A chat with Nina Shah & Malika Haydon: "It's a great time to be a woman DJ!"
The duo of Nina Shah & Malika Haydon, earlier known as The Elektrovertz, who now go by as Nina & Malika, have quickly risen to the top of the electronic music scene. In a chat with Indulge, they speak about the rising number of women DJs, and the growing EDM scene in the country.
How is the scene improving, and becoming more accepting, for women DJs? Is it a good time to be a woman DJ in India?
Nina & Malika: We've personally seen massive growth in india. Women are definitely getting more respect these days in the industry. In general, women are starting to stand up for themselves and explore options in this male-dominated world! It's a great time to be a woman DJ!
Tell us a little about some of the personal challenges that you had to overcome in your own journey as a DJ. How do you see the future for DJing opening up in the country, and overseas?
Nina & Malika: One of our challenges was finding the balance between playing what we love, and at the same time, also catering to the club crowd in India. Also, a lot of DJs find it challenging to keep up with shows and work on music production at the same time. Music is infinite! The dance music scene has really grown over the last seven years in India, and has so much more room for growth, which is great for DJs!
How have festivals like Sunburn helped in promoting up-and-coming DJs? How important are such platforms for the growth of not just the DJ community, but also of the entire lifestyle?
Nina & Malika: Festivals like Sunburn have played a major role in bringing the music festival culture to India. It also gives up-and-coming DJs a chance to play next to some of their favourite international artistes, meet them, learn from them and get inspired. Which is a great motivator! College festivals are also a great platform for upcoming DJs to reach the youth in India, and gain a fan base.
Is there a word of advice, or pointers that you'd like to offer, for organisers of music festivals - perhaps for better artist management, or improved crowd control? How would you like to see things improving?
Nina & Malika: Overall, we think most of the festivals are doing a great job! There's always room for improvement & creativity... Staying open is the key!
Do you often find yourself faced with concerns about culture, and morality? How do you deal with untoward reactions - do you ignore them, or would you rather encourage positive, meaningful discussion?
Nina & Malika: In a career like DJing, at times, there are assumptions made about the party lifestyle and morals, but the key is to know who you are and what you stand for! We would rather encourage positive, meaningful discussions than to ignore the reactions.
Is it true, in 2018, that there are more opportunities for rising DJs in the circuit outside of India? Do you believe that you'd gain more success by hitting the international scene, over the Indian circles?
Nina & Malika: If that is the case for DJs in 2018, we haven't heard about it as yet. The music scene is blowing up in India! We have such a deep rich culture here, and so much room to experiment, we think it's only on the rise! Without the support and love from our own country, we wouldn't be able to have success internationally. We believe both go hand in hand, but we have noticed that our music sense has been appreciated more in international circles.
Tell us about your idols. Who do you look up to, for inspiration? How did they help motivate you, in your chosen path as a DJ?
Nina & Malika: We get inspired by different DJs/musicians/performers/pop artistes. Our influence is always changing, but back in the day, Daft Punk & Tiesto were definitely a big influence. Actually, Tiesto played a big role in motivating us into becoming DJs. We always really loved his music! The game-changer was when Malika met him in 2010. After having a long chat with him about the industry, we were convinced it was what we were meant to do!
How important is it to you, to include Indian, especially Bollywood tunes, in your live sets - particularly for Indian crowds? Is the large part of the audiences here really more interested in remixes, than original electronic music?
Nina & Malika: At times we will drop a remix of a famous Indian artiste or Bollywood track for a special occasion, but it's not something we would feel the need to include in every set. Most audiences prefer mashups and remixes as it keeps the sound fresh and unpredictable, especially when playing a hit track. As an artist, it's what keeps you unique!
What are you personal goals, as a DJ, for the new year? Do you have any EPs or albums expected? How much of your focus is likely to be on live gigs, and tours, over studio recordings and album releases?
Nina & Malika: In 2018, we would like to add live elements into our sets and yes, we should be releasing new music too. We would like to have a combination of live gigs, tours and releases. Hope to find the perfect balance!
A word of advice for aspiring DJs? How would you play mentor to some of the new names emerging in the circuit?
Nina & Malika: These days, with so many DJs cropping up from all over, a word of advice would be to cultivate a sound and act that is unique and original to stand out!