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37 South Asian artists share what music means to them

Our guest editor Nabihah Iqbal spoke to a cross-section of artists from the South Asian community about their musical memories and insights

  • Nabihah Iqbal
  • 10 September 2021

Ahadadream

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I'm Ahadadream, a DJ + producer from London born in Pakistan and moved to the UK when I was 13. I make percussion-focussed club music and run a record label called More Time Records. I also started an event series called No ID in 2019 which focuses on spotlighting South Asian DJs / artists playing a range of genres, which is now teaming up with Chalo + Daytimers to put together Dialled In (a South Asian focussed festival with day + night party, roundtables, mentorship programme and more).

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Don't know how to answer this uncheesily ahaha.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Going to under 18 raves when I was 15 and hearing garage + jungle in a club for the first time on a big system.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

LR Groove 'Panic'.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

I would love to see more South Asian radio presenters on BBC Radio 1 and other major radio stations outside of BBC Asian Network. I would love to see many more up and coming artists / DJs inspired to pursue music actively. Would love for festival crowds to be much more diverse in general.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Darama. I love his production style and how it combines the gulliness of bass music with South Asian percussion.

Ambient Babestation Meltdown

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I'm Ambient Babestation Meltdown, a DJ, producer and performance artist. I'm based in London and I'm Anglo-Indian and Burmese. My family are Eurasian people who lived in Myanmar and fled to the UK after the first military coup in the '60s when the Tatmadaw took power. My mum had to renounce her citizenship in order to get a British passport so sadly she's never been home for fear of being arrested for treason.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

I'm not sure that I have much of a life outside music? Haha maybe that's quite sad, but it's where all my money comes from, and inevitably all my spare money goes to. I even got to know my postman over lockdown as he started teasing me about my Discogs habit.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

I used to go to Reading festival aged 16-18 and I remember it being really lawless. Portaloos on fire, Daphne and Celeste getting bottled (actually there was just constant bottle fights in those years) and I'd go mosh or crowd surf in front of the main stage or go watch Aphex Twin in the dance tent. I was looking back at some of the line-ups from 2000-2003 and they were completely ridiculous, I was definitely spoiled by how many great acts I saw.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

My day job is working at Rye Wax in Peckham and it made finding new music so easy as I'd just see what records came into the shop. Because we're sadly still shut, it's harder relying on Bandcamp digging, newsletters like Bandcloud and promos. And it's even harder cos with the all the pressing plant delays you don't know anymore what is a "2021 record" or whether it will be next year. I got sent this incredible Das SPEZIAL promo a few months ago and one of the tracks on that, 'Nyctophile', blew my socks off. But I don't know if it's out or when it's coming out as it's just so hard to find that information sometimes.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

I honestly can't tell you how different things have become in the last ten years to highlight South Asian artists. What would be great would be more promoters wanting to book South Asian artists who don't play Asian inspired music or fit into their idea of what South Asian artists should play.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

DJ Bus Replacement Service probably isn't someone who you would think when you think South/South-East Asian artists. I had her play at Rye Wax some years back and she told me she had some Burmese donk with her and I got really excited and told her I was Burmese and she said "me too!" and we had a little hug haha. Doris is someone who is absolutely pushing the boundaries of what artists can and should be doing. And I find her really inspiring.

[Photo: Emily Rose England]

babyschön

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I’m Safi aka babyschön and I’m a DJ, writer and radio host. I’m currently based between London and Sheffield but I was born in Milton Keynes and have spent the last four years in Leeds. I’m half Kashmiri: my mum is English and my father is a first-generation immigrant from Srinagar.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Dancing is my favourite pastime and I always make CDs for people I fancy/care about so I dunno what I’d do without it!

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Partying at the Events Space in MK Gallery. Each week, the same 20 or so people would gather for a gig, before getting the aux out and dancing to Prince or SOPHIE across the evening. We were lucky to have a really sound and forward-thinking booker in such a dead-end town; he would bring great bands and DJs down from all over. It’s here that I discovered loads of music, formed lasting friendships and had my first real taste of independence

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

I love 'Tectonic' by Tirzah, it’s so sexy!

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

Promoters should look within smaller, local scenes because there’s loads of exciting South Asian artists there. Book us if you like the tunes (and not just to fill your diversity quota!), implement rigid safer spaces policies and work with trained, anti-racist staff.

Also, don’t get our names wrong or assume we all play the same stuff: being a DJ of South Asian descent doesn’t mean we all play Bhangra!

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Jameela for the spicy club pumpers and Queenie for the hard-hitting industrial and jungle. Both are big players in the Leeds scene and have 10/10 tunes.

Bobby Friction

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I'm Bobby Friction, ex-Radio 1 DJ (presented on the legendary BOBBY FRICTION & NIHAL PRESENTS show in the noughties) now on BBC ASIAN NETWORK (for over 15 years) presenting a Global South Asian Music show & BBC Music Introducing. I'm based in London & Birmingham & I'm the son of Sikh parents from India who were originally from Lahore, Pakistan, before partition.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music is the Universal language of our species, the only true religion & the one thing that stops me from dissolving & leaving this dimension.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Being at one ofthose original Daytimer parties at the Empire in Leicester Square watching a Bhangra band Heera play live on stage whilst nearly a thousand young British Asians danced & had the best time of their lives

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Jaubi 'Satanic Nafs' (The Gaslamp Killer & Mophono Remix)

It makes me cry when I hear it as it sounds like God speaking through sonics.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

The entire music Industry needs to put on trial & eviscerated for the way they've treated South Asian musicians and others. White subconscious supremacy is the fuel that keeps the engine turning & quite simply the industry is not there to represent what's actually happening in Britain. The white men who run the industry all want to be black (as long as they can keep real Black people at arms length) and don't even think Brown people should be making music.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Please check out Prabh Deep, a rapper from India (on the brilliant Azadi Records label) who is creating music like nobody else. Part hip hop, part jazz, part trap + very freeform & electronic too. He's a Psychedelic Rap God for the 21st century & his lifetime of remarkable experiences on the mean streets of Delhi inform everything he does & he makes some of the most amazing music in the world today.

Chippy Nonstop

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

Toronto, Indian.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

It's my entire life, I don't think about anything else.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

It's cliché for a South Asian person, but the first time I heard M.I.A.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

'Straight to Hell' Chippy Nonstop & dj Genderfluid.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

I would like to see all marginalized people supported and on bigger line-ups and accepted as they are and not pigeonholed.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

DJ PAYPAL, Yung Raj and everyone on this line-up.

