ShiShi and SAMAA Break Genres With a New Indo-Latin Remix ‘Conmigo’
The crossover song blends Hindi, English and Spanish lyrics with dancehall/reggaeton
On first listen, the newly released ‘Conmigo (Remix)’ is bound to baffle you – are those English words or Spanish on that serpentine Latin tune, you wonder, and is that melody more Indian or more Latin? Given the rather wide-ranging musical influences of its creators, it makes sense — the crossover track is a collaboration between two New York-based Indian-American artists: DJ/producer Aasheesh Paliwal aka ShiShi and SAMAA, a music group known for their cappella videos on YouTube.
“I think there’s always a concern to make sure that each culture and musical style is being represented in a high quality way and not being shortchanged for the sake of just adding as many cultures into the pot as possible,” says ShiShi about the song.
Excerpts from the interview:
This is a unique collaboration, how did you conceptualize the South Asian-Latin fusion idea, and what’s been the creative process been like?
Here I really have to give full credit to the boys in SAMAA, who created the original track, and Sanjoy, who produced it. SAMAA is a super unique five-piece group – all super talented South Asian artists that are blending cultures in really cool and original ways. When I got the stems for the remix, I immediately started getting excited about creating a Caribbean/reggaeton inspired track that could get a dance floor moving anywhere in the world. The creative process was honestly pretty seamless, because I had such a great original track and such talented vocalists to work with. I sped it up to a more club – ready tempo, and then infused some of my signature sounds, like the bansuri and percussion, to give it some of my own flavor.
What were your biggest challenges while working on an ambitious project like this? Were there any artistic fears, doubts about whether this might resonate with audiences?
What makes this project unique is the blending of three different languages, cultures and continents – the vocals shift from Spanish to Hindi to English throughout the song, so it’s truly a global crossover track in every sense of the word. With a project that is bringing that many influences together, I think there’s always a concern to make sure that each culture and musical style is being represented in a high quality way and not being shortchanged for the sake of just adding as many cultures into the pot as possible. I think SAMAA did an amazing job of singing the Spanish and Hindi sections in a way that is true to those cultures, and as a producer and remixer, I wanted to continue that authenticity with my sound selection and creation, making sure that every element and piece I was using to showcase a musical style – whether it be dancehall, reggaeton, etc. – was high quality and made sense aesthetically.
How has the lockdown been for you — personally as well as professionally as a musician working towards putting out releases, cultivating listeners?
This period has been unprecedented in so many ways, both professionally as an artist and personally as a human being. The forced isolation and lack of human contact has definitely helped me learn a lot about myself and what is important to me from a mental health standpoint. Honestly, it’s been a tough few months, as I’m sure it has for many of us, but looking back I’m really thankful for this period because it’s helped me clarify how important it is for me to stay creative in order to stay in a good place mentally and spiritually. At the same time, I’ve also really learned the value of slowing down and taking time for myself. Usually as an artist I’m in such a ‘go go go’ mode, frantically releasing new music and constantly striving to grow and get better and reach more people. I love that hustle, but the lockdown really helped me see the importance of taking a break and check in with yourself to make sure you’re doing ok. I feel like it can be all too easy to distract ourselves with work and productivity and not give enough attention to the parts of ourselves that are in need of our attention and love. So while it’s been hard, I’m grateful and I feel more energized than ever to keep creating music and art that is 100 percent authentic to me, and sharing it with as many people as I can.
The music video is slick. Tell us about the shoot and the idea behind it.
Thank you! Again, I must completely absolve myself from any credit here and give a huge shoutout to my manager Armaan (aka Kahani). He is so much more than a manager – he’s an absolute creative force who is running an incredible platform called Nonresident that is all about showcasing emerging South Asian artists in the west. He also conceptualized, choreographed, produced, directed and edited the whole music video – he has a background in competitive bhangra so I had full trust in him creating an amazing piece of work to go with the song. We had a few brainstorms about how to bring such a cross-cultural record to life in a compelling, visual way that could go viral over social media, and we decided to bring together dancers from a bunch of different cultures – latin salsa, bhangra, hip-hop, and more. The shoot was a blast and seeing so many unbelievably talented dancers and creatives from all corners of the globe getting excited about the track breathed new life into it for me and made me super excited to share it with the world.
Can we look forward to more such collabs in the future? If yes, share details.
My mission from the beginning of my career has been to bring together different cultures in fresh and unexpected ways that get people moving on the dancefloor, but also get them intellectually curious about all the amazing musical heritage that exists in every corner of the globe. That passion remains just as strong today, and especially after this record, I feel like my mind has opened up even more to what is possible creatively when you get the right people together. It’s been a joy working with SAMAA and I definitely plan on working with them again soon. Apart from that, I am also working on a bunch of new original music that is a slightly more underground sound than most of what I’ve released so far. I’ve been taking elements from tons of different cultures, based on my own recent travels to Brazil and Costa Rica, as well as my curiosity for new sounds from places like France, Africa and of course India, and have really been enjoying focusing on making music that I’ve never heard before out of that gumbo. So I’m really looking forward to sharing that – stay tuned.