<Sharmaji, DJ Collage @ Stern Grove along side NSB>

NSB Founder Jimmy Love made a trip out to NYC earlier this year, and got to hang with Dave Sharmaji at the legendary Basement Bhangra party. Slipping away for some quiet one on one time, Jimmy threw out the idea of an interview for our readers back in SF....as Sharmaji has been a part of the NSB family since joining us on stage at Stern Grove! Dave has been making waves with regular airplay on BBC, and joining the wicked SubSwara crew as a resident DJ. An all around great guy and star on the rise in the music world, we are happy to finally post the interview after some back and forth!

Though you use elements of Bhangra in your tracks, you seem to be pushing Bhangra and Dub to new and exciting levels. Where is it that you want to take this sound, and what has been pivotal to you for inspiration in creating your unique blend of the two worlds?

Let's start with the pivotal/inspiration thing first. Most important is the abstract: overall, i want to make music for the dance floor; if it doesn't work as a piece for people to bug out to, then i haven't done my job. Ultimately, outside of hired-gun gigs, the music that i want to create lies squarely between Desi musics-- especially Bhangra and, to a lesser degree, light classical, (Ghazal, Thumri, etc)-- and Dubstep and/or d&b, though d&b continues to be less and less of a concern as time goes on. It's not really about combing the 2 in a remix fashion (although that's fun), It's about music that's a balance of physical and mental, and a conversation between the 2 sides... an age old thing. A track needs to move your body, your head, and your heart all at once-- if not, it's not good enough. My only criteria, the only place i want to go to and the only levels that i want to take productions to is THAT level. And it's in Dubstep, Bhangra, and Hindustani Sangeet that i find the best starting points to build tunes of that quality.

Artists/shows that inspired and continue to inspire... I grew up in the 90s, playing drum set, and for as crappy as pop radio may have been (from poison and the like in the early part of the decade to backstreet boys and all that post-grunge crap after), there was a brilliant underground scene across the nation. Fishbone, the Chili Peppers, and Jane's Addiction in LA, NYHC and ska in NYC, to say nothing of the great era of mid-90s hip hop and Dancehall-- Wu-Tang, Shabba Ranks, Bounty, Beenie, Buju... Because of that I'm all about taking the music out of the given context.

Bhangra had always been simmering in the background; it wasn't until i moved back to the east coast in '98 that i really started getting involved. Seeing Punjabi MC at Basement in 98 really lit the fire with a BIG flame, and seeing Dhol Foundation, back in the days when it was almost impossible to get a Dhol in the US, turned it to an addiction.

We live in a time where the old contexts, and even the old re-interpretations of context, are over. World music is for aging hippies. Rock sounds like 90's Moby. drum & bass tunes sound like 70s rock... and MIA is a superstar. I find that incredibly inspiring.

We have had you out here a few times, and the whole crew loves seeing you each time. On your last trip we talked a little about Bhangra in the US, I wanted to hit you up on your thoughts between the Bhangra/Asian scene on both coast and see how similar or different they are in your opinion. We know a lot of the crews fly back and forth so there is already a network, though the vibe of crowds and promoters on each coast tends to be different. We would love to hear your take on the two.

I think the vibe in NYC is a bit more hustle-bustle because we're 6 hours closer to the UK, and it's not a gigantic stretch to get an artist from London or Birmingham in to perform. However, the East Bay has the whole Yuba City/Hayward world, and that's a big draw for really intense Bhangra; the Punjabi's that are out here in Queens are still surrounded by NYC. Besides Bikram Singh from NYC, i expect that the next US Bhangra singer to really make an impact will come from the East Bay... or Texas.

Ultimately there is so much competition for such a small pie that the US mainstream-Desi scene seems to have cannibalized itself over the last few years... in 2002-3 there were Desi weeklies and monthlies that i could rattle off the top of my head; nothing like that any more. What keeps NSB and Basement Bhangra alive is the fact that we all play new music, push boundaries, and are not running with fads-- longevity is built into our scene. We may not do the numbers that the SASA/Desi party world does.... but we're here to stay!

Ultimately I'd like to see more diversification in the Desi world in general, not only to grow, but to keep people coming back. Once someone hits 27 or 28 in this scene, they often feel isolated from the rest of the party. that doesn't happen at NSB or Basement... and it damn well shouldn't!

What would you say about the rise of the US Bhangra and Asian scene, do we have something to offer that is not already been done in the UK?