Chloé Robinson

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

Hiya! I’m Chloé Robinson and I’m a producer/ DJ based in London. I’m half Pakistani.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music can trigger and heal any emotion, also coinciding with providing euphoric experiences with others, so for me it’s a very fun and positive form of therapy.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Bonding with my Mum over UK garage music. She introduced me to it and it’s one stand out thing we had in common whilst growing up. I’d jump out the car and run in to record stores to buy garage compilations to play whilst we drove places and I’d come home from school and we’d bang out the so solid crew album repeatedly most evenings!

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

2021 is the year I started learning how to produce so I’m going to pick a track I made with my friend Alex (DJ ADHD) called ‘Pax’.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

I don’t feel like South Asian artists are highlighted and celebrated as much as they should be. In many South Asian cultures a career in music isn’t best desired by families, however it would be great to change this narrative!

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Chippy Nonstop.

[Photo: Alex Nicholson]

Darama

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

Hi my name is Darama, I’m part of the Daytimers collective and I’m a producer and DJ based in East London. I mainly play and make percussive club music drawing influence from traditional South Asian artists as well as UK rave culture with genres like UK funky, garage, breaks etc. My family originate from Punjab.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music to me is a very educational experience, I feel like I learn something new everytime I listen to or make something; it also gives me a strong sense of identity.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

I was at school when LimeWire was still the main source of finding music along with some other websites if you were kind of in the know. There always seemed to be a competition on who had the latest or unheard track by whichever artist was big at the time, people were quite careful about telling people where they got them from and I wasn’t really one of the kids who had the best source.

I remember going to this fair where you could sign up to different clubs/groups and there was a stall for this DJ club or workshop that I went to look at. One of the kids in my year turned to me and said I wouldn’t make a good DJ because I didn’t know enough about music. Being quite an insecure teenager that put me off, so I left it and didn’t really think about it until I got into electronic music at university and started DJing. From there that memory kind of stuck with me, guess it’s funny how things come full circle.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Ahadadream, Moonshine 'Woah'.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

I think it’s time for labels, promoters and organisers to put their money where their mouth is and book more diverse line-ups. This goes across all marginalised communities; I’ve seen a lot of diversity statements and commitments but not much change on the line-up posters themselves. I actually think this issue is a lot simpler than some people make it, if you don't think you can find a South Asian artist to suit your brand or event then honestly you aren't looking hard enough.

I think groups like Daytimers have shown we can more than hold our own and it’s time we start seeing this representation replicated across the board as that’ll lead to more inspiration in the next generation of South Asian artists. If I had seen more of this when I was younger I think it would have made a huge difference.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

So many I could name, the main ones I’ve been enjoying at the moment are: Yourboykiran, Ayesha, Saadaan, Riva, Saachi, Gracie T, DJ Priya, Sita, Mera Bhai, Surya Sen, Somatic.

[Photo: Nadia Patel]

Dar Disku

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

V: Hi I’m Vish , 1/2 of Dar Disku records. We’re based between the UK and Bahrain. I was born in the coastal city of Mumbai, India. My family has roots from West Bengal as well.

M: I’m Maz, the other half of Dar Disku, based in the South-West of the UK and originally from Bahrain. Although not South Asian, Bahrain’s culture, food and even language is so heavy influenced by SA culture that I ultimately see myself as deeply influenced by the region's rich heritage

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

M: Music is the great collective consciousness, the hive bosom, the human anthology that makes us realize how alike we all are. It invites us to dance together and holds us like a big fuzzy dancefloor boogie mother.

V: The human creation, expression, understanding and receipt of sonic frequencies.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

V: Seeing Prince live in Sweden in 2011 with my best friends from Bahrain. It was our first holiday outside of Bahrain and personally, my first without my parents. It was an unorthodox coming of age experience that cemented my love for music. Most of our friends went to Cyprus or Magaluf but a small group of us travelled all around Sweden and ended up at Way Out West festival in Gothenburg where Prince closed the night with a nonstop set full of energy. I had been on a diet of energy drinks and Lion chocolate bars for two days as I ran out of cash and was standing on my last legs. There were people of all backgrounds and ages standing together in harmony and the most lucid moment of the set was when he played 'Purple Rain' and the heavens opened. You couldn’t make it up. There was purple confetti in the air and I was locked arms with all of my friends and people were crying all around.

M: I remember being 14 and going to my first underground gig in Bahrain just below an unassuming side street in a residential neighbourhood. After navigating a narrow steep staircase into a basement, inside there were hundreds of long haired bearded, tattooed and pierced metal heads in a a single low ceiling room painted wild with a dark hue of red and blue lighting, cigarette smoke and the most raw thundering sounds of drums and guitars thrashing away. I remember feeling the rumble deep within my chest and being blown away by that hypnotizing rumble emerging from an unapologetic beacon of amps, drums and flailing limbs. Until this day, Bahrain has a strong rock and metal community made up of primarily talented and passionate young Bahrainis and South Asians, it’s a place where everyone’s welcome and taught me my first lesson about music, inclusion and community.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

V: A very very difficult question. Probably 'Alba' by Bayete on their native dance release. Needs to be added into the dictionary under the definition of banger.

M: Tough one, but a track that caught me from first listen and I continue to listen to a somewhat unhealthy amount is 'Gnawa' by Polocorp and The Atlas Collective

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

M: I think it’s key to support communities in creating their own platforms and spaces rather than booking acts as ‘world music acts’ or gimmicky leftfield artists to spice up a line-up. I think it’s all about honest representation and letting people take the wheel and ultimately have full ownership over their voices and how they’re portrayed.

V: Several. A more honest approach by bookers and promoters by looking at underrepresented groups and implementing policies which require a balanced line-up. Submitting diversity reports and really committing to the administrative hurdles that may come along with booking such artists to name a few.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

V: Sakshi Hingorani is one of my favourite selectors from Mumbai and also 'Space Jams' from the Milkman crew in Bombay.

