Interview with DJ Pooja B: "Gender bias exists, and many of us have to deal with it"
Pooja B from Chennai, now based in Dubai, who has been named one of the ‘Top 10 Female DJs in India’, chats with Indulge about prospects for women DJs.
How is the scene improving, and becoming more accepting, for women DJs? Is it a good time to be a woman DJ in India?
Pooja B: The number of women in the industry doing a great job is bigger than it has ever been, which goes to show that more women are pushing boundaries both personally and professionally in the scene. A lot of platforms are consciously featuring some very talented women, though the numbers are relatively small... but it's a start, and a lot of us are glad for it.
If you're asking if the gender card works in favour for us... it doesn't, only real hard work matters. Is it a good time to be a DJ anywhere in the world? Never have so many people wanted to be DJs. It eventually doesn't matter if there is a girl or a guy behind the console, as long as they bring something different to the table.
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?
Pooja B: Being on the road is the hardest, away from family and friends. And my full-time job requires a lot of travelling as well, so juggling that, music and personal life feels like a circus act on some days! Another big challenge is the gender bias, but at some point, most people back off when they see you mean business, though it never really stops. It's the worst when people who have no place to comment on it, claim that gender biases don't exist. But it's something that needs to be dealt with, and dealing with it many of us are! : )
More people are partying, more clubs opening, so obviously, there are more gigs for DJs as the scene gets bigger. So many festivals keep sprouting up across the globe, and some of them quiet happily give newer names a platform. The internet has made everything so accessible. Your music can be heard across the planet, and it's just a matter of having a presence and putting out interesting stuff regularly. The future for DJing looks good, but there are also too many mediocre fish in the sea.
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?
Pooja B: Always have a fan in the console, especially when a big LED wall is in close proximity! On a serious note, I wouldn't give any advice because it's not my forte! I know a lot of festival organisers personally, and it would be wrong to give them pointers, because they know their job way better than you and me. Of course, not everything will be perfect, and everyone will have something they would like done better. But I'm thankful to these people for taking the painstaking task of putting something together that so many us can be a part of and enjoy.
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?
Pooja B: Thankfully, I have never faced these things. I'm fortunate to have a supporting family who understand what I do and why. And, I live in my bubble of music, so no external factors have ever pressed culture or morality issues on me... yet. Gender bias, like I mentioned before, is what I do face, and I like to speak about it to make people who are aware, and bring about a change in the industry.
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?
Pooja B: No and yes. There are more opportunities than ever before in India itself with festivals like Magnetic Fields, Echoes of the Earth becoming more and more popular, and international platforms like RMBA, Resident Advisor and Boiler Room coming to India. On the other hand, the exposure you can get outside of India is very different, so it's really about what you as an artiste want to achieve. The music industry is advanced in certain countries which promote it as a part of their culture. where you can go and learn so many new things. So, do you wanna stay around and help build the local scene or do you wanna head out and experience different things?
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?
Pooja B: Ah, that's a hard one... there have been so many influences, and they constantly keep changing, because people do things differently at different stages of their career, which captivates you. The first one was DJ Agnel in Pune, where I attended my first party as a teenager, who is the reason I wanted to become a DJ. Another big inspiration is Sven Vath for the legacy he has created and for the furious passion with which he still goes at it, at 53 years of age. I hope I have half the energy and charisma at that age.
What are your 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?
Pooja B: To complete all the goals I had for 2017, which I never got to! Some track releases expected, and a new live act in the making.
A word of advice for aspiring DJs? How would you play mentor to some of the new names emerging in the circuit?
Pooja B: Try different stuff till you find your niche... Beatport Top 50 isn't the way to go. Dig for different sounds and that's what you will be known and wanted for. I think mentoring works in fields where a set path will more or less give you similar results... but with music, everyone's journey will be different, even if they do the exact same thing. I can give a lot of unsolicited free advice from my experiences, and I'm always happy to help in any way I can when people approach me! : )