22 Jul 2021
by brian.hioe | News, Interview
Electric Soul spoke to Hamza Rahimtula, New Delhi-based producer and DJ, as well as the founder of Wind Horse Records, about his influences and creative endeavors. Wind Horse Records recently released “Banjara Series - Mali Edition”, consisting of ten tracks inspired by the country of Mali.
1.) First, could you introduce yourself for readers who might not know you?
My name is Hamza Rahimtula. I am a producer and DJ from New Delhi, India. I started India’s first house music label in 2009 called Wind Horse Records. My label was a platform to showcase my musical influences, which I picked up through my travels across the globe.
Since then I have released music on my own label and on other labels like Get Physical, King Street Music, Kompakt, George V (Buddha Bar), and more. I live in India and tour nine months of the year in my home country and I spend the summertime touring in Europe and occasionally in the States. I also run a studio called WHR Studios in south india in Hyderabad. In addition, we have our own agency called Ngoma Collectiv, which I co-founded with close friends.
2.) How did you first encounter electronic music? How did you begin DJing?
My friends in India would listen to psychedelic trance from Goa and this was my first exposure to electronic music. However, as my father lived in France for half the year, I would go and visit him in my summer holidays and I got hooked onto house music there. The French Touch sound really got to me because I love funk and soul. I just loved the fact that house music brought with it such amazing influences.
After finishing my high school in India, I went to study at Tufts University in Boston and there in my third year I bought a pair of turntables, as some of my friends had made me really get into the global underground. That was the year 2002.
After practicing for a year I played a few gigs for my friends' parties and had the opportunity to play in a few top clubs in Boston. One year later, I moved to New York City to study Music Business at NYU, and it was here that I discovered soulful House, Afro house, Latin house and tribal sounds. I got my first residency in the East Village in NYC and I did that for six months before moving back to India. When I moved back to India I started DJing regularly and we literally introduced house music to Indian audiences who were used to much harder sounds. Was a great time!
3.) Who are your influences in producing?
Joey Youngman was my hero! His funk/jazz/jackin sound just blew my head off. Jay Trip Wire’s Vinyl releases on Swag Records were just amazing at that time. That Raw London tech-house sound is among my favorites. I love Terry Francis and Asad Rizvi. From the New York scene, I loved Louis Vega, Joeski, Danny Tenaglia, and am as crazy about DJ Heather from Chicago. Inland Knights also had a big influence on me.
4.) Do you think there are any issues you experience, as a non-western DJ?
Most of the time I get booked in the West based on my productions and when this happens I face no issues because the promoter or booker is genuinely supporting me because they like my work. I have played some amazing parties in Berlin and in the States too and the crowds went mad on numerous occasions. In the states, people are more positive when they hear that I am from India, as they take that as an added value. In other words, they know my sets will have something fresh in there and to them, that’s something to look forward to.
However, when the promoters don’t know me well and hear that I am from India and I am here for the summer to tour, they don’t really know what to expect because India is not well known for house music—for now. There are some top-notch producers coming out of India today, but they are just scratching the surface so the world still needs to discover this movement—people are still unaware.
I think promoters need to understand that nowadays as the technology to make music and DJ is available across the globe. This means that talent can come from anywhere and it does not only have to be from Europe or the States.
In my opinion, diversity should be celebrated as it cuts through the monotony and brings fresh flavors to the table. My job is to do my best to spread my music as far and as wide as I can. Obviously, there will be some stumbling blocks in the way, but I have already achieved more than I thought I would, so everything from here on is a bonus for me.
5.) There are a lot of Indian elements in your productions. Could you talk a bit about that?
I use Indian elements as for me these sounds are part of my musical landscape. I don’t consider house music to be a western genre. It may have started in the west but the reason it got so popular was that everyone could reinterpret this genre in their own style and with instruments or sounds that suited their specific musical palette.
Indian sounds are part of my upbringing, as I grew up in India. However, I am also influenced by world music sounds and not just Indian sounds. I love sounds from West Africa and from Latin America. I love primal, tribal and super organic sounds from untouched habitats. I also love funk and jazz.
There are some Indian instruments that I think the world should know about. The morchang is one of my favourite instruments. Other instruments I like are the bhapang, khartal and mridangam.
I also love the ngoni, balafon and talking drum from Mali in Africa. Also, in terms of vocals, I don’t think anyone can beat African singers. More Specifically, I love the hooks and choruses that come from West African music.
6.) What have you found most challenging in your DJ career?
I think the main problem lies in the segregation of genres. Some of the best DJ’s in the world can play the whole spectrum of disco, house and take it all the way to banging techno. But people tend to get stuck in genres and they associate artists according to a certain sound by trying to put them in a box.
This is what I don’t appreciate, because there are some artists like myself that can navigate through the entire spectrum of house music while touching on techno as well. Of course, I respect DJs that just specialize in one genre and that’s cool too but there should be no restriction on anyone's creativity.
7.) Has COVID-19 affected you in any way?
Yes absolutely, we obviously were not able to play any gigs so far so this was a big loss of income. However, I also got a lot of time in the studio and time with my family which was priceless. I also got the opportunity to learn some new gear in the studio and for my dj sets in the future. But, to be honest, I just miss the parties and gatherings. That was something that gave me so much inspiration and made me feel alive!
8.) What’s next for you creatively?
I bought some new gear. Have bought the Roland AIRA series. There are five to six machines. MC-707, TR8S, TB-303, VT4, System 8, and MX1. I look forward to incorporating this vibe into my productions. I’m also trying to figure out how to perform live using these machines along with a DJS1000 from Pioneer.
9.) What would you have to say to readers internationally?
I would encourage your readers to look into the electronic music scene from India.
India is becoming a hub of amazing music and I am sure they will find crazy artists that they will be able to relate to.
In addition, I would encourage your readers to listen to some world music that comes from Mali. A lot of people do know about Mali, but if you don’t, then you should definitely check out artists like Bassekou Kouyate, Oumou Sangare, and more.