[Photo: Flaneur Company]

DEBONAIR

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

DEBONAIR / London / Bengali-Indian

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Joy, community, liberation.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

I went to Glastonbury as my first festival at 16 with a crew I didn't know super well from my hometown of Leamington Spa. We got to experience Squarepusher in the Glade, Love with Arthur Lee, Mogwai, Asian Dub Foundation, The Beta Band over bacon butties, and I got so overwhelmed watching Radiohead on the Saturday night that I passed out and they all missed it so they could look after me..! I was deliriously happy throughout and came back musically enriched and with so much love for everyone that I'd shared that with - many of whom I still consider to be family today <3

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

LAITR 'Tend'.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

The industry needs to do an infinitely better job of integrating South Asian artists into the wider scene rather than coming to South Asian artists with preconceived notions and keeping them quite separate. I definitely had many, many years of people assuming what I'd play from how I looked rather than actually checking out my sound - both race and gender played into this. Daytimers and No ID especially are doing an incredible job of challenging perceptions and creating strength and support for themselves, but it's been proven time and time again that these artists are skilled and their music has a broad appeal beyond their immediate community - it's high time the industry caught up.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Acolytes is dope, he's been operating in the experimental and noise music scene for years and is constantly evolving his sound. I've experienced multiple mind-bending live sets from him - definitely one to explore.

[Photo: La Mimi and Dominic]

DJ Priya

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

My name is Priya, I DJ under DJ Priya and I'm based in Brighton/London, I am Indian

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music was always playing in our house growing up, every memory I have there was music playing so it makes me happy, brings me joy, music can fix any mood I'm in, and sometimes helps me express myself when I am unable to!

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Growing up I was more into rock music, I was always at concerts and that's helped shape me into the person I am today, I got backstage a few times too and met most of my favourite artists! All of these moments have led me to where I am now

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

One track that I've been loving at the moment is 'Dip' by Stefflon Don and Ms Banks, when I heard it for the first time I was mind-blown, it's a fun one to include in my mixes aswell!

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

I'd like to see more South Asian artists get booked on line-ups that they haven't had to curate themselves, especially LGBTQ+ South Asians, non-binary South Asians, pages like The Beatriachy and Daytimers are great places for promoters to look for new talent

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

DJ Gracie T is hands down one of the best DJs I have come across, I guested on her show a year ago and got mixed out of the water but that motivated me to work harder! A year later she is one of my best friends and has gone viral for her Boiler Room set. If you haven't checked her out already you definitely need to!

DJ Ritu

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I’m a London- born & based DJ, event & club producer, and broadcaster (former-BBC Radio/Kiss 100). My roots are in India, and musically I’ve always been something of a chameleon!

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music is my passion, and I believe, a vibrant tool for communication, joy, and contemplation.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Seeing Stevie Wonder live in concert at Wembley Arena.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

‘Bade Zile’ by Haitian band Lakou Mizik, remixed by Joseph Ray.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

More inclusivity and recognition of the fact that we also have diverse musical tastes/ability and expertise across a multitude of genres.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Sassy, soul singing legend, Usha Utap!

[Photo: Tabitha Benjamin]

Dynoman

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I am a DJ, music producer, sound artist, SFX designer and work in audio related work for games, TV and film. My work includes producing and DJing music, dialog editing, making background music, making original sound effects and working with sound libraries, Foley work, quality assurance for games and assisting in game production. I am currently based in Brooklyn, New York and my South Asian heritage is that I was born and raised in Pakistan. I have spent all my youth and the beginnings of my young adult life in Karachi, the port city metropolis of Pakistan colloquially known as "The City of Lights''.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

For me, music is a cathartic life force, which will and has always been a defining, pivotal aspect of who I am.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

I will always remember performing with my now defunct band, fuSh, at a battle of the bands competition held in Pakistan by a leading TV network. We were in the 10th grade at the time and performed our original songs. The experience of visiting a large sound stage recording space, practicing in the green room before our turn and performing in front of the TV cameras was thrilling. We were also able to get a decent amount of votes!

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

There is just so much amazing music coming out this year and it's hard to choose just one! However, one of my favorites from the year is 'Vula Mlomo' by Musa Keys featuring Sir Trill & Nobantu Vilakazi.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

Yes absolutely! I would love to see more South Asian representation at festivals, more South Asian artists on compilations, more South Asian artists highlighted in the mainstream magazines, and less tokenization of South Asian artists. Currently I am working on something with Zara Dekho here in Brooklyn to tackle some of these issues, so stay tuned for that!

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

I would recommend the entire Daytimers community, I absolutely love everything that they are doing for the community and diaspora and hope to see them continue to flourish in their endeavors for elevating South Asian artists and South Asian causes.

Gracie T

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

My name is Gracie T, I'm a DJ, creative & school teacher from Teesside, currently based in Sheffield. My heritage is Sri Lankan Malaysian and white British.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

To me, music means sharing pure joy and love with my family in the dance.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Just before my teenage years, one of my pivotal moments was my first musical performance playing the drum kit at the age of 10. The adrenaline rush of hitting every note perfectly as I'd practised for months was addictive and I've continued to chase that feeling whether that be behind a drum kit or DJ decks.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

My favourite track of 2021 has to be 'Pani Puri Pirates' by yourboykiran and Chandé from 'Daytimers 002' - Chandé dropped it in our Boiler Room and you can see why it deserved a three person wheel up!

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

I need to see the music industry supporting my queer South Asian family more, specifically our trans fam who are not being provided with the opportunities they deserve. It's not enough for collectives like Daytimers to be raising queer SA artists up, we need to see this across the industry.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Check out DJ Priya, one of the kindest, most talented and interesting artists out there at the moment - I'm proud to call her my sister and you can catch us b2b at Body Movements Festival next month!

Haider Uppal

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I'm a producer & DJ making different shades of house, deep house and techno. I just turned 23 and am currently based in Lahore, Pakistan, which is my birth home.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Creating inspiration around me is the driving force in my life.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

When I started DJing as a kid, my parents grounded me from playing nights at raves back home. Today, I admit to them that these circumstances helped me find the love for creating my own music.

(They totally approve of what I do as long as I continue my higher education).

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Aleksandir 'Skin & Mind' (Tom VR Blossoming Arp Mix)

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

More international festival placements in the future would be key!

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

SAQIB, a Pakistani DJ / Producer living in New York. He's a DJ I've heard growing up and is a close musical collaborator.

Imran Perretta & Paul Purgas

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Emancipation.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

IP: Going to DMZ for the first time. The bass was unforgettable.

PP: Jeff Mills playing on three decks at HMV in Bristol city centre and blowing all the speakers.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

We’ve been listening to ‘Emily lights us moor’ by Aya (ft Iceboy Violet) which just came out on Hyperdub. It’s phenomenal.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

We want an industry that prioritises horizontality and inclusivity so that all can participate and feel lifted, including, but not limited to, South Asian artists whose collective contribution to the UK music scene has been greatly overlooked.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Raheel Khan is a sound artist and DJ based in Manchester that is doing some really interesting work. His practice sits somewhere between experimental music, conceptual art and collective action and we’re both excited to hear what he puts out next.

