The dynamics of Indian music is changing – and how! Ask Nikhil Chinapa
At By 38, Nikhil Chinapa has worn several hats on his that head of his. He may be surprised, but is definitely happy about the turn his life has taken — from being a school boy with no clear idea of a career to being a VJ with MTV to being the founder of Submerge, the largest Electronic Dance Music (EDM) company in the country, and then the Festival Director at Sunburn, India's premier EDM festival. He is now an authority on the EDM industry which is estimated to cross the $2 million mark this year in terms of DJ salaries in India.
Having kicked off his career with MTV that which made him a household name, Nikhil has had the longest association with MTV Select, which aired continuously for 11 years. He has also been the host of Splitsvilla, a judge on MTV Roadies, on Rock On and on MTV Mashups. Not many know that he did is an Architecture, is by education, a scuba diving enthusiast and a nNational-lLevel sShooting champion!
The man, who kept doing “a little bit of everything”, says that his life has shaped up, thanks to some thoughtfully planned events that occurred.
Tenacity or serendipity? We find out from Nikhil himself who was is currently super busy in setting the stage for the recent Fatboy Slim India Tour which his company Submerge was is involved in.
Q: When you started out as a DJ in Bengaluru and as a VJ with MTV, what kind of expectations did you have from your career?
After I failed to secure a medical seat, I joined Architecture because I was told there was no Math to tackle. Obviously I got a shock when I started attending college. So for those first two years, I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Bangalore then had the perfect music scene with no drinks, substance abuse or women. It was the best if you liked sound hitting you square in the chest. Around then, I flunked the third year and joined the student organisation AIESEC. At a charity event, I recreated a radio station, and bagged another event. Five years later, I was hosting a show on radio ( no FM then!). I did finish college meanwhile, topping my fourth year and finishing my final with a thesis on hospital design. That was the year that MTV announced its VJ hunt and I auditioned. Now all those years of doing ‘nothing' and ‘everything' came together.
How would you summarise ze the experience of working with MTV in its early days?
Think of giving a four-year-old boy this huge lollipop! It was exactly like that. I mean, here I was, just finished college, loved music, and the brand that youth admired globally wanted me. It was exhilarating. They wanted me to host shows, travel around the world, and get paid for it! To top it, MTV Select got so popular they had to run it for the longest time — 11 years!
Q: How did your company Submerge come about?
In the early 1990s, all of us friends had had enough of listening to the same songs in every nightclub, and we thought why not get people to listen to something else. A friend of ours gave us a Thursday night to perform on at his club. My wife Pearl (my girlfriend then) and I formed Submerge and the first night that we performed was the most rocking party I remember till date. From 40 people, within three weeks, the club was filled to its 100 capacity.
How is EDM as a genre shaping up in India?
Nowadays, every kid wants to be a DJ. And it's possible too for anyone with a laptop, some software and a good amount of intelligence. Now 19- to 22-year-olds are becoming rockstars and it's easy for them to connect with 16- to 20-year-olds. Kids are also taking to technology much faster. Hence this massive surge in popularity.
In India, the popularity surge is as recent as the last four months. India and Brazil are the fastest growing markets for EDM with estimates for Indian spends on DJ fees itself being upwards of $ 2 million in 2012.
With artistes such as Fatboy Slim and David Guetta making their way into India, this is only going to increase. At the same time, we need to encourage local talent because that's what will ultimately increase the fan base.
Q: How did your company think of inviting Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) to India?
For me, Fatboy Slim has been a dream. I have always wanted to work with him. We worked in collaboration with 6th Dimension Entertainment. And Elements Inc for two concerts — one each in Gurgaon and Bengaluru.
Q: How would you analyse the response to Sunburn?
It's been a magical ride. Percept (who I've partnered with) gave me a free ticket to handle things the way I thought best. They, in turn, put my vision, knowledge and network to use.
It's been five years with Sunburn, and I honestly didn't expect such a huge response. Being at a music fest with your friends and enjoying that moment — that is the spirit of Sunburn.
Q: How would you sum up the changing dynamics of the music scene in India?
It's heartening to see that there is a good market for rock, jazz and blues, drum and bass, desi rock, indie and EDM. I think we need to focus on better infrastructure if we are to take artistes to every part of India.
For instance, there is no better place than North East for a musical performance, but infrastructure is poor.
But really, now is the time (to jump into the scene) if you have some knowledge of music and the inclination too.