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The electronic music scene in India may still be considered nascent but that hasn’t stopped a handful of artists across in the country from launching record labels solely dedicated to producing quality music in the genre.

Rolling Stone IN Jul 25, 2009

Underground or not, it’s hard to deny the presence of a cohesive electronic dance music community in India. It’s a movement that’s been gathering momentum over the years with DJs and collectives streaming their sound steadily in nightclubs and concerts alike. We’ve embraced the music, just as we’ve embraced them, the players.

Over the years, a few of the country’s electronic artists, gauging the possibilities of their reach, have found a way to make their own musical mark, not just in India, but globally. They’ve started their own record labels, which, with the help of the internet, have not only enabled them to release singles and compilations of genres as diverse as techno and psychedelic, but has also given them a chance to pay it forward by giving younger or unreleased artists who show promise and talent a chance to put out their music. Nationality and physical distance don’t matter as long as they have an internet connection. Looking at some of these labels ”“ some old and some fledgling ”“ reveals the various modus operandi of how companies devoted to EDM really work, as well as the mind-set of the people who started them. It’s quite an undertaking ”“ being masters of their own universe ”“ but these few players have certainly upped the stakes.

Qilla Records

Madhav Shorey and Gaurav Malaker

If all goes as planned with Qilla Records, it’ll prove that age is perhaps just a number. The reason the name doesn’t ring a bell yet is because this label is poised to launch imminently. Owned by Gaurav Malaker of BLOT and former Jalebee Cartel member Madhav Shorey, Qilla is a fledgling label, but the founders’ combined experience is noteworthy, Malaker having forayed into electronic music at age 15 and Shorey at 12.

“I loved music and wanted to do more than just listen. I wanted to be integrally involved in the entire process, to contribute. I also love technology and gear ”“ so for me it was taking the best of all the worlds I had,” explains Malaker. Shorey’s journey began at age 12 when he started siphoning sounds moving from progressive house to break beat and then some, and by 16, he was behind a console. Both boys quote German technotronic band, Kraftwerk as a huge influence, right from childhood. “My first taste of electronic music was really Kraftwerk. I then started listening to the more contemporary Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and The Prodigy. I also got into a lot of drum and bass which was the first style of music I started playing when I was 16.”

Currently 24 and 23 respectively, Malaker and Shorey met 8 years ago and their journeys have been as similar as their tastes in music. Malaker says, “I’ve known Madhav for a while and always knew he was a sorted guy. I liked his general style. He’s had the idea of a label for awhile, and we thought now would be a good time to start it up. I had been thinking about it for a long time too, because it’s a chance to explore all the possibilities in music. Frankly, I don’t think age has anything to do with it”¦ experience does. We’re started early and have been a part of the electronic revolution in India and we’re lucky.”

The two reveal that the groundwork is done with their first release coming out in July. They’ve so far signed three artists and have three releases in the pipeline. “We have Flippers from Israel who is a young, talented techno producer who’s been playing at some massive outdoor festivals and clubs. There’s also Spikers from Portugal whose live sets are already known. There are a couple of more gems but we’re keeping them quiet for now,” says Shorey.
They’ve been working together for the past five months but the idea marinated and cooked individually for years. Malaker explains, “We wanted a record label because each track we represent will be one hundred percent a slammer, in our opinion. We both have productions. I didn’t send out demos on purpose as I knew this is how I wanted to release this music on my own label. It isn’t a money making option for us ”“ we’re not in it for that. It all worked out quickly because we’re so clear about what we want to do. Time will tell, but the idea itself is the goal.”

Mak.Tub Records

Arjun Vagale and Nicolas Silvano

Just six months since its inception and this label is already making some serious noise. The two gentlemen responsible for it have never met, being on opposite sides of the globe (where they’re both considered EDM heavyweights). Arjun Vagale from India, apart from being heralded as a formidable DJ and producer, is also one of the founding members of Jalebee Cartel. The supergroup (conceived in New Delhi) has built a reputation over the years as dance-music aces and received support from the likes of Pete Tong, Tiesto, Hernan Cattaneo and Matt Rowan. The other half of the label, Nicolas Silvano from Uruguay, aka Logiztik Sounds, produces quality progressive house and has Paul Van Dyk, Moshic, D-Nox and 16 Bit Lolitas on his side.

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Vagale’s first contact with Silvano was on email, when he wrote in to find out more about the Cartel’s music. Soon after, Silvano was commissioned by Baroque records to remix one of the Cartel’s tracks and Vagale returned the favour. They started sharing music and keeping in touch and soon enough the idea of the label came out. They also roped in Hisham Zahran from Egypt and Mauricio Duarte, also from Uruguay, to help out with the artists and repertoire. Incidentally, Silvano got Vagale his first show on Frisky Radio [the internet-based dance music radio station].

Silvano explains, “We have a similar taste and vision of music. With two minds at it, it´s easier for the label to get worldwide recognition. We’ve mixed our database of important DJ’s and producers around the globe ”“ Asia is the market Arjun takes care of promoting, and South America is my area.” Vagale echoes the sentiments. “Firstly, Nick is as hard-working as me, and as persistent and dedicated. Partnering with him meant that we combined the Cartel’s and Logistik Sounds’ contacts. That makes us a force to be reckoned with.”