Jitwam

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

jitwam.
artist.
indian.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

music … is a feeling…
music … is a connection.
a means to converse with your ancestors.

music... is the rhythm.
music... is the joy that sound can bring
music… is the interconnectedness of all things.
music is.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

getting handed copies of the doors, and the velvet underground from my 8th grade economics teacher. writing tunes on cool edit pro with a guitar and zoom 707. dreaming melodies that have never been heard since.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

joints u won’t hear till 2023.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

i don’t really care about the music industry, it hasn’t ever done nothin’ for me.
i enjoy the connection with people
with people that listen to the music
and u can definitely tell when a south azn diggs the music!!!
they the most supportive, joyful and positive crowds to play to…

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

so many... Sid Vashi, Slowspin, Nate08, Modular Princess, UJJY… but most importantly your friend of a friend that’s making beats in the basement, or cooking you that bomb ass dosa with that fire sambar. they the ones that got that real heat.

Joy Crookes

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I’m Joy Crookes and I’m an artist from London. My mother is Bangladeshi and my father is Irish.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music is a language everyone can understand.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

A key musical memory was when I was in year 6. I was introduced to jazz and blues by a workshop that came to my school and I was so excited to sing something that wasn’t a hymn. I was besotted by the way the teacher played the piano and the lyrical content of the songs we learnt.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

'UMI' by Mos Def.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

HR in music and holding people accountable more often.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Manara.

Joy Crookes debut album 'Skin' is out October 15

Jyoty

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

Hi! I'm Jyoty, from Amsterdam but been in London for 9 years now, I'm Punjabi Indian and I guess I'm a curator!

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

My very first email address ever was 'musicismylife11@...' - so I guess that's your answer haha.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

I was deffo a 'me against the world' type of stoner/loner (with a lot of friends lol) who definitely thought nobody understood or felt music like I did so I used to go to concerts every single week and often alone to feel understood/good. Key musical memories were deffo all the times I cried or almost cried at live gigs: Erykah Badu, The Pharcyde, Anthony Hamilton, N.E.R.D., Raphael Saadiq, Common, Buraka Som Sistema are a few off the top of my head. These were all moments where I either saw true showmanship (I'd add D'angelo and Prince and A LOT MORE but those weren't officially in my teens haha) or just had an out-of-body experience.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Definitely RSCO 'Piano Ting'. The soundsystem + crowds explode when I play that song. And also the tunes I've been making and sneaking into my DJ sets.....

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

In lockdown a HUGE shift happened within the creative field (here in the UK), I think this happened because of an explosion of anger and disappointment from so many SA people in the industry combined with some actions being taken (from the likes of NO ID gang, Daytimers and more). What I would like moving forward is for this to continue to grow but without it always needing the 'SA narrative'. And not always championed/carried out BY SA people. Would be nice to see a slow and steady shift into it becoming 'normal'. I don't know if I'm making sense but I would love for South Asian creatives to be recognised without having to live up to any expectation regarding their ethnicity.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

I'm going to cheat because there's too many, I'd say keep your eyes on collectives and platforms such as: Boxout FM, NO ID, No Nazar, Daytimers, Diet Paratha and see who they talk about.

Korzi

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

My name is Korzi, I’m of Bangladeshi heritage and I’m currently based in Manchester. I co-run the record label and club night Left, Right & Centre amongst many other happenings in the city but I’m most proud of being a producer.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

It means freedom to have fun and make bangers for my mates, especially ones to play at Chris Gormley’s gaff.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Honestly, in my early teenage years I was quite reclusive so my exposure to music around then was just digging on YouTube and bouncing tunes between friends. A key moment for me was discovering the darker UK side of dubstep and that rabbit whole has led to what shaped me into Korzi. If I was to be even more specific it may have been seeing Benton at The Rainbow in Birmingham, where I grew up. This was in my later teenage years and if it wasn’t for that party I think my life would be very different now.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Korzi 'Basmati Bandit'.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

I’d like to see more authenticity over jumping on a wave. Beyond the constraints of the commodity of marketing, there needs to be genuine and conscious change rather than a backdated approach so I want to see schemes such as mentorships for emerging South Asian artists which includes access to spaces (whatever form that may take) and allows people to develop. On a wider issue, this needs to be societal not just for the glorification of bookers and promoters.

It would be great to see more research of a sound beyond an artist's profile, from live streams to free parties to stadiums, as it’s all synchronised. No one is better than another, but underground club cultures that are definitive of itself and of a safe space means that it’s not just who you’re booking but people on the door, bar, artist liaisons, DJs, teams and ravers, must all have a shared common goal that these spaces need to be made in the favour of people rather than in favour of an ego or a collective that it might appease.

Also, I am glad to see these questions are being asked but a big part of me feels like why only now? We must look forward and not let this be a topic breezed over by making sure this has a framework of longevity.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

There's probably people I’ll miss out on this question simply because I don’t tend to find out what background an artist has until I meet them but someone who I really rate at the moment in Manchester is Tee from the Trax Haven crew. He recently invited me down to BAL Radio in Sheffield which was great fun and a station that focuses on pushing artists from South Asian backgrounds.

LA.MIMI

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

LA.MIMI (they/them) is my artist name and I'm a Pakistani, non-binary interdisciplinary artist. I sing, write and produce and I'm also a visual and performance artist, striving to blend each art form in to one immersive audio-visual experience. I'm currently based in Karachi, but I'm heading over to Colombia very soon for a few months for an Artist Residency.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music for me is essentially a tool to heal and strengthen spiritual connection with myself and my higher power.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

I never imagined to be making music! I had given up on my dream of singing because I didn't think I had it in me, but I remember how listening to music, especially Pink Floyd and Radiohead got through some of the toughest times during my adolescent years.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Uliya 'Ocean' (feat. Xav A.).

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

More trans and queer representation within the South Asian community!

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Simha, they just put out a new track called 'Gravity'.

[Photo: Saad Choudry]

Manara

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

London - Pakistani.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Total freedom.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

When I was 14 my brother found I’d started incorporating alternative music into my usually R&B heavy playlists so he punched my arm and told me I was a sell out for forgetting about garage and R&B. I hadn’t forgotten but that punch was much needed.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Anything by pinkpantheress.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

There are many desi artists from desi scenes making desi music who have existed within the mainstream and underground but have not gotten the recognition they deserve because they don’t exist in white adjacent spaces.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Mirza is making the best desi remixes and edits right now!

