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Zakhm: DJ at Mutiny/Dubstream Speaks to AV

I recently did a phone interview of Zakhm, and decided that it deserved its own section. So the interview presented below is the first in a series of artist interviews and features that I have planned for the new featured artist section in AsianVibrations.com 

AV - Hey Zakhm, let me start by asking the question that I am sure most Mutiny goers are curious about. How did you get started with Mutiny?
Z - Well with mutiny my involvement basically started when I bought the Anokha cd.

AV - I think everybody local started w/ that one, I set up the radio after that also.
Z - (laughs) Right, but it was kinda of an off thing, picking up that cd, I had seen it around but I really had no desire to pick it up but then all of a sudden I picked it up and was blown away by it musically and what it was doing and what it was saying. So when I first came to NY I just happened to go to a party, that I didn’t really know much about, just that Talvin Singh was performing and what it was, was the Mutiny one year anniversary. That night Talvin performed and then did an improv set with himself on tablas, Karsh on drums, Visal on vocals and Ajay dancing. The party itself was really great, and the energy and message that was sent was really profound but, I didn’t know what to make of it or how to categorize it and I didn’t even really realize how big of an impact it made on me, except for some time after that. Actually, at one point that night, Ajay came up to me, stepped off the stage and came up to me, introduced himself and went right back up on stage. I didn’t know who he was or anything but, later on I started going to mutiny every single month and I started seeing him around. Then I met Karsh and other people and I would see Karsh around and talk to him and eventually, I got really involved in the energy that was being created in all of NY. But, at the same time I was very much involved with Mutiny as opposed to maybe other things that were going on like Bhom Shanker and Future Proof. But I started going to Mutiny every month.

AV - So, did you have to approach one of them to let you DJ, for the party?
Z - Actually I didn’t even DJ back then. I just started going to Mutiny and started helping out and once it changed where I wasn’t just someone who came to Mutiny but someone who helped out at the doors and with other things, I soon realized that I wanted to be engaged on a deeper level than simply someone who could be there to help out with the doors and on that level.

AV - With that then how do u think you have come along, as a person as an artist?
Z - Well Mutiny definitely affected my DJing style, and sound really drastically because I started DJing as a result of Mutiny. It was because of Mutiny I bought turntables and I practiced, intensely for a few months before I was even given the earliest slot. But, then I started to realize that musically I was feeling really constricted; by what I could do and what kind of different energies and sounds I could create in that space. Also, as I became more involved, Navdeep was also getting more involved. Actually, the first Mutiny I went to was also the first Mutiny he went to. However, with him, he was spinning for them, within a couple of months because he had already been DJing for years, where as for me it was a year and half before I started spinning. His influence onto the party and, the decision of the party to make it more dance oriented, really affected my sound. Because I felt constricted, I made a few decisions to take steps back and I went to California for a summer to take care of other things but, to also get a feel for how things were going over there and also that’s why I went to London. 

AV - I did not know that you had gone to London, what was the reasoning behind that one?
Z - Well I went to London at the start of this year for about four months, because of again just like when I went to California I wanted to take a step back from what I was doing musically and what I was doing with DJing and also what I was doing within the mutiny space; just kinda try to get a fresh perspective in a different way of approaching this. Also in London its just a different energy and its come along in a different way and its interesting to see that because I don’t think that anyone in the scene does what they do because maybe they have seen the success that Talvin has reached but that dynamic is definitely an influential factor. But, looking at it over hear where things are really starting to pick up now but up until recently it definitely was a bit of a task to try to get recognized in the larger dance community and the electronica community where as in London, its very accepted and its very integral and a lot of people understand that. In US, although things are very positive but I feel at times we try really hard to get our message out but its met with difficulties but, I guess that’s part of the whole game.

AV - So along with that how did your involvement with Dubstream come about? Also, exactly what is Dubstream?
Z - I think in large part what happened was, because Mutiny had become such a substantial part of the New York night life scene and in ways had defined its own sound, I think that different people wanted to try different arenas, they felt the need to start a new space and not just in response to Mutiny at all.

