I’m not a jukebox: Ma Faiza

Ma Faiza

What, according to you, is the future of Electronic music in India?

There’s been a real push towards bringing a lot of international artists in India. A lot of mainstream Electronic Music (EM) has come to India but there’s so much more Alternative EM or Underground EM which is still trying to break through. Nowadays, it’s so easy for sponsors in India to book World’s No 1-100 DJs without knowing whether the DJ is any good or not. Still it’s very mainstream. It needs to get a lot more refined. In India, too, there are many DJs who are not getting the credit for contributing to the upsurge of EM because nobody wants to book local DJs. The platform is much bigger now but there are so many international DJs doing multiple city tours and it’s very cost effective for sponsors to book them. The fees that they get here are probably higher that what they might have gotten in Europe. EM is growing as a trend but I’m not sure if this growing trend is adequately honouring EM DJs in India.

Do people in India understand EM? What is your experience of the level of knowledge that people in India seem to possess about EM?

I would say yes, they understand. I’ve been deejaying for the last 13 years. When I started out playing EM, I was booed off the stage in India. That no longer happens now. There are dedicated fans of EM in India especially of the mainstream stuff like Paul Van Dyke, David Guetta, DJ Tiesto etc. There are a lot more youngsters these days who listen to them but, having said that, it is still the commercial EM that people here listen to. As an introduction to EM, that’s fine but we need to take it to the next, more refined level.

Does playing gigs take focus away from developing good music, concentrating on creating good music versus playing for a large crowd and their demands?

I’ve never played what the crowd wanted to hear. I’ve never played requests. I don’t have that personality of playing to peoples’ demands. I’m always on the edge, doing my own thing, don’t pander to what people want. I’ve a reputation of: “She comes and she does her thing”. If they want me to play Bollywood, I’ll be like, “Yeah get your resident DJ to play Bollywood”. I’m not a jukebox, I’m an artist. I’m there to share my expression. Emerging DJs often give in to the crowd’s demands but that’s just a way of starting out.

Has Bollywood popular numbers become a bane for good music at clubs?

I think EM is slowly sweeping out requests for popular Bollywood stuff. Now, in India, EM is the coolest thing, like the ‘in’ thing! Bollywood is for the masses. EM is still a very niche genre. People who listen to EM are generally culturally and perhaps economically much higher up the spectrum. And now, that demography of people is increasingly raising the number of people who listen to this genre.

What got you into EM?

I grew up in London and used to follow music religiously especially the pop music of the 80s and the 90s. In the beginning of the 90s, EM came into the scene. The music, the vibe, the energy, the community, the experience that I had with myself, with the people around me, I kind of found my tribe. I found amazing clubs, I would experiment a lot, participate in a kind of a ‘sacrament’ with my kind of people! The politics in England around that time was around dance music. EM became the kind of thing around which people would gather. There was a whole socio-political movement surrounding EM, there were followers of the genre that were pushing the boundaries, young kids saying “f**k you” to the establishment. Eventually dance music became mainstream…in between, I found out something worth fighting for, with my tribe! The freedom to gather, to be me…

Any plans to cut an album soon?

I made an album a few years ago called Liquid Dreams. It was a collaboration on the lines of a more chill-out, meditative kind of music. It uses an electronic base fused with live instruments, almost like a classical, ambient soundscape. I’m definitely looking to bring out another album but where is the time?

You have played in Kolkata before. How do you feel the vibe here?

The best thing about playing in Kolkata clubs is that they remain open till much later than those in most other cities. There are some very dedicated fans of EM in Kolkata but it’s still a very small, nascent crowd, not as large as that in Mumbai or Bangalore. I love playing here though.

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