In conversation with Dj Ma Faiza and Sandunes.
Ma Faiza’s genre-defying music is representative of her multi-cultural identity (she was born in Africa and raised in Britain).
Sanaya, plays a diverse mix of electronica, ranging from introspective jazz to more bouncy post-garage. The young producer, currently on a month-long US tour, is being hailed as one of the freshest new electronica voices that have come from India.
Here are excerpts from our chat.
How has the music scene evolved over the past few years in India?
Ma Faiza: It was so small over a decade ago and now it’s massive! Electronic music is everywhere, in small cities and in big clubs. It covers so many more genres with much more experimental styles appearing, and finally the boundaries of what has been done before in India are being pushed to some dizzying heights.
Sandunes: It's evolved fantastically. The internet has enabled all kinds of collaborative goodness and accessibility to global sounds, styles, cultures, techniques and philosophies. There's way more diversity today with regards to what's being created here and there's also just way more of it in terms of quantity.
What’s the best thing about being a woman producer in India? And the most challenging.
Ma Faiza: I don’t think it matters where you are in the world, if you are a woman in the music industry, you will find it hard to be taken as seriously as the men in your field. Because I am quite a well-known DJ already in India, I find that my own productions are received well and I already have a large fan base who loves my music. The most challenging part is getting accepted for your music and not for your looks, which happens a lot with attractive women who work in the music industry. Also it can be quite daunting to ask for help in technical knowledge and contacts if the person helping you is a man - a dynamic can appear where we as women get judged for being helpless or not knowledgeable - finding good people or organisations who can share information and help without judging us as women is also challenging!
Sandunes: There are several challenges, but also several opportunities. It's difficult to separate the best from good or the worst from the bad, and often the best thing about it doesn't stem from my gender, but more from the fact that I work in music.
Would it right to say you find it problematic when journalists (like myself) set about doing a piece on 'women' producers; the fact that we consider women producers as a separate category among artistes?
Ma Faiza: Women in music generally are marginalised and any coverage that can highlight us is totally welcomed by me, and I would like to think by all women!
Sandunes: Not problematic, perhaps solution-oriented. I think it's good to engage in discourse around the lack of representation of women in music, particularly women in technical roles within the industry. There are very few mentors or role models and being a female music producer in India could potentially be an isolating thing, but I'm glad the landscape seems to be changing as more and more women are taking it up professionally.
Who are the other young electronica producers (women and men) you like?
Ma Faiza: Kini Rao, Dualist Inquiry, Ayesha Premik, Prematron, Kash Trivedi, Vinayaka.
Sandunes: From within the country, it’s Frame/Frame, Soulspace, Kumail and Big City Harmonics make music that I really really enjoy. I'm really excited about this new label that Frame/Frame and Soulspace have recently launched called 'Lowlit' (check it out!) There's a steady increase of platforms and collectives to support and represent the music that's being made by independents and that's something to be really happy about.
Are you working on any new material that you'd like to talk about?
Ma Faiza: I’m finding it increasing hard to find the time to sit in the studio and work on tracks. I’m hoping a little sojourn to Europe will refresh me and fill me up with some new ideas to bring back to India to put into some new kick-ass productions!
Sandunes: Yes! I'm collaborating with drummer/producer Jivraj Singh. We've been working on a body of work and a live set together which I'm really looking forward to sharing closer to the end of the year. Apart from that, more music, collaborations and gigs in India and the U.S is what I'm really looking forward to.