ChatDJ Akhtar talks to Mangala Ramamoorthyabout his musical journey
It is the most difficult question for him to answer. Ask him at how many shows he must have played so far, and DJ Akhtar is found pondering over it. He pauses, thinks for while and finally comes up with: “No clue. Frankly, I don’t know. But I must have performed at 400-500 weddings alone. I travel so much that it becomes difficult to keep a count.”
Well, you cannot blame him. Over 18 years into the profession, Akhtar has been too busy to even realise that time just flew by. “I know it has been a long time. That makes me sound old. Actually, it doesn’t matter. I am raring to go ahead,” says the Mumbaikar who started his career at the age of 18. “Earlier even I used to think that after a certain age people cannot tolerate a DJ, but today some of the most popular DJs are not exactly young,” adds Akhtar who just released his solo remix album Disco Dynamite recently.
Today deejaying is amongst the most happening careers in the glamour world but back in the ’90s things were different. Recounts Akhtar, “People didn’t even know who a DJ was. It was no better than a bandwallah. Even MTV hadn’t come to India. Chitrahaar, Top of the Tops and Top 10 were our only exposure. There was no pub culture. It wasn’t easy convincing my parents as well. I remember doing one course after another just to make them feel that I am studying,” he says, reeling out a list of names. “B.Com, MBA, Diploma in Tourism… This makes me the most educated DJ in India,” he laughs.
Cut to the scenario today, and Akhtar is only too glad with the way deejaying has shaped up. “We are treated like celebrities now. I find that weird but I enjoy it. I think hard work does pay. Deejaying in India has evolved tremendously over the last couple of years. We have pubs of international standard, and some are even better than the ones abroad. It is no longer a big deal to have the best DJs in the world play in India,” says Akhtar, who was in the Capital to perform at InterContinental The Grand.
His own career has been a jet-setting one. On the calling list of many celebrities, Akhtar is one of the first DJs to take Indian music abroad, to the extent that he is rarely spotted in India these days. “I am always on the move. Bollywood music is so big abroad. Any given month, I am not in India for more than a week. Once a week I go to Dubai, once a month to Amsterdam or Jakarta.”
Everything in life comes with a price tag. Akhtar too paid for his fame — by sacrificing his personal life. “In the last decade, I have never celebrated Diwali at home, never wished my family on the New Year and never attended a family function. I am living my life out of the suitcase,” he says, in the mood for some confession. “My biggest regret is that I took my health lightly. Today, I suffer from spondylitis. I was asked to take a break and go to Kerala to cure it but I never had the time. Today it is not curable.”