Electric India is a new monthly feature that explores what’s bubbling in and around South Asia – from the real players in the electronic music game. From new releases, to festivals to club culture and trending artists, we go deep inside the scene and provide a monthly snapshot of the latest currents in India. From homegrown techno to imported festivals and secret parties, the music diaspora of India is so culturally unique that it deserves its own attention.
From DJs, artists and producers, their managers, festival promoters, labels, venues and other driving forces, we tap the seen and unseen from a variety of electronic and dance scenes across the country. Every city and area has its own culture and approach to music culture, some are further ahead than others — so join us as we try to figure out why they are intriguingly different and what makes them so relevant.
Our first guest is India’s bass god Nucleya aka Udyan Sagar. The undisputed champ of the subcontinent's festival scene, Nucleya started his ascent back in ’98 with the seminal outfit Bandish Projekt, before exploding onto the world’s radar in 2015 with two big records — ‘Koocha Monster’ and ‘Bass Rani’, the latter of which blew him into the stratosphere. Since then he’s collaborated with the biggest names on the Indian scene, including superstar rapper DIVINE, Krewella, Ritviz and many others.
We caught up with Nucleya at his home in Goa, where he’s living the laidback life while riding out the current lockdown with his family. Once you’ve finished indulging in our conversation, you should check out Nucleya’s exclusive thirty minute retro-future mix for Mixmag Asia.
Things are a little different this year than last. And right now you're nested by the beach in Goa. How has the music scene been affected this year, and how has it affected you?
Well, I've been living in Goa for the past five years now actually. I decided to move here with my wife and son after spending many years in New Delhi, and it's been one of the best decisions of my life. Things are always more relaxed here, and even in lockdown we've all been taking the necessary precautions very patiently, with the hope of making the best of this time at home. The music industry has seen turbulence on many fronts across the country, but I feel as we spend more time understanding what's going on, we're slowly also learning how to adapt and explore new opportunities for ourselves. Everyone's thinking of ways to be there for each other and support each other, and I believe that we'll all come out of this together in due time. Until then, we have the internet at our disposal, and you can already see lots of people experimenting with live streams, merch, new releases and much more. The creative industry has seen tough times before, and we've always figured it out, so I'm confident that we will get through this as well.
How are live streams taking off in India? What platforms are DJs and their audiences taking to?
In terms of platforms, there are many to choose from, but I think it's about figuring out what works for you. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of performing for a live audience over Zoom, but I really enjoy organising virtual meet and greets with my fans. I recently got together with Ritviz and Anish, to host private Zoom sessions where a small group of our fans could join in and play a game show with us once a week. It's personal, we all have a lot of fun, and that's about it. I also go live on Instagram every now and then to say hi and share some updates, play some new music and chat with people. Truth is that there's no way to virtually replicate the experience of being at a gig, for the audience or for myself, it's just not going to be the same.
That’s certainly a reality we are facing globally for the dance industry. What are your thoughts on festivals and events having a chance in India this year?
I don't know if we're in a position to put a date to it, but I think it would be safe to assume that nothing should be planned for 2020, owing to the uncertainties that surround us right now. Public health and safety should be on the top of everyone's priority list, and until we're absolutely sure that we’re not at risk, organisers should refrain from planning events, whether large scale or small.
But the music hasn’t stopped. What’s your take on the current trends in music? Apart from you, who else should we keep our eyes and ears open for?
EDM is still big, but other styles are making a larger space for themselves too. Pop (electronic oriented) is bigger than ever before and you can see Ritviz leading that front, and producer Sez is taking hip hop to a whole new level. Also, Sandunes is ahead of the curve with her live electronica sound, amongst so much more. House and techno have been a regular at clubs throughout the country, while the slightly more commercial sounds are bigger at college fests. Then there are multi-genre festivals like NH7 Weekender who dedicate a whole stage to all sorts of electronic musicians. In the recent past, we've also seen festivals like Magnetic Fields and Neon East Festival, that focus purely on the best of electronic music. All in all, electronic music is such a crucial part of the music scene now.
Last year at Sunburn festival there were protests against the festival but it went off and did big numbers. How real is the government pushback?
Dance music has a very strong association with rave culture, so naturally there is a good amount of pushback from authorities in many parts of the country. But I also believe that this is where some of the organisers really need to step up and create some boundaries to regulate their shows in a better manner. We need to educate the audience to be more responsible of themselves and their surroundings and create safe spaces for themselves and others to have a good time. When these measures and checks are put in place, things will get even better and the culture will be able to evolve.
With the emergence of hip hop since the bollywood blockbuster ‘Gully Boy’, is there more inclusion of rap elements happening in dance music?
Rap music has yet to enter dance music (in India) in a big way I feel. There's a lot of it in bollywood now - some of the biggest bollywood hits in recent times are hip hop dance numbers, owing to Badshah, Raftaar, Guru Randhawa and others. My collaborations with DIVINE have been really fantastic, and he's one of the most versatile rappers in the country and that's what I love about him.
Can you map out the electronic music market of India for us? Which cities have the most avid fans with the strongest support for artists and shows?
Electronic music fans are all over the country today. Of course the big cities have countless places to go clubbing, while tier one and tier two cities have fewer options. But over here, the absence of clubs is made up for by enterprising promoters who take up the onus of holding big concerts regularly, and people come out in large numbers.
From a business perspective how has the electronic music scene affected bollywood film songs? The remix phenomena aside, are more film songs starting to use elements of future bass, bass and trap?
Hardly. Bollywood has always been more about the singers, and it largely remains like that. Film music is written to drive narrative mostly, so the focus is rarely on experimenting with new sounds.
Finally, can you share a few of the biggest records that are working for you right now?
It's been a while since I played a set hahaha. Currently I'm hooked on ‘Dance Monkey’ by Tones & I - it's my nine year old son's favourite track and he wants to listen to it all the time! Besides that total banger, I’m loving ‘Surf Mesa’ by ily feat. Emilee, SAINt JHN ‘Roses’ (Imanbek RMX) and ‘Blinding Lights’ by the Weeknd.
Have a listen to Nucleya’s thirty minute exclusive mix for Mixmag Asia below: