Babloo Babylon: This Indian beatmaker is an antithesis of the limelight-hogging DJ
Unlike contemporary clubbing culture, old school electronic music artistes preferred performing in dark corners of warehouses. Away from strobe lights and groupies. Tempting, teasing, and whipping up the dancefloor into a frenzy with their impeccable song selection and pitch-perfect beatmatching skills. It’s there that they perfected the art and science of spinning vinyls.
Yet, somewhere along the way, musicians turned into empire builders who spent more time playing the fame game rather than honing their craft.
Therefore, it’s refreshing to come across an Indian beatmaker like Babloo Babylon, who is an antithesis of the limelight-hogging DJ persona. The elusive producer—who has only ever made a handful of public appearances and even refused to be interviewed telephonically—is heading to Kerala to perform inside a Kochi Muziris Biennale venue during the final weeks of the art festival.
Splicing things up
Party-goers who have never heard his tunes are in for a surprise. This composer’s tunes lean heavily on dialogue or song samples from Bollywood films of a bygone era, chopped and blended with what some may categorise as new-age electronica and traditional hip-hop productions.
Supposedly from Jhumri Telaiya in Jharkhand, Babloo deliberately keeps his identity obscure over an email interaction.
“I refrain from adding too many inputs in a song, as I like to retain the original grooves of the sounds I sample,” he explains, cheekily stating that his production setup is limited to a ‘fried’ laptop, a Roland SP-404SX sampler, an Akai MPC 2000XL, and a portable turntable.
With the intent of manufacturing his own narrative, the secretive artiste recently tweeted that, most of the time he gives wrong information about himself—in a way hinting that listeners should focus on the music and not the person behind it.
Here are excerpts from our interaction with the enigmatic artiste.
*Anonymity isn't new in electronic music. And there's no point in comparing you with the myriad other acts. So, for those in Kerala, who would have never come across your music before now—how would you go prefer describing your sounds?
Anonymity is for a bigger cause, I really dislike comparisons. I’m a big Malayalam cine fan. I can't wait to introduce my music to those in Kochi. I am super excited to be a part of this...It will be my first time in Kerela and at an Arts Festival.
There is a lot of amazing music coming out from Kochi right now. I am really looking forward to connecting with some local rappers for future projects and making new friends.
No matter how much I try I just can't do justice in describing my sounds in words. I leave it to the listeners to decide and describe.
* How does someone who plays primarily at underground/alternate electronic music events draw from the world of hip-hop?
I really did not have a genre in mind while starting out. I was tagging my music as "death", "Dead music", "Sex" and all kinds of silly words. I started out by sampling dialogues and just playing records at different BPMs (Beats per Minute).
I listened to radio broadcasts while growing up and those memories have a very important role with the music I am making and performing. All I can remember is when I was 4 or 5 I would spend months at my grandparents home in Jhumri Telaiya listening to an old transister playing AIR—near the cow shed while I would be playing with marbles near temple area. At 9, I was recording transistor sounds on empty tapes, fast forwarding, rewinding, slowing, speeding, repairing damaged cassettes.
Since all my music is sample-based, it borrows from the traditional techniques of hip-hop production.
* Any new releases lined up, besides the ones currently available on your SoundCloud page? What can aficionados expect to hear at the Kekao's Heatwave gig?
I am almost done with my first single of 2019. I would like to thank the folks at Kekao for letting this opportunity come my way. As my set is continuously varying, I am really excited to test some fresh tunes along with some 'purane nagme'.
* Would it be right to assume that unlike mainstream names like Jay Z or Panjabi MC, you don't sample the songs much. You seem to primarily work with background scores, old school FX, spliced dialogues etc.
I sample Hindi songs to a great extent. I am always watching films & producing in phases. Due to a computer crash, I have lost most of the recordings which were mainly song-based beats. While watching films I am making sequences in my head as if i am a character on the screen.
After a couple of days of watching countless films I go back to the sp and start chopping since i am always short on time, I have to really plan out my production time in advance just like the shows. I love the low quality sound effects from radio dramas, comedy , TV serials , fight scenes, ads and villainy parts .
The library is expanding day-by-day and I am having a really hard time remembering the sources of the samples. I recently acquired a large number of records that have been passed on from my grandparents which I am yet to unpack and clean.
* You do not tour much. This is a clear indication of a deliberate artistic choice. Would this be the first time you are venturing out of the Delhi gig circuit—besides that infamous Magnetics slot? Why did you agree to come down to perform at this Kochi biennale courtyard?
The Kochi Biennale is a space that supports and showcases art in all its forms, scale and diversity. As an artist who struggles to balance work and music, I rarely play gigs as my job does not allow me to be away for more than a day (literally 24 Hours) and I never know if I'll get approval for a sick day on the day of the gigs I've booked (I was working till noon on the day of the Magnetic Fields gig).
These are a few reasons why I turn down more than 95 per cent of the shows that come my way. During my spare time, while all my friends are busy partying and getting wasted, I lock myself in the house, switch off and produce my music. Trying to find the balance has been real.
So, playing at the Kochi Biennale this year is personally significant for me as i get to be part of something that celebrates culture outside the capital (Delhi).
On March 23. At Pepper House.
Doors open at 6 pm.