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Indian DJs

Sunburn festival: The right spin


The Sunburn festival has not only given Indians a taste for electronica, it has catapulted unknown acts into the big league.

When the gates to Sunburn open in Goa on Tuesday morning, thousands of fans will be lining up for a musical orgy that includes 90 artistes across seven stages. The chance to see acts like Pete Tong, Gabriel & Dresden, Above & Beyond and Axwell has had fans salivating for months. As Asia's best dance music festival, Sunburn certainly gets full marks for creating a buzz. But there's another area where the festival has scored well - nurturing new talent.

If there were a handful of names spinning EDM five years ago, after Sunburn 2007, that number has multiplied by ten. Acts that were looking to carve out a space for themselves got a leg-up by performing at a dance music festival that has been scaling popularity charts around the world.

The brains behind Sunburn is Nikhil Chinapa, who along with then-girlfriend-now-wife DJ Pearl, has seen from close quarters how his pet project Submerge and the festival that came through that, has shaped India's electronic music scene. Each year, more Indian names are added to the line-up for Sunburn, and it has left him pleased as punch.

The 2011 edition has more than 30 Indian DJs and ensembles spinning alongside the big names from the West. "Nobody knew that Sunburn would be a revolution, " Chinapa says. "From the time it took off, it changed how the EDM space was looked at and where India stood. The festival has been built on the goodwill of Indian DJs. They never had a platform. Submerge and Sunburn gave them that, " he adds.

No other success story perhaps can encapsulate Sunburn's impact better than the rise of Dheeraj Sareen. Today, billed as a bright new spark in the Asian EDM scene, Sareen was slaving in a corporate job before he found his calling. Blessed with a keen ear, turntables were a passion for the Delhi born-and-bred but it wasn't till he dropped a mix or two on the Submerge online forum - where EDM junkies dissect and discover - that he was noticed by Chinapa. "I was deejaying for fun in college when I was in the US. It was once I left Michigan and came back to India that I took it up more seriously. I posted mixes on the online forum, Nikhil liked what he heard and invited me to play with him in Delhi, " Sareen recalls.

Nudged by Chinapa to enter a 30 minute set in a Submerge-Sunburn contest, Sareen, along with the contest, won himself an afternoon spot to play at Sunburn 2008. Though the bright sun might have kept a few party revellers away, it couldn't shroud Sareen's talent.

He moved, Mac and mixer, to San Francisco, a place he's called home for the past three years to learn audio engineering at Pyramind Training, a music production school. After finishing the course at the school, Dheeraj placed in the business division at Pyramind due to his background in the music industry as a producer coupled with his financial management degree from Michigan. He also runs a promotion company Rhythm&Reason with another 'Cisco producer Jamaica Suk. He's also a regular feature in clubs around the city opening for acts like Dubfire, Lee Burridge and Jamie Jones.

"Because of the Sunburn Festival being on my bio, it was easier for me to get booked in San Francisco and I owe a lot promoters like Listed, BASE, Housepitality, WERD and The Show in San Francisco for booking me because the competition here is fierce. It definitely gives me leverage, " the 25-year-old gratefully adds. Sareen will be playing at Sunburn for the third time on December 28.

Sareen isn't the only act that Chinapa and Sunburn have gently guided. "Nikhil has always supported the underground. Praveen Achary, another great producer from Bangalore came up the same way, " Sareen adds. Achary will also be seen spinning on December 27.

Chinapa is excited about the Indian scene and believes that it's about to explode. "Phi Degrees also won a slot to play at Sunburn and they've gone to create a whole new sound for themselves. Talent has always been around but it never had that springboard launchpad. Today acts like Jalebee Cartel and Midival Punditz are well known all across. DJ Pearl has released two compilations that have been well received, " he adds.

Shailendra Singh, managing director at Percept - the company that owns Sunburn - is unequivocal when it comes to supporting Indian talent. "Since inception, we've always had a 50-50 combination of experience and talent in our line up. We've given Indian talent the opportunity to go and tell the world what they're capable of. If you're talented and you need a stage, Sunburn will give you one. It's your chance, use it well, " Singh says.

Sunburn is on from Dec 27-29.

Reader's opinion (1)

Akhil ShettyDec 31st, 2011 at 16:12 PM

Fascinating read!.

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