Boiler Room comes to Delhi: DJs Roger Sanchez and Josey Rebelle on playing in India
Electronic dance music fans in Delhi were in for a treat on 9 May 2017, as the world's leading online music broadcaster Boiler Room made its debut here. The third edition of the 12-part series Boiler Room x Budweiser ‘Discover What's Brewing’ featured house music legend and Grammy-award winning producer Roger Sanchez, London-based rising star and selector par excellence Josey Rebelle, one of India’s favourite electronic producers BLOT!, and up-and-coming DJ and producer Abhi Meer. The invite-only show saw more than 500 people grooving at the venue, and more than 1,94,000 viewers streaming the event online.
Founded in 2010 by Blaise Bellville, Boiler Room evolved from a webcam taped to a warehouse wall to a global broadcaster streaming the best in underground music, from techno and hip hop to jazz and contemporary classical. With over 12 million dedicated monthly unique users, its award-winning content reaches over 60 million music fans every month. The self-proclaimed online home of the underground gives an audience uncatered for by mainstream radio or TV the chance to hear fresh dance music that rarely gets played in a club — without even setting foot in a club. The series has spotlighted some of the globe’s most iconic DJs and burgeoning artists on-the-rise across a diverse mix of scenes and subcultures in city locations all over the world, with shows in Mumbai, Santiago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Miami and Bengaluru. The first ever Boiler Room in India was held in Mumbai in December 2016.
Roger Sanchez has been DJing across the five continents for two decades. A prolific remixer — he won the Grammy for the Best Remix Recording for No Doubt’s Hella Good in 2003 — Sanchez also hosts his own radio show, Release Yourself. Accompanying him was Rinse FM resident Josey Rebelle, who has been spotlighted as a ‘DJ to watch out for’ by the press and her peers alike over the past couple of years.
We spoke to both of them about their experience of the Indian electronic music culture and audiences, the evolution and future of EDM, and their upcoming projects and tours:
Having DJed at clubs and festivals across the world, how would you rate your experience of the Indian electronic music culture and audiences here? Did you expect to make your Boiler Room debut in India?
Roger Sanchez: It has been interesting because the first time I came over, I wasn't quite sure know what to expect. I found the Indian audience to be very receptive. I think since then they have become more knowledgeable about music and obviously with the Internet, they have been absorbing music that has been coming up. I find that they've become more into the whole scene and been developing their own vibe and scene in pockets, which I really, really like. Obviously, the commercial scene has been big for quite a while now but it's the underground, proper house music scene — I love that. I have been to India at least 4-5 times, and the first time I was here was for Sunburn.
Having said that, India is probably not the place I would have expected to play my first Boiler Room at. But I really find it interesting because I think that in different countries, you have very concentrated pockets of real fans that come out as opposed to doing it in New York or Berlin where there is such just so much talent that it’s kind of expected. It's genuine excitement here, and that makes it very fun.
Josey Rebelle: I had the most amazing time DJing in New Delhi. I had never been to India before and, even though some of my DJ friends who have played here already told me it was amazing, when I DJ in a new country for the first time, there’s always that tiny element of worry about whether people will be into it.
But that was totally misplaced here — in fact, I was blown away by how hungry the crowd was for all the underground house, acid, dark techno and break beats I played. The audience made me feel like I could play whatever I wanted … and that is the dream!
What was your experience performing with Indian artists BLOT! and Abhi Meer?
Roger Sanchez: I wasn't aware of their stuff till recently, so I can't sit here and say that I know that too well. But whenever I am introduced to a new act, I start researching and see what they do. I am curious to know more!
Josey Rebelle: When I walked into the venue and heard the sick tunes that Abhi Meer was playing, that’s when I knew for sure it was going to be a sick night. And BLOT!’s performance afterwards was brilliant. I was so happy to be on the line-up with them — alongside, of course, the legend that is Roger Sanchez who literally blew the club apart!
Roger, you have been an international DJ, remixer and music producer for the past 20 years. Josey, as a DJ, you have a finger in all the pies — be it house, techno, disco, groove, soul, garage and more. Talk to us a little about the evolution of EDM over the years? What according to you, is its future?
Roger Sanchez: When I first started playing, dance music wasn't a defined scene—with the exception of disco which was very big in the States and around the world. I came at the beginning of the hip-hop scene which had jazz, funk and disco all mixed in to create this sound and that was then cut up to create hip-hop. House music came from Chicago to New York and I was pretty much at the inception of that. So, I have seen each of these scenes successively breed another scene. And it has been exciting to see how globalised it has become from when I first started and see some of the sounds come back around, which is exactly what happened with disco and house music coming back. The scenes have splintered into sub-genres but at their core they still share the same principles of losing yourself on the dance floor and finding new sounds. I always find that very exciting and interesting.
I don't follow fads and trends and I find that dangerous. I have what my personal music tastes are and I represent that. What I don't do is stay stuck in one particular period of time or one particular genre. I love music in general—everything from soul to funk to jazz, hip-hop and Latin. All these different musical influences comprise what I do myself, and it’s interesting because being open to these sounds means I continue to be open to new sounds.
Josey Rebelle: For me, the future has to be about embracing all elements of our global underground music community. It’s easy to be lazy and turn to the same old outlets for music every time, for DJs to play the same old ‘safe’ sets, for promoters to book the same old ‘safe’ line-ups for every single club or festival because they’re scared that people won’t embrace anything else. So, it’s brilliant that Boiler Room is exploring scenes across the world, shining a light on places that are underrepresented in typical major event line-ups and bringing people together to show how much we have in common. In a world where politicians are constantly seeking to divide us, coming together and being inclusive has absolutely got to be the future.
What are some of your upcoming projects and tours? What has you excited?
Roger Sanchez: I have quite a few releases lined up on my labels Undr The Radr and Stealth as well as a collaboration with Ultra Naté coming out on Cajual. My next Roger Sanchez single is with Cari Golden called Work 4 it out on Stealth. I also have collaborations in progress with MihalisSafras, Mike Vale, Cocodrills and many other new talents — it’s looking like an exciting year in music!
Josey Rebelle: Everything has me excited! I just love playing music, so I feel very blessed to have some great gigs coming up soon in places like London, Berlin and Amsterdam as well as my favourite festivals in Croatia. And it goes without saying that I would love to come to India again soon.