What makes a tastemaker? DJ MoCity talks Reggae Rajahs, the rise of boxout.fm, and more

We catch up with DJ, music entrepreneur and visionary DJ MoCity to try and define his exhaustive body of work

author_img Ujjainee Roy Published :  04th October 2019 10:21 AM   |   Published :   |  04th October 2019 10:21 AM

DJ MoCity goes live at Neon East Fest this month

It’s possible that every homegrown dub producer or downtempo act on your playlist is in some way or the other influenced by DJ MoCity’s soundscape - it’s impossible not to be. Exactly a decade ago MoCity, founded India’s first Jamaican-style reggae sound system, and a couple of years back, he launched the independent community-driven, online radio station boxout.fm along with electronica sensation Dualist Inquiry or Sahej Bakshi. If your 2010s were defined by the Reggae Rajahs' YouTube soundclash videos, your 2020s is set up to be dominated by the multitude of live streams, showcases and monthly club residencies which are on the offering by the boxout.fm crew.

Meanwhile, MoCity has drummed up an impressive solo resume as well; from curating some of the most prolific music festivals, to being the opening act for jazz icon Kamasi Washington’s India debut gig, the Delhi boy of Iraqi heritage is in every way, a tastemaker. We catch up with him a few days before he goes live at Mumbai's Neon East Fest. Excerpts:

Can you tell us a little about your foundational influences? 

At the age of 14 in New Delhi, I was already organising graduation parties and after-prom nights for my school mates. By my high school graduation, I was DJ-ing professionally and holding down a weekly hip-hop residency. In the next few years, I threw some of the biggest hip-hop parties in the capital, including the iconic South Delhi Block Party which ran for 12 editions and introduced an entire generation of the city's youth to the various elements of hip-hop culture. 

DJ MoCity also started the South Delhi Block Party

In 2009, I started Reggae Rajahs along with Zorawar Shukla and Raghav Dang, with whom I now run India's biggest reggae and soundsystem festival, Goa Sunsplash. I then had to leave the country due to visa issues and after a turbulent time in Iraq during the end of the insurgency, I moved to Dubai where I co-founded DJ collective The 264 Cru. I also started my award-winning podcast Motellacast during this time. 

How would you define your sound? Since you simultaneously work with bass, new wave, reggae?

It’s mainly future club sounds. I don’t do techno but my sets are all about having a good time when you are listening to it. Also, the mood plays a huge factor in where we can go with each set. 

What was the idea behind boxout.fm? How do you feel about its rise to relevance in India?

The blueprint for boxout.fm was written on a flight I took from Rome to Berlin in 2016. After a particularly terrible gig in Delhi that year, I had been giving serious thought to the problem of how to engage people in India with music outside of club culture and build a genuine community around music. I already had Motellacast, which had given me my first, encouraging taste of success in the independent broadcasting space. 

DJ MoCity during a Boxout Wednesdays session at Summer House Cafe Delhi

I shared the initial blueprint with my friend Sahej Bakshi aka Dualist Inquiry and by November 2016, we were hard at work figuring out the inner workings of online radio. Despite multiple major roadblocks like limited upload speedsmajor last-minute changes to our back-end, and an inhuman intake of coffee, boxout.fm launched in April 2017, with our weekly club night in New Delhi, Boxout Wednesdays preceding the launch of the station by a month.

Can you tell us what you're planning for your set at the Neon East Fest?

Well its been a while I have not performed in mumbai so was hoping to bring the 2019 mo city flava to their ears. Might call on stage some homies from delhi to help me show the audience what we are about

Can you tell us what you're listening to this week?

I have a weekly playlist on Spotify look up and you should find it, I update this weekly with tracks from my radio show. A few weeks back,  we had some dope Indian artists who do a lot of club sounds. Each is really different best way to stay up by following the playlist and the archive. 

The Motellacast playlist for this week

Alternative music in India is in a really interesting space right now. Do you enjoy it as a performer?

I love the space we are in right now. Everyone is collaborating, excited about new sounds and how supportive the independent music audiences are towards their artists.