DJ Aqeel, who will be playing at Imagica’s Anniversary Bash today, talks about the evolving deejaying scene in India
Long before remixes became a formula in Bollywood films, DJ Aqeel earned quite a reputation for rehashing old songs and presenting them to younger listeners. And it came along with interesting videos we remember even today — be it his Shake It Daddy Mix featuring Ayesha Takia stuck in a lift with Keith Sequeira, or the dapper-looking Zayed Khan in Disco 82. The artist, who will be taking over the console at Imagica’s 6th Anniversary Bash, discusses the changing deejaying scene in India...
What are you going to play at the bash?
Imagica always has a healthy mix of youngsters and family. Bollywood music remains at the heart of every Indian. All the bash attendees will be treated to the best of my Bollywood musical renditions.
You claim to have become a DJ by default and today you’re one of the top DJs in the country. How did this happen?
I deliberated hard on what I would like to do at a time when I wasn’t studying or working. Back then, deejaying seemed like an easy job where you play music, people dance, and you get a chance to travel and access the best places. Based on this, I decided to try my luck, and have never looked back again.
With many international artists performing in the country and Indian DJs opening for international artists, how is this phenomenon helping the local music scene?
Deejaying has evolved a lot. First we were just 4-5 DJs and now we have around 50,000, so we are like a whole army. The emergence of more and more clubs, pubs, lounges, corporate or private parties, have provided multiple opportunities for the evolution and growth of the DJ culture in India. Earlier, we used to play one kind of music, now we play multiple genres. And it’s just getting better by the day. People are producing not only Bollywood music but also English music.
From Shake It Daddy to Keh Du Tumhe, you’ve created such refreshing remixes. Tell us about your fascination with Kishore da’s songs.
It was a great journey as I really love RD Burman and Kishore Da’s music. It was a real honour to remix these songs. I have a new album coming up called Nostalgia 2 featuring old remixes in new voices and new sound and styling. As for the videos, honestly it was entirely conceptualised by Universal Music India and I worked only on a few beach-themed videos.
Today, the number of DJs in the country is huge; however, not everyone is up to the mark. Do you think there should be some checks and measures be put in place to raise the bar?
I don’t agree. I think all the DJs are very smart now. They have learnt their art by watching and following good DJs. And because of the advent of technology, auto-mixing, YouTube and so on, everybody has upped their game. Plus there are a lot of opportunities and a lot of work (clubs, pubs, parties). I think there aren’t enough DJs around yet and we can do with a few more.
How is the deejaying scene in India different from that in the West?
The Indian deejaying scene is quite modern and cool, similar to the West. While music taste and genres may differ, the visual aesthetics, graphics used by Indian DJs, more or less, have been emulated from the international DJ performances. We have to mention that a few of the Indian DJs do produce original content. However with the influx of world’s best DJs coming to play in our country, the bar for Indian DJs to bring innovation in sound, lights, music display to attract and engage the audience is going higher.
What are you creating next?
Currently working on famous remixes of pop stars and also a couple of Bollywood movies. Besides the usual Bollywood, commercial and EDM, I’m also working on a lot of techno music and will start playing it October onwards.