The 42-year-old goddess of electronic dance music has fought for 40 years to express herself without restraint and to live her life the way she chooses
Ma Faiza looks like she could cut you up and snort you with a dollar bill. But the second impression is the game changer. “I don’t look like I work in an office,” said the DJ who is easily over 6 feet tall. “I was at the Pune airport when the security staff saw me with my top hat and was convinced that I was a magician. After security check they came up to me and said, ‘Thoda jadoo karo na?’ I said, ‘I cannot make magic, I am the magic,’” says DJ Ma Faiza who is one of the most sought out names in EDM. “I became a DJ in India, but growing up in London I had exposure to different kinds of music and access to so many different cultures and ethnicities – I was there when the scene was evolving, and all the music that is happening today emerged from those times in the 80’s and 90’s. In India music was never a politic, it never went hand in hand with an uprising, so while the EDM scene is blossoming, there are other problems like timing, tolerance and conservatism,” she explains.
Ten years ago nobody wanted to hear her music, but now the country is catching up and everybody is on board the EDM wagon. “We are still struggling though, except it has nothing to do with the audience and lack of awareness. It is the lack of infrastructure, judgements on morality and going out dancing or drinking and having a good time, archaic laws that have no relevance, these are the problems out here,” says the DJ who is now based out of Pune.
But we still need to use words like underground to describe one of the most happening phenomena in the music industry, “Well, it takes time, you know? Look how much battle there was to get rock and roll in India. It has been expanding for only six years and I have been around for 20. But EDM is niche and the market it serves is also niche.”
Irrespective of labels like commercial or underground, some of the best EDM comes from the consoles of DJs. There however, seems to be a gap that needs to be bridged between being a DJ and a musician. “Many people who start as DJs go on to include instruments in their work and vice versa. But the natural evolution for DJs is for them to go on and produce their own music, music that they love, than just play other music. DJs can also be called artists, who could go on to be musicians — its two sides of the same coin.”
DJing has also become a very popular career choice for kids these days, but are their reasons for becoming a DJ misguided? “Who doesn’t want to be a model or movie star — someone famous who travels and parties and lives a glamorous life? But it is also a lot of hard work with schedules and sleepless nights and being on the road with no routine. The world is interested in alternative lifestyles and imagines that I have a wild life when in reality it is actually a tough life. But coming back to your question, as long as someone is passionate about music, irrespective of all other reasons, if there is passion at the core then they should go for it.”
Ma Faiza is all praise for our little, cosmopolitan baby — Bangalore. “Oh yeah! Without a shadow of doubt, Bangalore is my favourite city to play in. It doesn’t matter if the party closes early; people come earlier, sweat and dance and are sincere about the music. Bangalore has been the most rocking city consistently and has a great music scene; it is a shame that politics and moral crusades are destroying it.”
Her real name is Faiza, and “Ma” was a prefix she was given when she went to an ashram in Pune. “My name calls for so much confusion, and I’m always mistaken for a man. I’m just different, not a man, just different. Not everything you see is what it is. I am gay, and have tattoos and piercings — just one look at me and you know I have had several experiences and people may assume I’m not very clever. But all of us can be successfully unique.
“I have fought my whole life to be me and my mother who is 70 is not shocked by anything these days. You need to keep pushing the boundaries, because if you don’t nothing will change.”
Ma Faiza was a very good student and rejected university, much to the chagrin of her father, “He kept telling me I was wasting my life but structure and systems did not suit me. I am a woman in a size 12 shoe, do you have any idea how difficult it is to get women’s shoes in a size 12? I am not off the shelf, nothing about me can be mass produced and that is exactly how my music is,” she concludes.