Manuka Honey

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I’m Manuka Honey, also known as Marissa Malik. I’m a London based astrologer and tarot reader alongside being a DJ and music producer. I’m of mixed Mexican and Pakistani heritage.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music is how I make sense of the world, and vessel for translating the passion that exists within me.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Singing reggaeton classics in the car with my mum on the way to Zumba class.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

'PAKATA' Darell & El Alfa.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

It’s hard to pick from the multitude of changes I’d still like to see happen. One I am specifically passionate about is that people book South Asians for their parties/events with their primary motivations being our talent, sound, and outputs as artists rather than just trying to fix a “lack of diversity” on their line-up.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

DJ Priya (@deejaypri).

My Panda Shall Fly

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

Suren Seneviratne, 35, male. Born in Kandy, Sri Lanka and raised in London, England.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

A universal love language.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Undoubtedly it was exposure to UK grage pirate radio, paving the way to grime and dubstep thereafter.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Currency Audio 'Modus Choperandi'.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

Celebrate our diversity. We come in all flavours, shapes and sizes. Put us on your front covers, billboards and main stages.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

The great 'Bedouin Ascent' is very underrated. Go devour his entire discography!

[Photo: Jack Brigland]

NAINA

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I'm NAINA and I'm based in South-East London. I'm a DJ, radio presenter and label owner. I broadcast across Apple Music 1, NTS and Reprezent Radio. I run a record label called Hooversound with SHERELLE, and I'm also part of No ID and Dialled with a bunch of legends, which focuses on spotlighting South Asian talent.

I am Hindu Punjabi, born here in the UK. Both my parents met in this country, but they were both born in Africa. Mum in Uganda, Dad in Kenya. My mum came to this country pretty young and grew up in Croydon, whereas my dad came to this country a young adult.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

One sentence! That's tough.

It's the soundtrack to my life, specific memories, feelings, certain chapters all revolves around music...that's how important it is, first thing I do in the morning is turn the radio on, its a central part of my daily routine...it's shaped who am I am, why am this way, how I feel and what I do for a living.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

I remember when I was really really young.. I stole a CD from my sister. It was 'Tragic Kingdom' by No Doubt. I listened to it on repeat and fell in love. I started to listen to more bands and it opened up my ears to all genres. Dance, pop, hip hop, R&B...I wanted to hear it all. That was a big moment. I also remember going to my first ever festival, my sister convinced my mum to let her take me to Reading Festival when I was 15 years old. That was a key memory because I realised I wanted to do this forever, and somehow work in music when I was older. Also I got to see Yeah Yeah Yeahs and I was gassed. All of that intertwined with my obsession for radio definitely help shape my musical journey.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Gonna be bias here and say Tim Reaper's remix of Special Requests 'Pull Up' that we released on Hoover at the beginning of the year. It still slaps and it's great to see Tim killing it this year, and it was a privilege to work with a legend like Paul. Prayer's release is also my favourite. So glad we could get him on the label.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

So all these things popping up, NO ID, Chalo, Juice Droplet, Daytimers ....all these things that exist now need to keep momentum, keep growing and making noise. It cannot be another wave of something "cool" or a "moment" that passes like a fashionable trend. Being part of these collectives shows me how similar we all feel in that sense, so we need to continue to make change and break down barriers. It's 2021 and we cannot be pigeonholed or ignored. I want to see more labels, club nights, artist managers, A&Rs that are South Asian. It goes all the way to the top. Theres a lot of DJs and artists to shout about, but why aren't there more club owners/ festival programmers/ magazine editors that are South Asian? This is what we need to be speaking about and challenging.

I'd like to see a lot of change still, this is literally the beginning. I was surprised at how little coverage I saw from platforms regarding South Asian Heritage month. These things need to change, and not simply be "accepted as the norm" or "just how it is".

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

We've put together a wicked line up for Dialled In. If you check out the poster, it's a stacked line up of South Asian talent. I personally am a big fan or Hira, Nayana IZ and Mera Bhai. DJs, Manara is one of my favourites and the entire Daytimers crew are killing it. Big up them.

Nikki Nair

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I’m a DJ and producer based in Atlanta. I was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. My parents are both from Mumbai and our family is from Kerala.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Definitely not - if I could do this I’m not sure if I’d be so obsessed with it.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

When I was a teenager, I would repeatedly join a band or start a band, and then make it through maybe one gig before getting grounded by my parents (and of course kicked out of the band). So, I wanted to make music but was usually stuck at home on my own. I remember during one of these periods of being grounded when I was maybe 12 or 13, I discovered that I could multitrack myself with two tape recorders and make songs that way. That changed everything for me.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Mr. Mitch 'In The Hills'. I’ve been into it since I first heard it. I can’t tell you why I like it so much, but it makes me happy.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

My answer is maybe not specific to South Asians, and more about general diversity, which I think benefits South Asian artists immensely.

It seems like there’s now an effort in the music industry to push for diverse line-ups. But I think it’s just as important to search for ways to make audiences more diverse too - I think the price of events often segregates audiences. So, lowering ticket prices might be a very simple way to make events more inclusive. One way to lower ticket prices is to simply book fewer artists on big events, or have line-ups that are not all huge headliners.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

There are so many. At the moment, I'll say Ayesha.

[Photo: Ian Flannery]

Niomí

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I’m Niomí, an artist and producer based in London. I’m half Irish and half Pakistani.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music helps me express what I can’t with words.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

I remember pestering my dad to order me M.I.A’s debut album ‘Arular’ off Amazon after seeing her music video for ‘Galang’ on MTV Bass. She was the first person who looked like me that I’d ever seen making music, and I was obsessed!

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

I’ve had ‘Gold’ from Mereba on repeat since her EP dropped.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

Less stereotyping! I’ve been asked to consider adding sitar or tabla into my music to suit my ‘image’. It’s tiring!

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Some artists I love are Raveena and Priya Ragu and Nabihah Iqbal mixes are always a dream!

Noudle

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

My name is Nadia Chopra, known as ‘Noudle’ in the music industry, a 25-year-old sound engineer, DJ and radio host from London, UK. My grandparents immigrated to the UK in the 1950s from Punjab, India. Both my parents are born in this country, however, growing up they always made sure to educate me on my Indian heritage including food, culture and of course music.

