ShiShi Taps Into Deep and Tech House in New Single
The New York-based DJ/producer borrows from dance and rock music on his latest charitable remix
Indian-American DJ/producer Aasheesh Paliwal aka ShiShi marks every Diwali with a special release. This tradition has been tried and true for the artist since his 2017 debut single “Aarti.” The musician, who has over the years lived in China, Switzerland and the United States, says that “it’s a way for me to pay homage to my Indian culture, and the rich heritage from which I have derived so much of my musical inspiration and technique.”
In the past, ShiShi has fused Indian classical elements with Latin influences on the “Conmigo (Remix)” as well as fused dembow rhythms with dancehall, hip-hop, house, ragas, afro-beat, Cuban salsa and more on his debut 2019 eponymous record. This time around, ShiShi has remixed Grammy Award-winning composer Ricky Kej and rock legend Stewart Copeland’s (The Police) “Art of Devotion” from the collaborators’ recent album Divine Tides. In his rendition of the track, ShiShi combines deep and tech house with the classical Indian instrumentation of the original song. The artist particularly features the sitar and bansuri in the drops, rather than the expected synths or bass, even adding a guitar solo to the coda of “Art of Devotion (ShiShi Remix).” About the song, ShiShi says, “It’s a six-and-a-half-minute voyage through different sounds and textures.”
The New York-based artist, along with Kej, is also partnering with nonprofits Give India and Bhumi NGO to raise money for a year-long talent development program called the Nakshatra Festival. Through this single, ShiShi wants to foster the positive impact of art. “I believe artistic expression is an essential part of healthy human development, and especially for underprivileged children, it can help build their confidence and spark their imaginations so that they can begin to envision a different future for themselves,” he says.
In this interview with Rolling Stone India, ShiShi discusses how this collaboration came to be, why both dance and rock fans are going to enjoy it and what’s next for him. Excerpts:
You’ve remixed a track of Ricky Kej before (“Love Divine”). What was it like collaborating with Ricky and Stewart Copeland this time around?
I always love collaborating with Ricky because he brings deep intentionality and a wealth of cultural knowledge to his music. He works with such talented artists from all over the world who are steeped in their respective musical traditions and are true masters of their craft. Reimagining his music for the dancefloor is always a blast and a privilege. This time around was no different and was particularly special because I also got to work with Stewart Copeland, who is a member of one of my all-time favorite bands — The Police. I aimed to create a dance remix, but to also pay homage to one of my rock and roll heroes by playing a guitar solo on the record. It was an absolute honor.
How did you go about interpreting “Art of Devotion” for your deep house mix? What were you inspired by and what was your creative process with this track like?
When Ricky sent me the original song, I was immediately inspired by the sitar and flute sections. The sitar had an attitude to it that I instantly knew would work for a darker, club record, and the flute was just beautiful. I wanted to create a minimal house track that showcased these elements by not having too much else in the way — a “less is more” approach. When I create dance music, I’m always looking for those “a-ha” moments — moments that will grab a crowd’s attention and get them moving. This remix is like a journey from one “a-ha” moment to the next … From the sitar drop to the flute drop to the guitar solo at the end, it’s a six-and-a-half-minute voyage through different sounds and textures.
How and why do you think your remix of “Art of Devotion” bridges cultural and generational gaps?
This remix combines many standard elements of deep house and tech house with classical Indian instruments and motifs. Right now in dance music, deep house and tech house are having a moment — they are coming out of the underground and are getting played on mainstages all over the world. Creating a record in that lane, that features instruments like the sitar and bansuri flute in the drops, rather than traditional synths or basslines — is something new and unique that is going to introduce dance music audiences to a whole new world of Indian melodies and sounds. On top of that, the guitar solo at the end adds a classic rock element. Rock fans often see the guitar solo as the emotional payoff in a song, while dance music fans consider the drop the emotional payoff. In this track, both happen at the same time, and I feel like that integrates the two genres in a cool and unique way.
What message do you hope people take away from this release?
I would love for fans of house music to hear this and get curious about Indian music, and for fans of classical Indian music to hear this and get inspired to enjoy it in a more dancefloor-oriented context. Since the beginning of my career, a central aim has been to bring seemingly separate worlds together, and that is certainly my intention with this record.
What’s next for you, ShiShi?
I am working on an ambient meditation album, composed of seven tracks rooted in the sound frequencies of the seven chakras. I collaborated with my friend The Copper Vessel, an amazingly talented sound healer based in LA. The album is coming out this December and is designed to be listened to continuously as a daily meditation. In addition to that, I am working on my second studio album, which will be released in March of 2022 on my new record label, CASHIR. I won’t give too much away just now, but I believe that it’s my best work so far, combining dance music with rock, original songwriting and Hindustani classical music. I can’t wait to share it with you all.