Satheerth Kunneth aka DJ Shadow Dubai aka Master of Global Music Collaborations is a Dubai based globally acclaimed virtuoso in the field of DJing. Experience of around 15 years has led him to establish his brand ‘Shadow’ across the globe. Having worked with famous International and Indian artists like Pitbull, Sean Paul, Jay Sean, Guru Randhawa, and Badshah, Shadow has made himself a popular name in the industry and has become the go-to man for nearly all international music collabs. Here’s Brown Magazine in an exclusive conversation with DJ Shadow wherein he not just talks about music and his career but also spills the beans about his personal life and much more.
How has the whole period of lockdown been for you? Are you also bored like a lot of us or are you pursuing something new?
Initially, I was in my comfort zone and it felt like a necessary break from everyday’s bustling routine. But then after around 3-4 weeks of relaxation, I realized I should utilize this time to learn something new and that’s when I started my online Piano lessons and I also enrolled for some Music Mastering classes. It is from mid-May that I actually started to get back to working Music and since then it’s been busy. But other than that the lockdown went pretty alright and I got to spend time with myself and with my family and friends. Being an Indian kid I had grew up listening to a lot of Bollywood music and absolutely loved dancing to it, but
Was DJing your planned profession since always or did life take a wild turn?
Like most of the Indian parents, even my folks wanted me to pursue either engineering or medical studies. But being scared of blood the only option that I was left with was engineering and that’s what I decided to do. Considering my love for computers and my strong interest in maths, I pursued Computer Engineering from BITS Pilani, Dubai. I had always loved music but at that point, the idea of pursuing a career in music was beyond my wildest dreams. The engineering internship that I was doing during the third year of college made me see that this is not where my heart lies and that made me take up a part-time job in the events industry. That is when I experienced the backstage life and I saw the life of a DJ up close and personal for the first time. The glitz and glam of that life really fascinated me and made me venture into this field, but the turning point I must say would be when I watched the movie ‘Rock On’ and told myself that later on in life I would not want to have regrets about not giving a chance to music. And that’s when I left my high-paying job and made music an integral part of my life.
So Shadow the concept of DJing as a full-time career is comparatively still new to society. So how did things go with your family when you started out as a DJ more than 15 years ago considering this concept was even newer at that time?
They were shocked and worried in the beginning and rightly so, the journey was a long and a tough one. After seeing my dedication towards music they were satisfied that at least I was trying. Once I got settled in the industry and had a stable inflow of income that’s when they started to accept it. And I am really thankful to them for supporting me and allowing me to take this huge leap of faith.
So tell me Shadow what did your childhood look like? What kind of a child you were, what were your hobbies and interests?
I was that cute little kid who could get away with all the naughtiness. Apart from that I was and still am a huge Bollywood buff and would probably have been a movie director if not a musician.
So we know much about Shadow but tell me has Satheerth been overshadowed by DJ Shadow? Has your personality undergone changes over the years?
So this is an interesting question that I have been asking myself for a long time. But thanks to this lockdown which has given me the opportunity to reconnect with Satheerth and hence he has come out a lot during this period. It becomes difficult during the normal course of life to bring him out much with all the shows and events that I do. But I would definitely say that these are 2 different personalities of mine. It sometimes becomes tough to separate both of them but I have to keep juggling between the two.
What does a typical day in the life of DJ shadow look like?? How much time do you spend creating new music?
My year is majorly divided into two parts one being the span between Diwali to Holi which is typically crazy and fast-paced with all the festivals, parties, and the wedding season. The other half is much calmer where I am producing a lot of music and trying to spend most of the time with my loved ones. So there’s no particular schedule, it just depends on what time of the year it is.
Being known as the Master of Global Music Collaborations you have worked with international artists like Pitbull, Sean Paul, Jay Sean. Tell us something about your experience working with such a varied panel of artists.
I think regarding this I have been pretty lucky to be born and brought up in Dubai which means I grew up listening to all kinds of music from Bollywood and the West as well. I grew up listening to a lot of Pitbull and Sean Paul and it’s almost unbelievable that a few years down the lane I actually got to collaborate with them. What has been a great experience working with these artists is the professionalism and the energy that they bring to the workplace, especially Pitbull. Also, the experience that these guys bring counts a lot. They always give it their all to the track and that’s what I have learned from working with them. Working with them has also helped me improve my taste of music and has given me some of the craziest experiences.
Looking at how talented you are it made sense that you have won the Masala Award for Best Asian DJ so many times. How does it feel to receive that kind of recognition?
