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In conversation with the artist and entrepreneur, about the Indian techno scene and her next projects


“My musical inspiration,” says Paloma Monnappa “comes from travelling to different places and meeting new people, discovering record stores and finding hidden gems”.


Paloma Monnappa is a Tibetan-Indian multi-talented artist based in Sri Lanka and India. Aside from her music career as a DJ, she is a renowned model, actress and Discovery Channel television host. With her partner Emanuel, she started the brand Tropical Wax, celebrating vinyl culture, underground music, art and surfing. 


Paloma started DJing when she was in school, she says “I started a music blog with my buddy from school and then became a DJ duo called Algorhythm. This was over 10 years ago.” Music was always her first passion, and she has been singing and playing the piano since she was a child. At the time her biggest influence was her dad, who exposed her to blues, jazz, and soul. Nowadays her favourites are still Bill Withers and Al Green, alongside the electronic duo Chemical Brothers.

When Paloma started DJing, female DJs were something new and she had to deal with being one of the few women in a very male-dominated industry. Lalita Suhaini in The Hindu wrote of the difficulties women encounter in the music industry, especially the risks of sexual harassment and of being judged for their looks more than for their talent. “There is a lot of sexualizing that goes on, as with women in any other industry, which can of course be frustrating. What's also unfair and insulting is when people assume you get booked simply because you look a certain way,” comments Monnappa. “Not saying that that doesn't exist in the music industry. Of course, there are tons of charlatans, but not every female DJ tries to use her look to get gigs. The music should just speak for itself.”

In recent years, with DJs such as Sandunes, Kiss Nuka, Arushi Jain and Tasneem, it appears that the South Asian music scene is changing and is starting to be recognised worldwide for its unique and distinctive sound. Paloma has noticed this change in India, saying that talents from the country are starting to have more exposure: “It truly is our time! India has so many insanely talented young producers and singers today and we're going to see more and more of this in the coming years. Kids these days have the drive as well as access to make it big.”

Talking about the next steps in her music career Monnappa’s plan is to play at a few festivals between India and Nepal. And the travelling doesn’t end there, after the success of the last edition in 2019, Monnappa and her partner will organise the Tropical Wax India tour once again. 


On top of her music career, under the brand Tropical Wax, she will also do tour management for international artists coming to Sri Lanka. On the 11th of March Monnappa is organising an event at the Closenberg Hotel with the legendary DJ Victor Simonelli. Victor Simonelli started DJing in 1979 and he is one of the early pioneers of NYC's cutting-edge dance music scene. Monnappa comments proudly: “Simonelli is the godfather of Soulful house. He will be blessing the shores of Sri Lanka for the first time and playing for Tropical Wax.”

03 XPULENT | CULTURE, MAR 10, 2023

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Edited by Ines Lefebvre du Prey
Written by Caterina Biondi

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