Big daddy of DJs

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ON THE ROAD DJ Ryan Beck: ‘It was that killing urge to conquer something new that spurred me on’
ON THE ROAD DJ Ryan Beck: ‘It was that killing urge to conquer something new that spurred me on’

There is nothing like having a crowd appreciate and literally dance to your tunes, says Mumbai DJ Ryan Beck

“I love playing music. When everyone is under your command you feel like Jesus,” says DJ Ryan Beck. However clichéd and ‘misled’ it might sound, this fundamentalist zeal and the visceral (but lasting) pleasure of watching the crowd turn into a writhing mass under disco lights, has forever remained with this Mumbai DJ.

“There is nothing like having a crowd appreciate and dance (literally) to your tunes,” he says of his singular inspiration that has kept him alive in the field for over 17 years now and established him as one among the country’s leading DJs.

Ryan’s three signature albums “Jalwa 3” (2001), “Swing Thing” (2002) under the name of DJ Narayan, and “Safari Lounge” (2003) are among the most-played albums by an Indian DJ, not just within the country, but also in places like UK and France. His tours abroad have made him somewhat of an international phenomenon.The veteran’s most telling contribution, has been to the Indian DJ scene with his endless gigs. “Nearly 40 to 50 percent of the DJ culture in India is because of me,” claims Ryan, what with him having taught and nurtured a number of DJs from all over the country for years. “They always accompanied me to my club and private gigs and learnt with me on the job.”

Born into a family of musicians, with his mother into ballet and western classical and father into classics like Frank Sinatra et al, Ryan was always encouraged musically. With his elder sister Marvi already venturing into the hitherto unexplored world of DJing in India, Ryan had all the inspiration that he needed. Having started off his musical career with Prahlad Kakkar making music for commercials, Ryan soon realised that his infatuation with turntables grew with every gig that he performed in the early 90s. “It was that urge to conquer something new that spurred me on.” In 1998 he came second in an all-India DJ competition and in 1999 won the all-India DMC (DJ Mixing Championship) title that earned him a record deal with Times Music.

DJ Ryan Beck was recently in the city for a gig at Fuga to mark the launch of Foster’s draught beer. His tracks spanned a wide range, with tunes from Santana and Joe Satriani, to retro-electro influences from Queen, to commercial artists like Bob Sinclair. “DJs bring the world closer with their music,” says Ryan.“We use many genres of music together.” But the one guiding philosophy for a travelling DJ is “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Just as how Bollywood tunes are a rage in India today, says Ryan, music in various parts of the world is a direct reflection of a particular culture. “A touring DJ has to be aware of this even if he wants to do his own thing.”

Another interesting comparison that Ryan points out is with regard to the ‘arrival’ of cross-culture musical forms. Just as how India is emerging with various forms from all over the globe, the US and UK specially, are emerging with Bollywood — both pure and remixed. “We all know that Bollywood sells internationally. But today we are only a couple of steps away from having a Bollywood number on the US and UK charts.”

It is also in this context that his next album will be released in the coming months. “My album is not going to be very ‘club’. It’ll be something, like a Moby.” The album also aims to separate DJ music in India from its grounding in club culture. “DJs can always adapt the album to the club circuit, but it aims to stand on its own.”

Although working within the highly mainstream paradigm of commercial success, Ryan believes that experimentation is just as crucial. “I think experiments will be successful when one has the backing of a strong commercial interest — like how Shah Rukh Khan brought hockey to life with a film like ‘Chak De! India’.” Explaining that there is always going to be room to try out new things, he says, “For me experimentation should work at a very commercial level and it is possible.”


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