The first time that I won the award was totally unexpected as I even wasn’t that big a name in the Dubai music industry. I think the main reason that I won the award was because of the love from the youth of Dubai who really liked my fusions of the Urban and the Bollywood style of music. Winning that award brought to my notice that people are appreciating me and are expecting good music from me and I can do even better. Back then we didn’t have social media which could provide us instant gratification or show love and support towards us so winning this award was a huge positive reinforcement for me and I’ll cherish it forever.
Considering how many international gigs you’ve had, how has your experience been in foreign countries like the United States, Spain, Africa, Bahrain, Sri Lanka and the list is endless.
So a major difference between the crowd of any place as compared to the crowd of Dubai and India is that people in India and Dubai are much more educated in terms of the newer bollywood music which makes my job easier. But in other locations it becomes a bit of a roadblock as they are not really familiar with the newer songs and I take this up as a challenge to not only make them enjoy the party but to also educate them about the new bollywood music. I don’t rely solely on retro bollywood songs that the crowd would probably know, I experiment a lot instead.
Well all of your fans are extremely excited about the 100th album in your ‘Desilicious’ series and are eagerly waiting for. When can we expect the track to drop and what is going to be so special about the 100th album?
Desilicious was born out of a need for Bollywood remixes as they weren’t a popular thing back in those days. I used to come to Mumbai to buy CDs of remixes and that’s about it, there was no other source like the internet. That’s when I got inspired by the artists in the West and started making my own remixes which catered to the parties at the clubs. Every week I would make new edits and that’s how the legacy started. I had never thought that I would create so many of them. With the increasing number of remixes and remakes these days I had to find something unique for the 100th one. For this I have been trying to come up with a new sub-genre of remixes which would take the Bollywood dance music to a whole another level. I’m very excited to drop this and see how the audience responds to it.
How did you make collaborations possible with artists like Guru Randhawa and Badhshah? How was it like working with them on such amazing tracks?
While working with them the vibe is much more chilled out. I’ve got to learn a good deal from Guru (Randhawa) especially looking at how humble he is even after reaching that point in his career. These things make me realize how a person should be.
How do you think the whole corona and the whole lockdown situation has affected the entertainment industry? What challenges have you faced during this time?
Initially it felt like a break which gradually turned into feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. As an industry the period is really tough as you don’t know when everything is going to go back to normal. But I told myself that I should take this time to ‘Repair and Prepare’ myself. Repairing from all the mistakes that i must’ve made in the past and just slowing down a little bit as well as preparing for the future and coming up with new things like Desilicious 100 and taking Piano lessons, etc.
So, you hosted a charity event that gained massive response, thanks to your fan following. How was your experience with that event? Was it a success?
I thought since we are already doing online live shows why not work for an ulterior motive and take this opportunity to ask my friends to help for a certain cause. That’s how the whole idea was conceived and I’m happy that it proved to be a great success.
These days we see so many aspiring DJs taking up the field as a career, alot of whom would be inspired by you and other DJs out there. Would you have some tips for them considering there aren’t many people to guide them as the field is such a niche.
As an audience our lives are very attractive with all the travelling, fame, industry connections and having fun. But that’s just the fun part about it, the real part is when you produce music and go for shows and stuff. And until and unless you are really passionate about music and really enjoy it, you shouldn’t take this up just for fun as it is something larger than that. It’s a mix of aloth of things like passion, hard work, talent, and most importantly determination to give it your hundred percent. That’s what makes you stand out from the crowd and helps you create your own identity.
So Shadow what is the dream project that you’ve always wanted to work on?
I have many dreams that I’m sure I will make them true. A collaboration that I really want to do is with Drake. Other than that I would love to take Bollywood music to global music festivals. I believe Bollywood music has the potential but hasn’t reached that level so hopefully next year we try and make it big.
What next should we expect from the DJ Shadow? Do you have any ongoing projects that are dropping soon? Tell us something about your upcoming projects.
A few collaborations in terms of original music are on their way. Alongside that we’re working hard on the Desilicious 100 for which I’m working on many new things. Also I’m going to back live from the 16th of July and I hope to see my supporters at the live shows.
The 36-year-old ace DJ has risen up to the level of fame with all the talent and hard work. He along with many other DJs has made Bollywood dance music a household name at a lot of places all around the world. And with his high-soaring dreams, he is going to continue to do so and take Bollywood music to every nook and corner of the world.