I work as a full-time Freelance Sound Engineer and DJ, and for the past four years, I've been involved with companies including Boiler Room, Defected Records, Rinse FM, Nike and PUMA, and also host radio shows each month on Noods Radio and Worldwide FM. I've also been running my club night ‘Lucidé’ since 2018 where we combine club culture with live music and support our creative community through DJ competitions, where we also run a monthly radio show on Whynow Radio and always highlight upcoming artists and DJ’s. In addition to this, I started my YouTube channel ‘Noudle Sound’ in April 2020 educating others on life as a sound engineer. One highlight of my DJ career so far is when I performed at Lost Village Festival in 2019 in the Dishoom tent for Ahadadream’s ‘No ID’ event, showcasing South Asian talent with an all South Asian lineup, it was such an honour to play for such a special event. My DJ style and sound include deep house, garage, funk & soul, disco and jazz, all of which were huge influences on my love of music growing up. My parents were always playing their favourite funk & soul, disco and garage records around the house which impacted how much I loved music throughout my younger years.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music to me really is a feeling, it’s a transportation of memories attached to a particular song and a way to express yourself in one of the most creative ways, and these are the feelings I always aim to translate to the audience when DJing or playing songs on my radio shows.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

One of the most significant musical memories that stands out to me is when I decided to work in the music industry as a sound engineer. I always knew from as young as four that I wanted to be a performer, and so making this shift to work in a more technical role took some time to build. My mum had sent me to music tech summer courses throughout my teenage years as I was keen on keeping up with my studies during the holidays. I met other teenagers and learnt I had the same inspirations as them, where I loved learning the electrical and technical side of the music industry and how to use DAW programmes such as Reason, Logic and Pro Tools.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

A song I discovered this year is one I have been obsessed with is Mr. Ho and Mogwaa's 'Bali-E’. I heard the song while watching Peggy Gou’s live set in South Korea on the Wolmi Sea Train, and fell in love with the way the track builds through punchy drums, synths and vocal samples throughout. I always try to slip this into my sets, it’s definitely one of those tracks I would close my eyes and vibe out to on a dancefloor!

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

When I first started DJing in the music industry six years ago, I couldn’t see many other South Asian DJ’s on line-ups. It wasn’t obvious to me that the underground scene was making an effort to put South Asian artists on the line-ups and platforms that they deserved. However, South Asian artists such as Ahadadream, Nabihah Iqbal and Jyoty have been on the scene for years, shouting about our heritage and making a significant impact in the music industry. I was so inspired to see the recent Daytimers Boiler Room with Yung Singh and a full South Asian line-up showcasing our heritage and introducing the UK and Punjabi sound to the audience. I felt so proud at this moment to be Punjabi, it was such a pivotal moment in making a change for the South Asian community in the music industry.

London’s Dialled In festival this year is one of the major steps forward for our community to have the platform it deserves, showcasing an all South Asian line-up, introducing not only our heritage but talent and skill in all genres of music. It needs to be highlighted that just because we are South Asian artists and DJ’s, it doesn’t mean we only play music from our heritage backgrounds. Most South Asians in the UK have been influenced by garage, house, R&B and dubstep in their younger years and actually many Indian, Punjabi songs used and still use garage and R&B beats mixed with our Punjabi music to blend the cultures together. Music really is instilled in us from a young age as our culture is surrounded by it, at weddings, religious ceremonies, and Bollywood films.

In our heritage, working as a DJ in the music industry or something creative is not always seen by our elders as a ‘real job’ or ‘sustainable’, and so for many of us pursuing these careers, we have had to step out of the norm and push for what we believe in. We are stepping out to make these changes to hopefully inspire other South Asians to have the confidence to do the same.

It’s essential that all parts of the music industry recognise us to be equals and just as much a part of the music industry as any other culture, creating diverse line-ups, workforces and also taking on more South Asian crew for those of us who also work in the more background roles. It should also be highlighted that those of us South Asians who have been working in the music industry have been making a difference to create a bigger impact on changing the traditions and moving forward to incorporate our heritage with our love for music and enriching our culture.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

One of my favourite South Asian DJ’s and has been for some time now is Arthi. In 2019, Arthi entered our 'Lucidé' competition and won! It was the first event she'd ever played, and the first time I heard her sound. She’s smashing it in her music career and is also a very sick dancer and choreographer!

Otto Hashmi

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

My name is Otto Hashmi. I’m a solo artist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. I work with sounds from a variety of disciplines, creating something new. I'm currently based between Camden and Islington, grew up in Cricklewood, born in Hammersmith. Some sort of West-to-North London pipeline going on there...

I have Indian heritage through my paternal grandfather, an Urdu speaking Muslim who was born in Hyderabad and raised by his mother before coming to the UK to study and eventually become a teacher.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

I am the worst person to ask this question, I deep these things way too much! To me, the question itself is more interesting than any answer I could give – I don’t think I could even really define ‘music’ for you, let alone what it means to me. Whatever it is, it has been a life-long obsession.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

I was always over in Berlin as a teenager staying with my uncle Aziz, himself a DJ. Being exposed to the cool sounds going on over there from sneaking into clubs and bars meant that my path into dance music was quite different to other Brits. Techno is definitely where my heart lies – the darker and more industrial the better. I’m only just getting my head around the concept of British rave culture now.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

‘Los Pollos Hermanos’ by Knucks. I have so much love for UK drill production but haven’t felt that excited by anything I’ve heard for over a year now, I've been bracing for it to fall off completely. This track really reaffirmed my faith that the sound can continue to evolve and represent broader aspects of the times we’re living in. Whilst I think the stories of gang culture and what's happening in London deserve to be presented objectively, it’s a great thing to see the sound evolve beyond that musically. Knucks is from NW as well so that’s another plus for me.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

It feels like there’s has been a massive boom for South Asian artists recently, especially in the COVID era. I’ve worked ‘in the industry’ at varying levels for a couple of years, but I've got a lot more to learn before I really understand what needs to be done to open it up. It’s ruthless, that’s for sure.

I worry that small artists are being pushed towards playlist-orientated musical composition and social-media gimmicks that will only leave us with less exciting sounds in the long term. Art should be about more than figures and profits, I want music that expands horizons and demands an emotive response, positive or negative. We need more room to take risks.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

I absolutely love the work of Mridangam player T S Nandakumar. 99% of the time ‘fusion’ is just code for applying elements of South Asian music onto the template of Western popular music. With his work, he has inversely taken a backbone of Carnatic music and applied elements of electronic and popular music on top. It’s so refreshing to hear. The track ‘Evolution’ from his album 'Vibrative Rhythms' is a standout for me.

Pathaan

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

My artist name is Pathaan, I’m of British-born Pakistani heritage and I'm based in London.

