International relations

Anjali Jhangiani
Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Dubai-based DJ Shadow is the go-to man for international collaborations, helping Indian artists reach a global audience. Here’s chatting him up about his latest production Slowly Slowly by Guru Randhawa and Pitbull

During his US tour last year, DJ Shadow caught the whiff of a fresh wave while listening to some newly released music.

Knowing that this sound will be the next big thing, he quickly reached out to Guru Randhawa, who worked on a composition that was exactly on the lines of this fresh sound, and produced it. “We really wanted to make this track a big one, so we brainstormed and decided to send it across to an international artist. We sent it to Pitbull’s management. When Pitbull heard the song, he fell in love with it instantly. As a fan of India and its culture, he decided to drop his own verse too,” says Satheerth Kunneth, aka DJ Shadow. 

He adds, “Pitbull has been everyone’s favourite artist while growing up, we partied to his music. He’s an absolute rock star, so collaborating with him on this track was not just a remarkable experience but it also added a lot of value to the project. His energy and vibe seamlessly translated into the song.” The track Slowly Slowly has already crossed over 100 million views on YouTube.

“Growing up in Dubai, I’ve been exposed to music from the East and the West, and I always wanted to fuse the two. A fusion of Indian music with sounds from the West is the ideal approach to give a track an international feel. Over the years, I’ve built a network of people and influencers who work within the music industry. This allows me to bring people together from across the globe to collaborate on various music projects,” says the music producer who has also worked on tracks such as Move Your Body with Badshah and Sean Paul released in 2016. 

Working with each artist has been a unique experience. “Collaborating with Sean Paul was a wonderful experience because he was really interested in understanding the Indian music industry. Though there was a lot of back and forth discussion on what the track should sound like before he recorded his vocals, ultimately it was a really fun project. Sean Paul himself coined the title of the song — Move your Body,” he says. 

Where is it headed
One might think that while for Indian artists, it’s a chance to get on global charts with these international collaborations, what advantage do international artists have (apart from the money of course)?  “India is one of the most globally recognised markets when it comes to music with a population of more than 1.3 billion. Releasing music that appeals to this market gives international artists a huge opportunity to explore uncharted territories and substantially increase their fan base,” says he. 

Sure there have been many such Indian-international collaborations in the past, but none of them have attained the kind of success like Despacito yet. “There have been many collaborations in the Latin American industry even before Despacito, which created a kind of recognition for that specific genre of music today. I believe this is the year for Indian music to reach similar global standards that were unheard of in the past for us, on the lines of Despacito, which has reached billions of people across the globe,” he says, adding, “Bollywood music has slowly but surely found its way to a wider global audience and Slowly Slowly might just be a defining point for the rapidly growing Indian music industry. This song quite possibly just opened the flood gates for prospective international collaborations that we might see in the near future.”

How it all started
DJ Shadow’s first international collaboration was for a remix of Jay Sean’s Stay. “The song was a soft ballad, and while working on it I thought it would be interesting to have Indian vocals too. I approached Anushka Manchanda, who recorded the vocals. I hadn’t told Jay Sean or his team about it until after I finished production. He absolutely loved the final edit and the track went on to become one of the most popular remixes which also topped the charts of BBC Asian Network for weeks,” says he. 

While he is the perfect matchmaker of sorts for artists to collaborate on a project, the DJ also manages to do over 200 shows a year. “I often joke about how my life just has two sides — music production and live shows. To be honest, from October to March, my schedule is pretty hectic with innumerable live shows where I share my music with audiences and get a first hand experience of what people dance to during the season. It’s very humbling to see all this happen. Once, the season dies down, from the months of April to September, I’m mostly working on myself and my music. It’s either long hours in the studio or you’ll find me in the gym, meeting up with new people and just working on creating new ideas and producing new tracks,” says the producer who started his career as a teenager working on events. 

Recalling how he created his stage name, he says, “I wanted one which would define my alter ego and that’s how DJ Shadow was created: Me and my Shadow,” he ends. 

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