AV - So, it was in a desire to have a separate venue?
Z - Right, also Dubstream was created for the sake of who Mo [Quanteye] is and what kind of energy he was trying to create, as far as I can see. I mean I can’t speak for him. But, what happened was, in May when I came back from London, I really wanted to create a space within Mutiny that was just a bit different than the traditional space so I created my kinetic space in the back of the boat [Frying Pan]. We ran the kinetic space every month for the entire summer and I think that just through involvement with that and having spun as a guest DJ, on a couple of occasions at Dubstream and Mo having checked out the kinetic space, having played in it, it just sort of built a really positive dialogue between us. 

AV - So Dubstream you would say is more the, phonetic, chill and relaxed side of the sound along the lines of the sinetic space in Mutiny?
Z - Well it is, but I don’t think there is a direct relationship between Dubstream and Mutiny or, Dubstream and the kinetic space. I mean Dubstream in essence exists on its own, without weather or not Mutiny is its own a space, it doesn’t exist because of Mutiny and wasn’t created because of Mutiny and Mo actually has been doing stuff with Karsh on his own for many years: doing different parties, like DJing at Prohibited Beats and running the Future Proof parties and things like that. But, I think Dubstream in many ways, in terms of me musically has helped me take the ideas that I was creating in the kinetic space to a new space as well.

AV - So how do you think having worked with all these different artists, has influenced you with your own DJing skills or your personal work? Have you thought of doing any of your work, produced anything?
Z - Well I have been producing my own tracks, I am taking my time and doing it, I am not trying to rush it or anything, but you know I do spin my own tracks that I have produced in my sets. A lot of my sounds and a lot of my musical development have been influenced by going to California and going to London, because it made me more aware of how I existed with the larger scope of the whole Asian scene as a New York artist and how my New York sound is unique just as the sounds Siraiki, Karsh, Rekha, Navdeep. So I am just trying to create a sound that is very characteristic of the influence of hip hop in our society and the sort of different elements that take more precedence over here than over at San Francisco or over at London.

AV - How far do you think this might end up going? How far in popularity or as close to mainstream this might get? And where exactly do you think you yourself and the entire scene going?
Z - I think the relationship that it has to mainstream is always going to be secondary to whats really happening and to what our ultimate goal is. Because, weather or not the larger community or mainstream community or the larger dance / electronica community decide to embrace it, I think there are going to be artists that are going to continue to do what they want to do because we all have a story that we need to tell and it’s a matter of getting that out there. But, I think that right now we are in a really interesting time because you are seeing a new and really strong force that’s really developing a powerful base and thats happening right now in New York where as in London there is a lot of different things happening right now were its not as hyped up as it was when Talvin had won the mercury prize. But, seeing that there is new stuff happening here I think is gonna make it a lot more firm in showing people that this music is here to stay and that this music wasn’t a flavor of the month that’s now over. I mean if this scene is over then I am over. 

AV - That's true, I have read reviews and articles that have mentioned that the artists in general are running out of ideas. But, I guess having this entire American side of things, shows it to be otherwise. 

Z - Right, I think that this whole notion that the artists are running out of ideas is because the previous categorization of the music was definitely not deep enough. Because it was simply seen as tabla and drum n’ base and, it wasn’t realized at a deeper level, what that actual message was. And I think that in a lot of the larger communities they felt that as if we should play by their rules and that our music should have the elements and dynamics that they see occurring in their form. But, in our form its different, because of its own different subtleties. Take Talvin’s music which is very raag oriented in contrast to Karsh’s music, which is also very raag oriented but also has a very strong bhaajan influence, so its about those elements and its about how all those are going to prove to everyone in the larger community that this music is here to stay. Because if someone tries to convince me that this music is the flavor of the month then what am I supposed to do, am I supposed to start producing drum and base, or am I supposed to be a hip-hop mc? I mean, I can’t do that because this is my music. This music is a manifestation of who I am. This music can’t go to away and I am not going to let it go away. And there are a lot of artists in the scene who feel the same way.

AV - And, including myself you have a lot of fans who wont let it go away.
Z - (Laughs) Yeah!

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