Last November, the electronic dance music (EDM) scene in the India turned a happy 10 with Submerge celebrating a decade since their inception. Launched by Nikhil Chinapa who became popular as a VJ for MTV, Submerge began a music culture in a country that was just beginning to discover itself beyond the boundaries of classic rock and modern metal.
What started off as a party in 2002 where Nikhil wanted to give the DJ complete artistic reign over the music, has now become a larger than life music sensation that has brought some of the best acts to the country for the first time, and has kept others coming back for more. And despite the 10 years behind him, DJ Nikhil tells City Express why the best of the party is yet to happen.
“If I were to rate where we stand in terms of how much farther we need to go to realise the music potential India has, I’d say 1.5 out of 10. We’ve created an environment for music in India, and we’ve only just begun. Two years ago if you told me that EDM would be the most popular kind of music after Bollywood, I would’ve laughed. Yet here we are,” begins the Bengalurean.
Moving to Mumbai in 1997 to pursue his dreams, DJ Nikhil says that he was utterly disappointed by the music scene there. “As I got to Bombay, I found it wasn’t as vibrant as Bangalore, and in retrospect I know that’s because of the large student community. But then, I was disappointed that I was not getting the music I wanted.”
And that was how Submerge began, quite humbly as a party for themselves. “In 2002, the three of us -- Hermit, Pearl and myself -- threw a party called Submerge. And one of the rules was that you couldn’t request songs from the DJ,” he shares, explaining, “A DJ at the end of the day isn’t just someone playing the music, he is an artist and needs that space. The idea caught on, we spread to other cities and it became a badge of honour to be invited to play at Submerge.”
Fast forward 10 years, and everything has aged well, almost like wine, with better acts coming up, the expectation getting better and the music louder. Submerge has been instrumental in bringing to Indian soil international giants like Above & Beyond, Swedish House Mafia (who were here for their last world tour), Armin van Buuren, Fatboy Slim
Dj Tiesto, Mat Zo, Andrew Bayer, Norin & Rad, Dash Berlin, Avicii and Albin Myers to name a few.
“We are the only country where Swedish House Mafia has come twice,” shares Nikhil, quietly proud of the fact. However, in all the gigs that he’s been to, there’s one that stands out in his memory. “Last November we had Trance From the World by Above & Beyond perform. I had never seen that many people cry. It was a very special experience. There were about 450 of us, and the music just swept through us.”
Despite his success with EDM, Nikhil Chinapa is very clear about not differentiating between kinds of music. For those who remember his days at MTV Select, what made him so popular was his ability to keep everybody hooked to the music. The DJ says its important to listen. “I’m against music genres. I grew up on heavy metal and I still listen to other kinds of music. It’s a bad notion to think that just one particular genre of music is ‘hip’ and the others aren’t. Pick one or two or 20, but just listen. Music is meant to transport you.”
In the same breath, he also shares his discontent over the internet generation of music listeners. “There’s been a negative growth due to the internet. It’s very easy to say what someone’s doing isn’t good enough or mediocre. Opinions on EDM have been extremely rude and harsh. Celebrate the music you like, but don’t close yourself to other kinds of music.”
However, all said and done, the 39-year old can’t complain much and is already looking forward. So what can EDM fans expect this year? “If you’ve followed us from the beginning of the year, then you already have an idea. But I can’t really say much at this point because we’re still finalising things. But it’s gonna be a big year.”
As Luciano’s Rise of Angel plays in his head, Nikhil signs off saying, “Turn up the volume and introduce your music to your neighbours!”