I started moonlighting as a DJ back in the 90s while working at United Airlines. I was heard by David Bowie at Anokha, the legendary Asian Underground club that was on a Monday night at the world-renowned Blue Note. A few months later, he asked me to be his warm-up DJ for 16 gigs around the UK and Italy. The year was 1997 and from then, I dived into the world of music, setting up Stoned Asia Music, writing for DJ Mag, and soundscaping sunsets on the White Isle with my eclectic, exotic electronic sound taking residence for 2 seasons.

Over the years I released 15+ compilation and mix CDs, had a specialist music show on the BBC for four years and toured the world. Currently, I'm the Head Music Consultant for Hakkasan Group and other like-minded brands.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

'Music for me is proof of the existence of God'.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Being the only Asian Mod in Ealing, West London, and listening to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for the first time.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Such a tough question to answer. Favourite tracks present themselves every day due to the volume of music I listen to. One of the standout tracks has to be a new addition to the Bicep Deluxe album, 'MELI (I)'.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

For far too long, South Asian artists have been seen and perceived as a specialist genre by the majority. This is due to the narrative that the media and press have used to categorise them. But as the world has shrunk due to the internet and migration, South Asian artists should be talked about in the same breath as everyone else and showcased on daytime radio, TV and press.

There shouldn’t be any distinction depending on where you’re from!

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

UK-based Daytimers crew are making a big noise!

Provhat

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

My name is Provhat Rahman, I'm the founder of the Daytimers collective, a platform aimed at spotlighting and supporting South Asian artistry. I'm based in London and my heritage is Bangladeshi.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

This is tricky because it's really a two-sided thing for me. It's an incredible support system which I have found a lot of solace in through difficult times, whilst also being something I feel some kind of resent towards due to not being able to share any of what I do in music with my parents. This is due to the religious stigma surrounding music that is contained within certain Islamic households.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

I think picking up the guitar and discovering Nile Rodgers. I became completely obsessed with his signature style of playing funk and disco, as well as just him as an artist and all the incredible records he's touched. Learning all the Chic tunes, including the Bernard Edwards bass lines taught me so much about rhythm and groove and introduced me to a lot of great music through all the artists who have sampled tracks from that era.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

'Karen Nyame KG' by Koko ft. Mista Silva.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

Less tokenism and more genuine care in wanting to tell people's stories and showcase our talents. Elijah is a brilliant example of this, he's someone who has been so incredibly supportive of what we've done with Daytimers, and was generous enough to book us to take over Room 2 at fabric. This is something so many of us could only dream of even six months ago, yet he's someone that has spotted the incredible talents of DJ's like Yung Singh whilst noticing parallels in the way they both bring up their own communities. His full faith in us to undertake such an amazing opportunity is what we need more of.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

I've been really enjoying Baalti's work, coming out of San Francisco, weaving South Asian samples into nostalgic sounding house and disco.

Riva

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

My name is Riva, I'm a DJ, promoter based in London, and I'm part of the internal team of Daytimers. Daytimers is a creative platform that champions South Asian artistry. I'm British-Indian and grew up in the Middle East before moving to Hong Kong and finally settling in the UK.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music is where I feel free, emancipated and is my platform to protest.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Growing up, music was my main portal for self-discovery, growth and enrichment. I played the clarinet and was part of a big orchestra for many years, so classical music and jazz were big parts of my experience. At home, my mum would play South Asian and Arabic music. My dad would show me music from the West that I often didn't have access to such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Dire Straits, and other artists. As music moved online, I was able to discover the electronic scene - something that was almost my gateway to the West and counter cultures. I would listen to the likes of DJ Koze and Patrick Cowley.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

'I Wanna Be Like You' by Hammer.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

Something I've recently noticed - something that applies to all POCs - is that promoters and venues need to seriously sort themselves out. It is hurtful, disappointing and frankly insulting to see venues, artists and promoters write diversity statements outlining their commitments to "genuine" change and then still proceed with non-diverse line-ups, some with no non-males even! To commoditise a very important movement for likes on a post or to improve your image or clout is so harmful, misleading and toxic. Since restrictions have eased, I have seen countless venues and promoters put on events with all white male line-ups or similar, despite putting out their "commitment" to diversity. It is truly unacceptable.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Saachi (DJ) and Provhat Rahman (producer).

Rohan Rakhit

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

My name is Rohan Rakhit, I'm an actor, DJ, and broadcaster based in London. I'm of Indian heritage, with half of my family being Bengali and the other half Punjabi.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music has always been a form of escapism for me; it can make you reimagine a distant memory or zone out of the present day. I love how music can create such special environments as well, especially the club, allowing people to lose themselves in a moment, be together and just dance, it's a powerful thing!

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Growing up, I was really into indie and indie-rock music and identified with that whole scene. I wasn't allowed out much as my parents weren't too keen, but thankfully, they let me go to gigs! My teenage years were made up of seeing my favourite bands and artists live, meeting people at gigs, and just immersing myself in the whole community aspect of music.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

It's hard to pick out a favourite track because it's all in movements, but my album of the year so far has definitely been 'Promises' - the collaboration between Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra. I just love how musically ambiguous it is. It's genuinely like nothing I've ever heard before, fusing jazz, ambient, spiritual jazz, and classical music, it feels really cinematic and is such a great listening experience, I would highly recommend it.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

Beyond just wanting to see more South Asians on line-ups in general, I think there needs to be more music from South Asian artists being picked up by mainstream publications and radio stations (besides the BBC Asian Network). It's amazing that we have a platform like the Asian Network to showcase the best music from the diaspora and engage our community, but I think it's reductive in the sense that we're constantly getting pigeonholed - playing South Asian-made music from our people to our people - without much scope to branch out.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Definitely go and check out Shivum Sharma! He's an extremely talented singer, songwriter, producer, and DJ from London. I first met Shiv through the Daytimers collective and I consistently get blown away by the music he makes and his selections on the dancefloor. Definitely stay tuned for his next release, and if you haven't been to one of his DJ sets, trust me when I say that you're missing out!

Samrai

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

Label co-director, producer, DJ, educator based in Manchester. Heritage: Punjabi, Sikh, Indian.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music has given my life purpose, and kept me sane and grounded.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Listening to late-night radio (Worldwide/Breezeblock/Deviation) and feeling like I’d entered a secret world.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Coolie - Kisan ft. Jaz Dhami, JAY1, Temz, Tana, J Fado & Hargo.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

Workshops and sessions should be done in schools and colleges as early inventions to support artists from more diverse South Asian backgrounds, to be able to pursue careers in music (not just middle class Indians). This may come with difficult conversations within South Asian communities to counter Anti-Black racism, Casteism, Islamaphobia, firstly, to be able to build from a stronger position for all marginalised identities. Hopefully the industry can veer away from orientalism, tokenism and exoticism when platforming South Asian artists and move towards impactful policy shifts creating opportunities for structural changes and cooperative ownership.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Arthi, Gracie T, Zaleel. Producers Ayesha, GoldTooth, Manuka Honey.

