the Indian scene is all about energy. It’s about techno and kind of fast and hard rhythms. That’s not really what I do, as my work is more melodic, warm and groovy. I’ll try to bring some of that without boring people. I would try to start off with my specialty and then I’ll see how far I can take it and I do have some emergency-break-glass- kind of tracks ready. Hopefully, I’ll make them dance to my sound and have a good time.”

The deep house artist played a packed New Year’s Eve set to about 7,000 festival goers at City of M in Hyderabad and has been playing at various clubs in Goa through January. This weekend, Skuldstad is all set to play the three city back-to-back Djuma Soundsystem India tour in Gurgaon, Pune and Bengaluru. Here’s what he had to say ahead of his tour

How was Sula? You played two sets in Nashik.
I’m still very hung over from all the free wine there. Yeah it was great. Especially the after party set I played was fun. My style is kind of warm and deep but when I play at a festival space, I try to play a little bit bigger. The first set I played was mellow and then I worked my way up, but the after party was more of an intimate feel. More inviting music.

What keeps bringing you back to India?

I think it’s the country in general that makes me come back. It’s not necessarily the music scene to be honest. But I love India, the energy of India. It’s inspiring for me on a personal level and it’s great to play some gigs while I’m here. Plus, last year in January, I had a residency in club Soma in Goa and that was great for me. That’s a different way of DJing when you have the same crowd to work with.

How do you like the Goa scene? Does it remind you of any other dance venues around the world?

I guess when it comes to Goa, you can’t go outside of the fact that it has a long tradition of Goa trance. But that’s not really my scene. I’m more into deep house and I think it (the genre) seems to have been picked up by a lot of clubs.

Have you managed to write anything and make any music in your stay here?

It’s not my goal, to be honest. I tried last year when I was supposed to stay here a longer time and make music but it’s hard to do that on the road when you don’t have your whole equipment setup. Now I only come here on vacation and to play but then again, I had to finish up a remix and an edit and I have actually been working thanks to my headphones. It’s hard to work when you have the beach right next to you.

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Any Indian artists/producers who managed to catch your attention?

Yeah a lot of them. My friend Arjun Vagale is doing really great on an international level now. It’s great to see that. I also heard Ankytrixx, though I didn’t like his set so much at Sula Fest, but he played a really awesome set at the after party. And this young kid called Function in Goa plays deep house like I do is pretty great. And then these Delhi-based guys who have a label, the first house label in India, I think, called Wind Horse, are pretty good.

You recently released your track “Your Deep is Not My Deep.” Tell us a little about it.

Well, I worked with two friends of mine on this track ”“ LazarusMan and Aki Bergen. LazarusMan is a spoken word poet from Africa and wrote the poem. And then Aki and I made one original tune out of that each. Aki’s version is techno-ish and mine is something in between deep house and tech with not so much of DJ crap. It was a lot of fun.

You also released a video to accompany it along with a mention of it being your first music video. What kept you from releasing one all these years?

Well it’s not so common in house music to make videos. It’s not really needed for the people I sell music to, ’cause they don’t really care for them. This one was an attempt to reach a different audience and I always liked the idea of how a visual brings a lot of different emotions, context and interpretation to the track. Also, this wasn’t an expensive video and we just made it with a friend in the Scandinavian woods.

How has it been making music solo considering you started as a duo with [former member Danish] Lars? How do you go about laying down tracks?

Well it’s a little lonely sometimes. I try to collaborate with a lot of artists, I like that. It’s like second nature to me and Lars wanted to do other things and sometimes I miss him. It’s easier to make decisions when you are two people next to each other.
When I make tracks, it all comes from one idea. First, I craft the melody in my head, I sing it and record it on my phone, and then I make sketches and see how the beats can fit in later. The essential thing for house tracks is the rhythm. Then I try to fuse the two. I like to divide my work into the creating part and the more practical execution part.

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You’ve played gigs at clubs all around the world including Russia and another soon in South Africa. Which ones would you say have been your highlights so far?

Well, I always like to play in Germany. The audience there are really open minded and for my kind of music, Berlin has been kind of a Mecca. Last year, was maybe the year that I really broke into Berlin. Before, my music was maybe a little too melodic and poppy and it’s all about very minimal music in Berlin. And now this melodic and mellow music has caught on and is very popular and yeah, I played [in Berlin] over 10 times last year there which was very important for me. But without any doubt the biggest show I had was in Rio on New Year’s Eve where there were a million people on the beach. I was with Lars that time and we played till midnight and did the countdown and everything. I guess I’ll never play a big crowd like that ever again.

What do you look for in an artist when you want to collaborate?

Usually, I initiate the collaboration. I try to analyze the artist’s strengths and try to fuse. I’m really proud of my collaborations so far. I think I’ve been able to bring out the best they got in the tracks.

What do you have planned for this year? EPs, albums, tours?

My music is not so much album-based and is more of EP and singles-based. We work together with lots of labels unlike rock artists who work exclusively with one. I just started to work with a German label called Audiomatique which is a deep house label. It’s a really great label for me, which supports artists like Danish producer Trentemøller and I will put out some other releases from that label as well. My main project this year is trying to fuse African music [with house]. I’m touring there [South Africa] next and I have recorded a quite a few vocals with Ghanian vocalist and kologo player King Ayisoba which is going to add the African touch to my music, which happens to be more European electronic. But yeah, a lot of stuff coming right up.

Djuma Soundsystem India Tour details:

Friday, 7th Feb: Gurgaon, NCR: Tease at Vivanta by Taj. 9 pm onwards
Entry: Free
Saturday, 8th Feb: Pune: Garden Court at Vivanta by Taj. 6 pm onwards
Entry: Rs 750
Sunday, 9th Feb: Bengaluru: Ice at Vivanta by Taj. 6 pm onwards
Entry: Rs 1500 full cover (couple entry)

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