‘Current music and DJ scene in India is very vibrant and exciting’: Ma Faiza

‘Mother of Electronica’ Ma Faiza on the present music and DJ scene in India, why aren’t there enough women DJs and if music festivals are helping the music scene in India

Heena Khandelwal Published :  27th June 2019 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  27th June 2019 12:00 AM

Ma Faiza

It was a humble beginning for Ma Faiza, who was selling cassettes on the beaches of Goa. Today, she is undoubtedly one of the most notable names in the electronic dance music (EDM) in India. Ahead of her performance tonight at Bombay Cocktail Bar, we asked the ‘Mother of Electronica’ about the present music and DJ scene in India, why aren’t there enough women DJs and if music festivals are helping the music scene in India. Excerpts:

Q: How do you find the music and DJ scene in India at present? How much has the Indian market grown in the last decade with respect to music, particularly EDM?
Ma Faiza:
I find the current music and DJ scene in India very vibrant and exciting - more underground artists coming and performing from other countries, and small pockets of less mainstream sounds are growing and developing with a very passionate and “up for it” crowd. Around ten years ago, festivals, clubs and promoters booked mainly the big names from the Top 100 DJ chart – filling the scene at that time with more mainstream and popular EDM genres. This was at times tiresome and repetitive but now, finally, as more listeners have refined their tastes, there are many smaller venues dotted around the country that play very niche and alternative sub-genres of EDM. There are more talented Indian producers than ever before creating amazingly fresh and unique tracks and also inspiring others worldwide. It feels really exciting to experience not only the music but the scene at present!

Ma Faiza

Q: Are there enough women in the industry? What’s holding them back?
MF:
Sadly, women are still very underrepresented in the music industry as a whole. The music industry worldwide is very male-dominated, and DJing is no exception. There are definitely more opportunities for female DJ’s than ever before, including in India, but it is still very challenging to be a woman in the music scene. It’s hard as a woman to be respected just for your music and work rather than be objectified by the promoters and the crowd. As India is still a very patriarchal society, it’s much harder here than say Europe for women to be allowed to be independent and free to work late nights in a male-dominated environment where alcohol is present – for many families, it is still unacceptable for a woman to be out late in the night, and also they rightly fear for their daughter’s physical safety. Hopefully, more women in India can be emboldened to be DJs by seeing other women DJ’s like me not only surviving but thriving.

Q: How do you describe your music? What influences your music? And, what defines a good gig for you?
MF:
It’s really hard for me to describe my music as it encompasses many different styles of electronic music at many different BPMs - I am constantly pushing the boundaries of different genres!  I’d rather describe the feeling of the music and the experience – ethnic, uplifting, powerful, emotional, melodic, driving, surprising, heart full, positive, feminine and occasionally cheeky! A good gig for me would be an up for it crowd screaming their tits off in a space where it's not too packed nor to empty with a warm, powerful sound system, great lights and ambience. Not too much to ask for, is it?
 

Ma Faiza

Q: Are you still touring to the smaller cities in India? What’s your favourite city in India to play?
MF:
I try to play in as many small cities as possible as many of the smaller cities don’t get a chance to book big artists as the electronic music scene is still emerging there. I try to help to bring these small local communities together. I try to promote all these smaller tier 2/3 cities on the same platform as the metros - it increases their visibility and usually the local electronic scene gets a little push after I’ve performed there. For me, I feel it is so important to keep these small but passionate communities’ embers burning. These smaller cities are filled with passion, sincerity and love and the gigs there tend to go on later than the bigger cities as they usually have fewer problems with timings. The vibe is massive even if the club is small, and the energy of the fans there is just mind-blowing. Some of the most magical gigs happen in those smaller cities where the fans open themselves up even more and embrace everything that you share with them. It is breathtaking for me to see and feel that innocent love and passion for the music and me.

A few of my most favourite cities are Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Indore. My most (and almost all of the DJ’s) favourite city is Bangalore - the vibe there is so unique and the crowd is just fantastic every time. 

Q: You were vocal about your sexual identity even when people weren’t so open. Did you ever face any sort of repulsive behaviour because of your identity?
MF:
I’ve been out, loud and queer now for 32 years. I would like to say coming out was easy, but I can’t, as it wasn’t. Owning who you really are isn’t going to be easy, but with every challenge that comes after that moment, you get stronger. I’ve learned not to be defined by other people’s narratives – instead I try to find out who I am and simply be it with all my truth. Life is for living with no shame, no regrets – I own who I am and I try to have the courage to be myself and bring this authenticity to every part of my life. I have found India to be very tolerant and haven’t faced outwardly much if any homophobic behavior or attitudes to me even with the fact that it was illegal to be gay until less than a year ago.

Ma Faiza

Q: Tell us about your upcoming projects and tours.
MF:
I’ve recently just created many new exclusive remixes of some of my favourite tracks from other artists. I’m off next week to travel out of India for three months – a few gigs, lots of friends, and relaxing, soaking up new inspiration and enjoying wonderful peaceful nature.

Q: Lastly, how do you find music festivals in India? Are they building the music scene in India?
MF:
The music festivals over the last ten years have definitely helped to expand the platform in India. They have raised the benchmark in terms of setup - sound, light and stage. They have helped to bring more diversity in the music and artists performing at those festivals. My concern a few years ago was that certain festivals got so big that they started to kill other smaller gatherings and a few claimed to have MADE the platform for electronic music. The festivals were not very eco-friendly or life-changing. There had been a trend for festivals to exploit homegrown talent with cheap DJ fees whilst paying the foreign DJ’s big packets. Thankfully, there are now many smaller, intimate, conscious gatherings appearing – playing to a more diverse crowd with more diverse music. Festivals for me should be a life-changing experience in every sense.

Ma Faiza will be playing tonight at Bombay Cocktail Bar, Andheri

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