[Photo: Louis Bever]

Shivum Sharma

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I'm a half-Indian half-Irish singer, songwriter, musician and DJ from South London. I’ve lived in South my entire life, but I’ve just very recently relocated North of the river.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music has been my safe space and saviour for as long as I can remember. It’s the internal conversation I’ve had with myself since I was a child.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Weirdly, I’d say my most special musical moments from my teenage years, if not ever, were alone with my headphones on the bus to school, aged 14 - 17. I was studying music and only just discovering many of the artists and albums that really shook me up and shaped me as an artist. It was honestly the bleakest bus route at 7:30AM, but I’d be fully crying feeling so full of inspiration.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Probably ‘You From London’ by Sault ft. Little Simz. It’s just the breeziest, sexiest beat, and Simz reignites my sometimes dwindling love for London. The magic being created between her, Inflo and Cleo Sol is actually insane and hard to keep up with - it just keeps coming! I’m so ready for this new Simz album...

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

It does feel like there’s a recent surge of interest and appreciation for the many incredible South Asian DJs and producers (in London at least), however far too many line-ups are still disproportionately dominated by white males. Go the extra mile to seek out, book and hire South Asian DJs and musicians, as well as A&Rs and behind the scenes teams. If your team does not reflect the diversity around you, question yourself as to why.

Something else to note when booking us is not to ever assume a uniform response. What this recent movement has proved is a brilliantly wide spectrum of sounds, genres and styles coming out of the worldwide SA community. I think a huge source of the pride felt by the community right now is that we are every day disproving the age-old stereotypes of South Asians being homogenous and uncreative.

One thing I hope to see more of is promoters and venues going out of their way to set up their spaces to feel welcoming to everyone - including those who do not drink. We really need to do as much as we can to make the club a universally accessible place for both DJs and clubgoers.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

DJ - Sita Shah. She played after me at the Daytimers takeover of Late Night Shopper which was live-streamed from Venue MOT. It was mid-lockdown and my first time hearing music on a proper soundsystem in so long, and she brought the energy! It was gay, it was techno, it was Britney, it was Bollywood - it was everything!

Artist - Yullola. She has the softest voice and makes soulful dystopian bops from the future. Something about her music and her approach to her art feels holy. You have to see her live to fully understand. An icon.

[Photo: Hark1karan]

SUCHI

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I’m SUCHI, a DJ and producer currently based in Manchester. My South Asian heritage is Indian.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

Music to me is to be able to express something that words cannot.

What is one of your key musical memories from your teenage years?

Probably my first ever music festival, which was Roskilde 2007. It’s known as the worst year at Roskilde because it rained for 8 days straight. There’s even merch saying “I survived Roskilde 07”, but I completely fell in love with the musical atmosphere, met so many amazing like-minded people, and even came back the following year (luckily it was much sunnier in 2008!).

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

Really into 'Currents (Original Mix)' by Himay ft. Anurag from Himay’s 'The House Sound of India' album. I love how he’s fused reverb-y Indian vocals with a rolling acid rhythm, creating a really hypnotic and mesmerizing dance track. The whole album is worth checking out if you’re into your acid. Some amazing remixes by Indian producers in there too.

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

I see a lot of South Asian talent being supported and promoted by fellow South Asians who work in the music industry, but we should be given opportunities beyond our own networks, communities, and collectives. I think there should be proper systems in place in the music industry that holds music platforms, publications, events, promoters, agents, bookers, etc., accountable for highlighting or working with underrepresented artists. If there aren’t proper standards in place that hold the industry accountable, the majority will stick to what and who they know rather than making an effort to fill that space with overlooked talent.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

There are so many! I will be curating a compilation album with Delhi-based Boxout FM featuring a bunch of incredibly talented South Asian producers. The first single will launch in mid-September with the full compilation coming out at the end of October. In the meantime, I would urge you to check out Monophonik. He’s an incredibly forward-thinking techno producer with a couple of EP’s coming out on an Indian label called Qilla Records.

Yung Singh

Please can you introduce yourself: What do you do, where are you based, and what is your South Asian heritage?

I'm Yung Singh, I come from a very proud Punjabi and Sikh background and I'm an artist currently based in London. I mostly DJ, I've dabbled in some production bits, and also do photography and some creative consulting.

Can you sum up what music means to you in a sentence?

It gives me life.

What's your favourite track of 2021 so far?

I can't pick one so I'm going to give you three; G. Sidhu x Byrd - Limited Edition, Raf-Saperra x Sukshinder Shinda - Snake Charmer & PinkPantheress - Passion.

That G Sidhu tune - an amazing voice on a killer drill beat. Punjabi vocalists are some of the best on the planet, and the quality of drill production that's floating about at the moment is incredible. Such a powerful combo, and one that I've been rinsing since it dropped.

For a while, I've been thinking we haven't had a proper UK Bhangra tune, so when I heard that the rising star of the UK Punjabi scene - Raf Saperra - was working with the legend (singer, songwriter, producer, instrumentalist and all-round hitmaker), Sukshinder Shinda, I was super excited to see what they'd come out with - we were not left disappointed. I believe this tune will be a watershed moment for the community and finally a return to the fore of one of the UK's most exciting (diaspora) sounds.

I love that PinkPantheress song, it's so easy to listen to and have on loop all day. 2 mins and 17 seconds of pure delight, easy-going Lily Allen-esque vocals on a gorgeous liquid jungle instro!

Are there any changes you would like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?

I want the music industry to make space for South Asian artists to be themselves and to let them tap into their South Asian heritage without them being ostracised or pigeonholed for it. Ultimately, this can only be achieved if the industry makes an effort to stop the nepotism that allows so many lazy or out of their depth writers to set the narrative on our community.

Can you recommend a South Asian DJ / artist to check out?

Man like GoldTooth - such an incredible producer and a wicked DJ. his productions actually blow my mind and I find them so inspiring the way he incorporates classical Hindustani and Carnatic into drill and grime beats. his vinyl collection is hefty too, proper selector.

[Photo: Hark1karan]

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