Yes!!!!! absolutely. we've got the flip of what the UK had in terms of rock 40 years ago-- we've got enough distance from the UK's history and India in general to get rid of all the bullshit and just make music. Led Zeppelin really didn't have to worry about a bunch of guys in Memphis dissing them because they were ripping off Willie DIxon. Similarly, an artist like Bikram Singh has the space to create something without the burden of context... especially in this day and age where Myspace and Facebook offer all the context you need.

But unfortunately-- I'm not seeing much of a rise, or not nearly the amount of artistry and artist support that I'd expect to in the states. Artists and promoters like Rekha and Jay Gatzby are always on the lookout for up-and-coming Desi talent that they can put out there, but the offerings have been pretty bleak. Straight up? U.S. DESI ARTISTS ARE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH. A few girls singing run-of-the-mill pop songs with Hindi hooks, some pretty mediocre rappers, and very few artists that are coming with anything original and personal. Even back when i was involved with Bombay Dreams on Broadway... nearly 1/2 of the cast was Canadian, because the casting agents had a very hard time finding young American Desi's who could cut it at a professional level.

I think we're at a generation gap that the UK was at maybe 2 generations ago... so many of the South Asian families in the states are 1st-generation immigrants, who are concerned about their kids future. It's understandable to me, but what it means is that we've got a massive amount of Desi kids who get into music for a bit , just until they get a 'real' job. And that's holding us far, far back. Straight up: if you don't have the guts to see this through, then I'm going to question your involvement with it at all.

There's a lot of music coming from Asian youth in the UK that is really, really good-- tons of people doing fresh-sounding Bhangra, the MDK Cartel doing Grime, NuPhlo and Geiom doing Dubstep... where's the creativity in the states? where's the Asian music that will have more than a 14-minute shelf life? I'm waiting... i want to cut it to Dubplate, play it out and make you famous!!!!

You have been a BBC darling and winning some awards, what is next for Dave Sharmaji?
Can we expect an album out soon, or at least an EP to satisfy the DJ"s?

You know, at the end of 2006, i was sure that 2007 would be THE year for me to come to fruition as an artist. Turns out it was a year of phenomenally hard work that is beginning to pay off... here's the developments:
Out RIGHT NOW is the "DJ Rekha Presents: Basement Bhangra" CD.. a bunch of the NSB massive might recognize my remix of the title tune, which I ran both times i was out in SF with you guys. Although that's not included on the album, there are 2 tunes that i was involved with.

Also out right now, on a wholly different tip, is the video game "Assassin's Creed" that i played a bunch of the percussion on. When you're loading up arrows in a scene in Jerusalem and you hear the frame drums pounding-- think of me!

Up next is Low Motion Records, an imprint i've started with fellow NYC Dubstep artist Secret Agent Gel... The first release is 2 of his tunes, "Body" and "Refined," both of which are absolutely massive. The 2nd release will be a surprise from me, with the flip being "Koli Stance," a tune that I co-wrote with Dhruva and got lots of support from DJ's around the world, including BBC's Bobby Friction & Nihal, Nerm, and Maryanne Hobbs.
After that, we're slated to be releasing the SubSwara LP in the spring; the EP is currently making the rounds in "the industry." Expect lots of post-Desi and non-Desi sounds from us, as SubSwara bridges the gaps in physical dance music.

I've also been in touch with Akash Sagar, the original composer of "Bhangra Pauna".... I did a remix for Nerm's Electro East show, and it's been caned like crazy on the Asian Network. He loves the remix... no promises, of course, but we gonna see what we can do about getting that out on 12" vinyl for everyone.
And beyond that... lots of speculative stuff that i don't wanna jinx!

You are a normal name now at NSB, what is your 'outsider' experience when you enter a NSB night to perform?

Pictures from last NSB with Dave "Sharmaji"

My GOD i love playing NSB!!!! I can't think of another night in this entire country where the venue is packed by 9:30pm, and stays that way until closing. I'm interested in seeing what the crowd responds to and bringing what my take is on Bhangra and even Bollywood... The energy in Bhangra is so broad that i like to present it in a way that's really inviting for someone who may be there for the first time. I love the fact that the NSB crowd is so diverse, that so many people know all the words to pretty deep Punjabi cuts, and that Viki and the girls absolutely smash it every time. It's also fun to test the waters of what does and does NOT work at NSB-- in NYC, you can really easily get away with spinning Hip Hop and Dancehall at a Bhangra party, but at NSB, they want BHANGRA. and maybe a bit of desi house and breaks, and some Bollywood... but really it's all about the Bhangra.

- Jimmy Love

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