If you haven’t already listened to Su Real’s Twerkistan, you should start with East West Badman Rudeboy Mash Up Ting. The music video is a psychedelic collage of scenes and emotions with a desi touch in almost every frame, giving life to the song.
The concept, visualization, editing and just the overall quality of the video all push the boundaries of the indie music scene – but that’s nothing new for Su Real, who’s put his all into doing just that ever since he started making music. We had a chat with him about this music video and his contribution to the indie scene in general.
You’ve been pushing the limits of the indie music scene ever since you started. How far do you think it has come since then and what’s the vision you personally have for the Indian music scene?
We’ve definitely come a long way! Music I was playing 5 years ago that was considered “underground” is now totally mainstream. I remember back in 2010, most promoters in Delhi would try to coordinate with each other’s schedules so no two big events clashed on the same day – that way we wouldn’t have to split the crowd. Within a couple of years, it became impossible to do that, with more and more local DJs throwing gigs plus more international DJs coming through. More importantly, it became unnecessary as Delhi, particularly HKV (Hauz Khas Village), started to boom and not only were there more venues, but there was also a lot more crowd that wanted to experience the nightlife and discover new music from abroad.
Now, there’s tons of festivals and so many gigs all year round that no one checks all their cluttered Facebook event invites anymore! A lot more youngsters have been encouraged to pursue DJ-ing or start their own bands. That’s a great thing, but unfortunately again we seem to have reached the point where there is a booming talent pool but not enough platforms for them to reach out to audiences. We definitely all have our work cut out for us!
I think the big change that will truly enable the scene to flourish will be those brave investors who decide to commit to opening actual music venues with ticketed shows, as opposed to bars that sell alcohol with music as just a “value-added” (i.e. free) component. Similarly the mindset of party-goers needs to change to the point that they are willing to spend Rs.100-Rs.500 to enjoy good quality entertainment presented by domestic acts.
Your videos are super trippy. How much involvement do you have in the visual side?
Thanks. Yes, usually I have a strong involvement in the concept and storyboard. But once the broad strokes have been decided I prefer to leave the creatives to work their magic! After all that’s what I hired them for. With the international directors I’ve worked with – Mad E.S. for East West… and Sinbad Richardson for Soldiers – the bulk of my attention went into developing the initial treatment. We clear some red flags early on – especially with regards to limitations from the censor board. Then as the process unfolds and we get closer to final cut, I generally provide little notes here and there.
How did “Su Real” come into existence?
It was around 2010 when I started doing parties in Delhi with the Su Real moniker. Earlier when I lived in Montreal and New York, I used different names, but back then it was more of a hobby, something I did just for fun. I mean I worked in the music business there, but more on the business side for my company’s client roster – my DJ-ing was unrelated. But back in Delhi, I was managing the events at T.L.R. and DJ-ing there more and more.
At the time there weren’t any clubs that were open to underground music, or anything unfamiliar to the market. But we kept pushing it and it’s been quite a trip to see some of that underground music become popular music after just a few years! Eventually, T.L.R. had to close down, but I had amassed a bit of a following so by 2015 I had committed to the music, found myself a manager and started releasing my original productions as Su Real.
Everyone claims to be a DJ these days but there are so few people who actually know how to get an audience hyped up. What do you think is the key to this and what advice do you’ve for anyone who wants to make music in this genre?
I think the core issue is one of perspective: are you playing for yourself or for the audience? Trust me, it can’t be both. I think a lot of young DJs with less experience believe and behave as if they can play just what they themselves want to hear and expect the crowd to just follow along. But that’s not how it works!
DJ-ing from day 1 has been about entertaining a crowd. Once the perspective is corrected, you realize you’re playing a different game – a game of back and forth with the crowd, of pleasing and teasing the crowd. Over years of experience, I’m able to pick up subtle cues from the crowd that help me decide on the fly, what to play next. My sets tend to be a conversation with the crowd – sometimes they lead me, sometimes I lead them.
What can your fans look forward to in the near future?
Lots and lots of new music! First I’m just about to drop a big fat album of Remixes & Instrumentals to Twerkistan (my album from Sep. 2016). Then I’ve got a bunch of singles lined up with some hot collabs also. All of this is generally in the “desi bass” sound. But hopefully by the end of the year I’ll also come out with a pop EP with elements of hip hop and dancehall.