Music

Everybody loves KSHMR

BRACING FOR NEW CHALLENGES Niles Holowell Dhar in performance  

Niles Holowell Dhar has been an enigmatic presence ever since he stepped into the music industry. Better known as KSHMR, the former half of the hit duo The Cataracs, has exploded on the international EDM scene and continuously belts out chart toppers and collaborations with Tiesto, Carnage, Tigerlily, R3hab amongst many others. The Indian-American DJ, record producer and musician from Berkeley (California) is one of the headliners of one of India's biggest dance festival- Sunburn. The ongoing three-day musical carnival at Kesnad District, Pune includes the biggest names in dance music, featuring Afrojack, Axwell Ingrosso, Dimitri Vegas, Armin Van Buuren and several others. In conversation with the man behind the music, he talks about his personal style, heritage and work ethic.

Excerpts:

On his stage name and heritage

Well, I am a Kashmiri American. On my father's side I am from Kashmir. And when I was growing up, my grandfather would tell me about Kashmir, that I am a Kashmiri Hindu but it was not something that I thought too much about then. But in my later years, I got more interested in my culture and tradition. So when I started KSHMR, it started out as an inward conversation about who I am and how I wanted to portray myself in my music. So I picked a name that has everything to do with my heritage.

On personal icons and how they influence his style

I would have to say The Beatles are probably my biggest influence. Because at their inception they did really simple ingenious songs. They went on to travel the world and their music represents influences from so many cultures, even India. With my music, it's been very important for me that electronic music take inspiration from various cultures and use their influence in dance music, which is often the place where people get to hear them. A lot of electronic music is produced on synthetic instruments but when you use a new and interesting instrument, it speaks a little more to the soul and can invoke real emotion. I am very influenced by The Beatles, The Killers, Queen and even composers like Hans Zimmer, who is able to evoke so much emotion and add such a layer of emotion to any song that he composes for. In my music, I try to make it as unique as possible.

On his journey to fame and success

From the beginning, I didn’t show my face, so the emphasis has always been on the music. Not showing my face meant not performing live. So for the first year, I spent all of my time in the studio making music. I still stay at the studio, I am very rarely in my bedroom. So all the energy spent in those months really helped the most. There is really no replacement for work when achieving success. Often I meet producers who ask me, “Who is your manager?” or. “Who is your booking agent?” and I always tell them those things come with time. Just keeping making music and when you keep doing it so much – like a mad man – that is the only kind of work ethic that can realise dreams. All the managers, big shows, money – they all will come but the focus has to be on the music. An instrumental part of my success, I think, has been my emphasis on the music. I didn’t put my face out there as I didn’t want that to be a concern, it’s just about the music and nothing else. An added benefit is that I can now perform at shows that are entirely compiled of my music, I am not playing someone else’s compilation.

On his rise in the world of EDM

I think the people who look at me, mention that it all happened very quickly. But for me, it felt like a very gradual process. From the beginning of KSHMR, I have tried to have an intimate relationship with my fans. I would talk to them. If they left comments, I would comment back. When you are aware of each person on your page becoming a fan, it does not feel so sudden. After six months of just delivering music, when you see that you have 100,000 fans on your Facebook page, there’s that moment when you realise, you cannot keep track of everything. But I still try to maintain an intimate relationship with all my fans.

On returning to Sunburn and composing the anthem for Sunburn 10

I am very excited! Performing last year at Sunburn was till date, the most special performance I have had. Mostly because I could get my grandpa and bring him on stage. Returning to the show this year, I am very, very excited. I think it's going to be even bigger and better. “Mandala” is a follow up of last year's “Bazaar” and its very close to me. I worked with my friends Marnik and this time we had Indian DJ Mitika Kanwar work with us which made it even more special. It's really a marriage of dance music and the spirit of Indian culture – in that it has manic emotional moments but it’s still a hard-hitting dance song. It’s presented in a way so that people anywhere in the world could get into it.

On the Indian crowd and what sets it apart from other places

I think in many parts of India, dance music is still a relatively new phenomenon and it’s catching up. So the love and passion here is truly pure and raw. People don’t care about securing VIP passes or looking cool. It’s all for the pure love of good music and having a great time. There is no reservation, it’s a very pure, unabashed celebration. It's very overwhelming, I think Indian people are very pure at heart and it reflects in their celebration- they let it all out. That was my first experience in Goa.

On hopes for 2017

I am going to be working on a new album and trying to push the boundaries as far as what dance music and KSHMR means to me. I am going to use all the instruments used formerly and making new music that are radically different from anything done in the genre before.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 11:57:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/Everybody-loves-KSHMR/article16955209.ece

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