DJ Shilpi Sharma: "A lot of opportunities for rising talent in circuit outside of India"
Shilpi Mudgal aka DJ Shilpi Sharma, a film actor and model, is among the leading Indian women DJs, known especially for her Bollywood remixes. In a chat with Indulge, she speaks about the challenges in the industry.
How is the scene improving, and becoming more accepting, for women DJs? Is it a good time to be a woman DJ in India?
Shilpi Sharma: I think the scene for female DJs is really picking up, Club owners, Promoters, Agents are actually scouting for female talent more than anything right now. If we look at the increment in the number of female DJs in past few years, it surely is safe to say that it’s a great time for us considering the amount of good work they are getting and delivering.
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?
Shilpi Sharma: My journey wasn’t easy. Considering my background in Bollywood films, people assumed I got work easily because of my social connections. Honestly, my friends never took me seriously when I went to them with my decision to become a DJ. But I had faith in myself and with my father’s blessing, I worked day in and day out to hone my skills.
But all said and done, there were ups and downs but my journey was worth all it’s challenges because it has made me who I am today. I think the scope of DJing is really wide and its getting better day by day, There was a time when people used to just look upto International DJs but the times are changing with the immensely talented homegrown producers and DJs getting massive platforms to perform and showcase their skillset worldwide.
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?
Shilpi Sharma: Electronic dance music festivals certainly provide a great platform for the upcoming DJs and producers in the country. With a massive social media outreach and exponential craze amongst the youth, these festivals play a major role in exposing the talent to the right audience. These festivals try and create an experience of a lifetime which ultimately facilitates the growth of a different culture altogether and hence promotes entertainment and nightlife.
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?
Shilpi Sharma: Only word of advice that I have for the organisers is to never compromise on the safety and comfort of the attendees of the festival or the party. Everyone should party responsibly and have a great time. Organisers should emphasise on getting the most unique and entertaining acts to the festival and at the same time keep in mind and fulfill their hospitality and technical requirements along with on-time payments.
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?
Shilpi Sharma: Honestly, I’ve never faced any concerns about morality and culture, Since I myself hail from a small town in Rajasthan, I’m much aware of the way this country works. I’ve been very honest and open about my opinions and managed to handle any kind of criticism that came my way without offending people.
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?
Shilpi Sharma: Yes, there are a lot of opportunities for rising talent in circuit outside of India - Music promoters, Record Labels and Talent Agents abroad are actually considering and respecting the overseas talent and hence providing them a platform to showcase their skillset.
No, it’s not necessarily true that one can gain more success by hitting the international scene directly. Looking at the living legend AR Rahman, I think first it’s very important to gain recognition and support from your own countrymen before reaching out to the fanbase abroad but of course one should always make the most out of the opportunities that comes across their way.
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?
Shilpi Sharma: Axwell! I love his music. It’s so happy, it makes me happy. I love the positive vibes and the soulfulness, and it’s amazing how it’s so upbeat and catchy at the same time. I took a break from acting when I lost my father. I needed something new after that trauma and I always loved Axwell’s music so much so I decided to become a DJ/Producer. So yeah, he's been a huge inspiration for me.
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?
Shilpi Sharma: I think the Indian audience really enjoy dancing to Bollywood music since it’s something to which they can completely relate to. In the Indian metropolitan cities, I get a mixed crowd to play for. With the emergence of Electronic Dance Music (EDM), it is quite fun to blend both EDM and Bollywood music together but at the same time there are classics which are received best by the crowd when played instead of their remixes or mash ups.
For an example, last year I did five official remixes for the SRK blockbuster Jab Harry Met Sejal, out of which three remixes were on the progressive house lines, one was a chill out mix and the song Jee ve Sohneya with Nooran Sisters was a Sufi mix. They were all well received so its safe to say India loves diverse music.
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?
Shilpi Sharma: I had a really busy 2017! Most of my time was spent touring and exploring different markets around the country rather than being in the studio. This year I'm mainly focusing on putting out a lot of original music along with some big names in the Bollywood industry.
My first single for the year is coming out in February and I'm really stoked to see how things have shaped up for this one in the past few months. You never know, you might see me again in Bollywood but this time as a music producer!
A word of advice for aspiring DJs? How would you play mentor to some of the new names emerging in the circuit?
Shilpi Sharma: Be focused. Focus is KEY. Make sure you have clarity on what you want to do, what kind of music you want to put out there. Most importantly, keep learning. Make sure you consume knowledge, practice new things and keep experimenting, it is the best way to grow. I always look forward to encouraging the upcoming talent by supporting their music in my sets and giving them tips on how to manage their time and resources to obtain the optimum results.