EXHIBIT: Hello to the king of remixes in Bollywood. Tell us how did your journey begin as one of the best DJs in the country?
Akbar: Hellos and thanks to EXHIBIT for having me over for this prestigious interview.My journey as a DJ was not as easy as it is today. I didn’t have a teacher to guide me back then. There were maybe five or six night clubs in the entire country and these clubs had one DJ or I would rather say an employee who played music on cassettes and also spool some places, except for one in Delhi and one in Mumbai who were turntablists (actual DJ-ing). India didn’t know the word DJ in those days. I didn’t have technology to help me either. It was tough for me as I myself didn’t know what or where I was heading to.
The only good part was my love for music and that’s what kept me at it. I did a crash course at the Julianas School of DJs at London where I went after I realised that I had to learn it from where it belonged to as DJing is not an Indian thing and belonged to the western world. Soon after I got back to India I got a job at Xanadu and this is where it all started to happen. I had already started training few students for DJ-ing and slowly the word went out and there was awareness on what Dj-ing actually was.
EXHIBIT: From choreographer to DJ, how and why did this transformation happen?
AS: I was a freestyle dancer and was on the verge of becoming a professional choreographer and I would have, if I was not forced into DJing by the manager of this club called Cavern at Hotel Sea Rock at Mumbai. Nickcolas Fernandez, he thought that if I could mix and edit my dance shows music, I could DJ too. And so he was the one who converted me into a disc jockey. And I, on the other side,was loving the fact that this was something new and technically challenging yet related to music and so I took it up.
EXHIBIT: More than 2 decades into making people groove on your tunes – how things have changed since 80s as far as DJ-ing is concerned?
AS: In the 80’s, I played disco reggae funk soul pop. In the 90’s we had house techno hip hop reggaeton R&B. It was DJ Sunny Sarid from Delhi who played a few bollywood songs in his sets at a place called Ghungroo at Moria Sheraton where I used to do my dance events. In 1996 I cut an album called JALWA which had bollywood remixes and it remained at the no. 1 position on the dance charts for weeks, and soon after that JALWA2 and JADOO too followed similar successful fates. And Bollywood was the mainstream music in most of the nightclubs around India and outside back then. EDM now is the new mantra though HOUSE MUSIC (pure) still remains and will be there.DJing has also drastically changed with the music. DJs back then played on turntables, and that is supposed to be DJing in the real sense, and it was real tough. Each 12” single had only one song track on it and they were priced between `500-1100 each. Thanks to technology, today there are the apps, softwares, hardwares everything that is making it easier and smoother for DJs professionally. Though it has resulted in the basic genuineness of DJing, it has definitely opened new horizons for the same.
EXHIBIT: Do you think technology has been a great boon towards making DJ-ing a more popular profession?
AS: Yes for sure it has, for the good and also for the not that good. At the end of the day DJing is an art, and so one has to have it from the heart, not just to become a rockstar with the help of technology. But this creativity comes to a few lucky ones who have soul and love for music, supported by technology but not all of it.
EXHIBIT: What, according to you, is the most important part of remixing Bollywood songs?
AS: The most important part is to know and understand music, to know the sound and melody of the song, to know which family it belongs to, what the genre of that song is of which you are going to remix. The song should be justified, every Bollywood song can’t be made into an EDM remix just for the sake of it. Also a very important aspect of making a remix is the song’s bassline. It takes a song to another level – good funky basslines give the soundtrack a great walk, a super bounce and so it works well on the dance floors too.
EXHIBIT: Which is your favorite genre of music? Is it easy or difficult to remix this particular genre?
AS: It has always been house music… so I personally love making bollywood pure house remixs (funky/tribal/electro) basslines. This has always worked and always will. As house music is forever, everything else will come and go.
EXHIBIT: Your highest highs and lowest lows. Things you learnt from both.
AS: Highest highs do give me a lots of memories flashing in front of my eyes! When I was competing with DJs from across the world over sometimes in the early 90s, as a kid I had won that competition, and many more after that. When I made Jalwa and saw it climbing the charts and reaching the number one spot. When I was awarded a few years ago in America by the mayor of San Francisco, and there are many many more highest highs. But the most important one which I keep very close to my heart was when my mom held me close to her and said a little prayer for my well being health and success and this was the time I felt the highest of them all highs put together.
The lowest was when she passed away. I lost her, I lost my everything, as she was my strength, my support. I used to keep her advices and prayers always in my mind and heart. I still do. And I think and know that whatever I’m today, like say- I’m chosen to give this interview, I represent India, I travel around the globe… all these what I have received is because of her prayers. And so when I lost her it was my lowest low.
EXHIBIT: Which is the most inspirational book that you had read?
AS: The Holy book – give it a try, not just to read it, but also understand it.
Rapid fire round
a) Car you drive: Skoda Superb and Innova
b) Gadgets you use personally: My laptop/iPhone/ Stealth (usb)
c) Idea of relaxation: Sort out music for the upcoming events.
d) Social media to you is: Doesn’t mean much to me.
e) Your favorite international DJ: Chris Lake.
EXHIBIT: Playing music for audience of which place has been the best experience for you and why?
AS: Bangalore. They always understand a DJ’s point of view and accept newness in music. They will gladly accept what you offer them and won’t force you to play what they want to listen to, as they know that they can listen to what they want elsewhere… so they give the DJ the opportunity to play his music as he wants to.
EXHIBIT: Words of advice for the aspiring DJs of the country – things to follow and to avoid.
AS: Think, understand and realise that if you don’t have the sense of rhythm do not get into it. Music is played from the heart and not too much mind.Either you have it or you don’t. It can’t be just a replacement job of what you failed at earlier. One needs to know to play atleast one musical instrument, keyboard or a skin, one should know the technicals of the equipment used. One should be aware of the constant health issues that are a part of working latenights consistently, and no proper timings for meals. Realize and accept these all before hand once you are ready to accept the challenge called DJ-ing. Good luck.