DJs go to school

The first batch of students is trying their hand at mixing tunes at the I Love Music Academy in Delhi. This is the second such school after Bengaluru boasted of the first three years ago. Is Mumbai next? “We’re working on it and hope to start one in the next eight months,” says Arjun Vagale of electronica outfit Jalebee Cartel.

There weren’t electronic music production schools when you started out. How did you learn?
I learnt just by watching other DJs and then trying to figure stuff out for myself. It involved a lot of messing around with the gear till I got a sense of what I wanted to do with it. I started when I was 15 years old and my first gig was my school social. From there I went on to play at a few parties and then got a residency at a Delhi club.

What is the aim of the academy?
It’s a very practical three-month course. We want to start with the basics, so we begin with turntables, introduce them to the equipment and let them start using it immediately. Since the classes are held only twice a week, we give students unlimited access to the studio so that they can practice.

Who will be teaching at the academy?
I oversee the project and we have four permanent faculty — G ‘Force’ Arjun of Jalebee Cartel will be heading the Electronic Music Production and Sound Engineering departments. Llewellyn Hilt aka DJ Bubu will head the DJing department. We also have interactive Skype classes with international DJs and music producers to give students a global perspective of the electronic music scene.

Tell us about the students.
We have five students currently since we don’t want a class that’s too big. We get 30 year-old corporates who want a new hobby and enthusiastic 19 year-olds who want to pursue a career. We are also organising crash course for kids since they are on summer vacation.

So you need to have a music background to enroll?
You don’t need a music background but you must be passionate about music. We also teach students to create a mix tape so that they can approach clubs that will let them play. They also learn how to market themselves, music appreciation class which introduces them to new genres. Mixing is not the difficult part, what you have to work on is programming a track, that means figuring out which track to play at what time and how to build the night with your set. There is an extent to how much you can teach; part of it has to be inborn.

We’ve seen a rise in the number of international DJs that perform in India. Is this the right time to be a part of the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scene?
For the last five years we have noticed an increasing trend in the country. Most DJs who play in Europe tend to do a stopover in Southeast Asia and then head to Australia. India has now become a stopover because of the sheer population and at least four big cities that have an audience. With the number of clubs coming up and focusing on quality music, it is the right time to get into the industry.

Was your family concerned when you decided to be a DJ? How lucrative is the career?
With any creative career you are bound to face backlash. It’s a tough road and you can’t expect to have things handed to you on a silver platter just because you have talent. I started out making ad jingles before I could survive on just being a DJ. I always tell students to also look at music production because there are so many opportunities. Today every media incorporates electronic music. So, the opportunities are infinite if you learn about production as well. 

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