‘We should be holding on to our roots’

Debarati Palit Singh
Friday, 29 March 2019

DJ Akbar Sami, who has just begun his USA Tour, talks about how the Bollywood music industry needs to rethink the way they are dishing out remixes of retro tracks

Remember the remix albums — Jalwa, Jalwa 2 and Jadoo from the ’90s and the man behind it, DJ Akbar Sami? He is also known for his remixes of popular Himesh Reshamiya hits including Aashiq Banaya Aapne. 

Sami has already kicked off his USA tour Roar 2019, as a part of which he will be visiting 12 cities over the next few months. “This is the 15th year that I am doing the tour. People here don’t know but the Mayor of San Francisco has awarded me six years back for being the most popular DJ in America. The tour targets all kinds of people, not just Indians,” he says. He adds that all his shows are sold out because of Indian music.
The artist who started his career 35 years ago was recently honoured with the DJ of the Decade Award by India Nightlife Convention and Awards, which he says is a big deal. “I can’t express my happiness. But it feels bad that it took so many years to get this kind of recognisation. But at least someone recognised it, considering that this profession did not originate in India and has become very important now. Actually, it’s not about the award, but about being recognised for this profession—  as DJs, we are representing Indian music across the world but no one gives us the importance we deserve, neither music companies nor the composers,” he says. 

He adds that there are many who are promoting Indian music across the world. “Our music is being played from Africa, Europe to Australia but people here in India do not know what is happening. Sadly, we are just concentrating on the top actors and their movies and music, but underneath all this, there is so much happening that we are ignoring, for whatever reasons,” he adds. 
Sami believes that Djing has come a long way even without any recognisation till now. “In rural India, they look down on DJing. In the West, it’s different. There, no night club, artist or album is complete without a DJ. But, I guess in India it takes time to change the mindsets of the people. But once they accept something, they support it wholeheartedly,” he explains. 

The artist is upset with the fact that right now, musicians are following the West blindly. “We are completely on a different tangent when it comes to music. I feel we should be holding on to our roots,” he says.

The DJ believes that Bollywood remix music is a huge craze abroad. “A lot of white Americans and African-Americans are listening to Bollywood music. They know our lyrics and are singing our songs. There are European groups who are singing it too. It’s massive,” he points out.
He adds that the authenticity of DJs is being questioned now. “Today, everybody is putting the prefix DJ in front of their names, which is wrong because if you have no knowledge about something, you shouldn’t be doing it. You will not succeed,” he says, adding, “DJing is an art and you have to learn it. It has to be your passion and only then can you be successful and cater to thousands of people.” 

A DJ, Sami believes, has to play music according to their audience.  “You can’t play EDM at a wedding. You have to have knowledge and learning from the right source to understand that. You have to know the pulse of your crowd.”

In the last couple of years, every other film has had a remixed version of one or more popular retro tracks from the ’90s. But often, these versions don’t do justice to the original track. Sami says, “I think music directors think that if they take a Hindi song and add Western beats or electronic sounds to it, the job is done. This is very easy to do now because of the technology available. But these are not real remixes.” 
On the music front, Sami released his first single Kabhi Kabhi last year which was appreciated by his fans. Taking his love for music a notch higher, he has composed and sung an original trilingual (Punjabi-Spanish-English) solo track Senorita. 

He has composed three more singles and is currently working on the post production.

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