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Tasnneem, Indian DJ and Producer, on her love story with music 


How did you start making music?

I come from a very small town in India which is a Dry State. No alcohol and no nightlife. So a girl can’t even go out past 10pm. At least, it was like that when I was growing up. At the time, the only way for me to listen to music was on television and it wasn’t showing English music. So I used to go to thrift markets and I would just look at the artwork on the cover of the CDs. The first ones I bought I chose based on the cover art - it’s how I discovered Pink Floyd for example – “oh, this artwork looks cool.” No one knew! Even though these guys were legends, around the world, in the town where I came from, we had no idea. We just knew Hindi film music and that's it. 


When I was growing up, there was no way I could have dreamed of becoming an electronic music artist. I hadn’t even heard of the genre. Then, one day, I met these guys. They were called the Audio Units [Bangalore-based brother duo]. I became friends with Ashwin – he’s one of the brothers and still my dearest friend – and went to his gig in Goa, a state in southwestern India. And that's when I first heard techno and I was like, “what is this music? What is this sound? I have to learn how to do this!” That's how the journey began. It was crazy. My whole life changed after that day. I remember he sent me a mixtape. And the first track was from Betoko, Raining again. I heard that track like 500 times on repeat. You know, I was a child.

What exciting project do you have going on right now?

Right now? I mean, not that I planned this, but this year, I've been recording a lot of vocalists and I'm making music with all of them. Because I  can write lyrics but I can't sing, I'm meeting people who I'm able to collaborate with. I am doing a lot of collaborations right now.

And do you produce the track as well? Or do you only co-write with the vocalists?

Yeah. I originally started making music because I used to write lyrics and I thought, “oh, how cool would it be if I could convert this into actual songs.” And then that never happened and I became a producer. But I have always wanted to use vocals in my tracks. And this year that’s happening organically because musicians are reaching out to me. I'm inviting them to my house for coffee, I'm showing them what I've written and asking if they want to sing it. We come up with a tune together, play some chords and when they're like “okay, this sounds good,” we record it. And now this is shaping into actual practice and I can't believe it

What’s your process when producing a track?

That's my ongoing project now. I don't usually decide in advance what I want to do, I just take a sound: it could be a sample or it could be vocals that I've recorded somewhere. And then I build a track around that. Sometimes I end up making two different versions of the same track. And then I go back and forth until I like one version better. And after that, I polish that version.

How would you describe the current situation in the Indian techno scene?

The scene is bigger than ever, which I'm grateful for. I mean, when I started playing music in 2014, there were barely any clubs that did this kind of music. So it was very, very difficult for me to get a placement. And then, somehow, I was good enough to find my way into this world, even if it was very difficult for the audience to accept what I was doing. I fought my way through that. But now, the problem is that because of the pandemic, there are a lot of new people that are playing this kind of music. A lot of them are PR kids and not so… How do I put it? Not so honest with what they're doing, I am afraid to say. The problem is people don't know the difference, you know? So they think that if someone is wearing a mask and playing music then it must be cool. That's definitely a changing dynamic in the scene. Since the pandemic here in India, the scene is bigger than ever, too. There are a lot more people and we're all fighting for the same place.

So, why do you think the scene exploded during the pandemic?

I think that in this period people had a lot of time on their hands and they saw content online like Boiler Room sets.They coud kind of just sit with their friends at home and listen to this music. And a lot of sci-fi DJs became techno DJs. A lot of Bollywood DJs became techno DJs. They thought, “this is cool. I should do this.” So they went on Beatport, they crowdfunded, and they got their tracks out.

You spoke about the difficulties of becoming a techno DJ in India. Did you have any challenges as a female DJ in particular?

No, I don't think so. I've met really good people. Honestly, I can say I'm blessed. I think your vibe attracts your tribe, right? People have always taken me seriously, they've always respected me. It’s always been a good ride. I mean, there'll be these one-off experiences, but I don't count them. Because if 98% are good and 2% are whatever, it will be like that everywhere. That 2% is just like…it's okay. It means they don't know better.

What are your top three songs at the moment? 

Slim Line - Eapp Kyle remix

Andar bandar - Vinayak^a

Time flies - Monophonik

What’s your favourite music trend at the moment?

I'm digging a lot of break beats right now, just like the rest of the world, I guess. 

I've definitely evolved a lot as an artist over the last year or so. I'm hoping to learn a lot of new genres. I mean, when I started, I was like: “Oh, this is me, and this is my sound”. And that barrier is normal. Now I'm open to everything that is cool to my ears. I think my music was very melancholic before. Now I'm becoming more fun. I’m looking for more tracks with that cool funky element and party vibe. That's the difference.

Where’s your favourite club to play in India?

There used to be this place that is always going to be my number one: The Tao Terraces in Bangalore. It just shut last year. It was everyone's favourite club in Bangalore. And then there is this place in Hyderabad called Tabula Rasa.

What’s your plan for the future?

I am just focusing on production this year. I released some music years ago and then I was forever stuck because I was repeating myself when I didn't want to. Music-making can become such a formulaic thing. I know how I made my first track and I know how I made my second and third track. I can just change the sound and keep repeating it like a factory. I didn't want to do that. It took me a while to find my new sound. Then last year, I broke out of that circle and finally made something fresh and new. Before that, I was getting depressed. I was barely making music and the more depressed I got, the less music I made – even though I locked myself in the studio 24/7. But the results were just not what I wanted them to be. And last year, once I broke that barrier, I felt a little more confident. This year, I'm more comfortable and I know I'm going to make music that's going to blow everyone's mind. It's going to blow my own mind. It is blowing my own mind! That's important to me.

03 XPULENT | MUSIC, MAR 28, 2023

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Edited by Ines Lefebvre du Prey
Written by Caterina Biondi

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