Pioneering DJing: Best DJ

Pioneering DJing in India: DJ Akbar Sami

He started mixing songs and playing them for us when not many of us knew DJing actually exists as a career in the music industry. From creating an acknowledgement to receiving awards for his contribution in music, DJ Akbar Sami has come a long way. iCraze finds out what entails this journey of one of India’s most loved DJs who has got generations grooving to his tunes.

1. What inspired you to choose music as your career?
I think it was the other way round. Music chose me and I consider myself lucky that this happened, I grew up listening to my dad’s Sufism and elder brother’s western music. It influenced me a lot and soon I got deeply involved in music related subjects. And then the rest like everyone knows is history.

2. When you started off, DJing wasn’t known to be an established profession. What struggles did you face in terms of acknowledgement and finding your own path?
Yes, nobody really knew about Djing that time when I had started playing music. It was indeed a very difficult time for me. As there was no source of getting, collecting music, no internet so no downloads or the slightest of idea about what was going on around the world of music internationally as I had not yet introduced Indian Film Music into the clubs or in my events back then, whenever people asked what do you do for a living? I had to think about how to answer that question for them to understand what I do. Since I knew they would raise the eyebrows if I say that I’m a disc jockey. It probably will take a few more years.

3. You have recently received DJ of the Decade Award. Do you think such recognitions are necessary for an artist?
It is more than necessary, in fact, it is very important for more and more firms like INCA to recognise DJs in and around India as DJs do promote Indian music world over in their own unique way. And they also have been giving a new sound to the older recordings of our film music, producing them and performing it too. Representing the Indian music world over is what a few DJs including myself have been doing for many years without being recognised in India by our music industry. It’s a sad truth. Finally, INCA did a survey within India and decided to finally have an award for the DJ category and I was selected for the DJ Of The Decade Award. I’m super thankful to Mr Aman Anand and the entire crew of INCA.   

4. Indie pop has not seen a rise which was anticipated from it. Why does the music industry always have a back seat to films?
We have some fantastic Indie pop groups and soloist available and superbly talented artists. Sadly, the music companies have started keeping and signing indipopers of their own selectors of the artist who comes with money bags or connections, obviously, they get the first preference and so loads of good talent gets wasted and ignored. Unless one shoe licks the biggies of the music industry they don’t get anywhere, and nor the Indie pop. I’ve been on the panel of judges for the Mirchi Music Awards last eight years and have heard some great artists, sadly the power of Bollywood is so very strong in India that the Indie pop gets overshadowed.

5. Are you up with the idea of so many remakes in film music and singles?
Yes, I’m and I always was in for the idea of remakes and singles, because the idea of having singles and remakes has always been around the world over except India for the longest time.  Unfortunately, we have always overdone styles and remixes here. Soon after my first remix albums called ‘Jalwa’ and ‘Jaadoo’ the entire music industry jumped on the wagon of remixes.  Moreso today we can’t release anything with a remix on the film album. And this I had mentioned 20 years ago in many of my interviews and tv debates back then. We are remaking too many and too fast. I think soon we will be running out of our untouchable melodies, but one thing I’m glad is that our newer generations are getting to know our songs which they would never have heard otherwise.

6. You have played across the globe, a destination you love going back to?
Very hard to pick up one destination. I think, London, Dubai and all over the USA.

7. How has the taste of Indian club-going audience evolved?
The taste, for sure has drastically improved. It’s nice to know that loads of club owners have been going overseas to learn how to run this business and are doing very well. The audience now has also learned to accept international music which used to be when I had started Djing, as there was no film music played at any of the clubs.

8. Your favourite genres to mix with?
House music all the way. It has always been my first preference as that’s what DJing is all about. And House music is the mother of all forms of Western dance music.

9. Your personal favourite music.

It’s different when I’m working but, my favourite music has always been Funk, Blues, Sufi, of the back in the day’s stuff. As the musician and writers, today have a totally different mindset. So it was all great music and lyrics up till the 90s. We’ve lost it after that.

10. Musicians you admire and would love to collaborate with.
I would love to collaborate with Quincy Jones, Kalyanji Anandji, Mohammad Rafisaab (biggest fan), Hans Raj Hans, Zakir Hussain, late RD Burman. I wish they were among us.

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