Mak.Tub ”“ roughly translated as “So be it” from Arabic ”“ comes from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. The first track released on the label, ”˜The Fix’ by Smartminds, reached number 46 on the Beatport (one of the biggest online music stores specialising in electronic music) charts. It has mixes by Mashtronic, Ben Brown and Dualton, each covering meaty electro, minimal-tech and big-room sounds. Their second release was Jalebee Cartel’s ”˜Tough Cookie’ which was also used in the Nokia Navigator advertisements. It was played all over BBC Radio in the UK and was remixed by Chris Nemo (Greek Dousk’s partner) and George Delkos. The third ”“ Balthazar’s ”˜Stuck on a Red Clue’ ”“ has already been signed onto two compilations. Their fourth track, Alex Dolby’s ”˜Polarity,’ was charted by Digweed and Hernan Cattaneo.

Hard work and patience in equal measure is the master plan for the two. Vagale says, “I’ve always believed in biding my time and getting feedback from DJs. It all starts with releasing music on good labels. I got an email from Sasha’s manager two years ago, asking me to send over two tracks. I know he’s listening now! If you’re doing quality work the industry is small enough to get you noticed.” The duo did some intense groundwork before the official launch. Promos were sent all over the world, responses received, ideas bounced back and forth over the airwaves, suggestions evaluated and artists and singles tirelessly sourced, not to mention the paperwork. Silvano says, “You have to have a very clear concept about what you want and expect of the label, and what goals you want to achieve. You also need to be informed about how the music market works, because you may have great taste and ideas but if you don’t know how to go about achieving them, that’s when things get complicated.”

Apart from the steady accolades for their music, Mak.Tub has also become a Beatport exclusive. Vagale revealed why that’s a smart move. “The idea behind the label is to get to the people who play this music and who buy it. In today’s dance music scenario if you don’t have a release on Beatport then you’re not taken seriously. We get sales reports from all over and the maximum amount of sales are on that site. The rest of the 30-odd stores make up only around 10 percent of your sales.”  He added, “With the way the industry is, there isn’t much money to be made. You don’t do it for the money you do it for the passion. If you make money, then well and good. Our first release made a bit of money but that was a lucky thing, and because of it, the second one did well, and so on. Our philosophy though, is to have a home for our own music. Eventually I want this label to become like Bedrock or Hope Records. Everything starts from humble beginnings. We’re steady ”“ we’re not speeding ahead, nor are we taking it easy.” With that sort of focus, talent and intention, you’ll likely be hearing a lot more of Mak.Tub.

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Third Eye Records

Karan Bhoj

The same man who wakes up at 8 am every morning to drive an hour and a half to work has an alter-ego that is poles apart from that besuited business scion. During the day Karan Bhoj works full-time running a manufacturing company. Anyone who’s part of the psychedelic scene knows that he’s also been at the forefront of that genre as both a DJ, and owner of Third Eye Records, India’s first trance label.

“When Third Eye began, it all stemmed from the idea that we wanted to put Indian artists and DJs on the global map. It was strange because Goa was one of the originators of our sound and yet there were no Indian artists or DJs playing internationally or at the festivals. So we decided to create an India-centric label,” he says.

Bhoj’s DJing avatar ”“ the Third Eye Jedi ”“ was born in 2001. Since the, he’s brought down and played alongside trance artists such as GMS, Astrix, Carl Cox, Skazi, Infected Mushroom, CPU, Talamasca, to name just a few.

As the Padwan became the Jedi, Bhoj and a couple of his friends ”“ Karran Khanna, Tarun Shahani (aka Boombay Central ”“ also one of the first DJ’s that Third Eye Records eventually released) and Varun Talreja ”“ realised they wanted to do something original. It was ironic that trance was all about Goa and Indian ideology, and had no Indian presence musically. They formed Illegal Records in 2001 which was more on the lines of a collective. “It didn’t really last. There was four us and we’d talk about it, but no one took any real responsibility,” says Bhoj. Third Eye Records was formed soon after because Bhoj was still keen on the idea and decided to take the plunge on his own.

The label has grown into a tight-knit family who share the same ideals. Raoul Verma who’s also a producer, runs the label alongside Bhoj. TER also includes Shiv-E, another young producer and one of their original label DJs, as well as their newest edition Ishaan Reckless, who’s signed on as a DJ.  “The idea was to put Indian elements into the sound because it’s important to feel where the music is coming from. And the listeners should know where Third Eye Records is from,” he says.

Third Eye made a comeback after a brief hiatus. He explains the gap, “I actually work full time running a business, so there came a time when I had to put in more time and effort into my office work rather than the label. I think I got carried away in those moments and allowed myself to get lost for a while. It’s good because now it enables and empowers us to come back with full force and true love for what we are doing.”

The label already has three compilations under its belt and they plan to release the fourth and fifth together. They’ve relaunched the website which has a lot of downloadable and fresh content (including the fourth-fifth compilation package). Bhoj and Verma are also cooking up a live project ”“ “It should be ready soon and it’s going to tear up quite a few dance floors. I would love to tell you more but its undercover still.” They’re also working on a new compilation of cutting-edge morning music (he told us it’ll also have some of the biggest names in the business as well as a couple of Indian stars in the making). Bhoj is off to play at the Sonica festival in Italy this summer, following which the Third Eye crew is headed to Ibiza. As Bhoj puts it, “I work full time in order to run and finance my label, so it’s more a labour of love. We know we have a steady fan base and audience who support us, so we are working with that in mind. Our aim is not to make millions, but to keep the music flowing.” He added laughing, “People will always listen to music whether they pay for it or not, but we definitely do hope they buy a few CDs along the way” Back from a hiatus and planning to run on full power, he caps off with, “For us it’s the journey and not the destination. Our aim is to love what we do, inspire people around us and create magic on the dance floor – anything else is a bonus!”

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