An update on the rise of D&B in India with Mr Delhi Shuffler
For the latest instalment of the 1 More Mix series we dive headfirst into the hectic inner city heat and intensity of Delhi; home of UKato, an artist currently neck deep in beats, digging deep foundations for the city’s burgeoning new love for drum & bass culture.
You might recognise him from his Program release in late 2021 – Delhi Shuffler. A grizzly, murky, relentless piece of roller work that scored him an interview on UKF, a spin on Vision Radio and support from DJs such as Rene La Vice on BBC Radio 1, Slander and numerous Indian DJs
But here’s what came next…
Rather than jump on the breakthrough buzz, rinse out a few similar tracks and focus on building a reputation in the usual D&B spots in Europe, UKato focused on his own scene and put everything into contributing to the blossoming bass culture in India.
Working with fellow Delhi beatmaker Kreon, and linking with other organisations such as Drum & Bass India, Boxout, All Star Sauce & Krunk to name a few, UKato is in the midst of an exciting Indian D&B wave that’s championing, inspiring and incubating local talent across the entire country.
He’s also become inspired himself, as you can hear this week with a brand new track Premonition. A collaboration with Three Oscillators (AKA Brij Dalvi, a multi-genre spanning talent who’s been a huge champion of Indian electronic artists, especially on the experimental side, for years) Premonition is a powerful snapshot of both artists’ spicy take on dark, heavyweight underground music.
More is set to follow. As we wait to hear it, please enjoy this exclusive UKato1 More Mix session. From India with love, this is the sound of a scene that’s on the precipice of what could eventually become one of drum & bass biggest territories…
It’s been a while since Delhi Shuffler! I thought more music would have come out since then?
I co-run a company called Backdoor Parade with my buddy Kreon, a nightlife agency and creative solutions company. We’ve been doing a bunch of gigs, programming events, all kinds of styles and hosting bands in Delhi. So that took up a lot of my time, getting in touch with promoters, producers and curators and building things up.
To be honest I needed to refresh my mindset a bit because everything I was making was sounding the same and I wasn’t happy with it. But now I’ve come back with a whole lot of new ideas. I think it seems to be the same with many other D&B producers – we are all our own worse critics, right?
Oh for sure. Backdoor Parade sounds wicked – you’re putting in an infrastructure and starting to create a community!
Yes that’s exactly it. We started off by hosting bands and then went onto doing collaborations with Drum & Bass India who are based in Bangalore. First they came to Delhi, then I went there in December and it was fucking crazy. I played a set of my own productions. It was insane; a few blocks across from the venue there was a famous rapper who was playing a sold out show. Everyone was quite nervous competing with that but so many people turned up to our show because it looked like so much fun. Plus to see IMANU tour which was another fucking crazy moment.
I saw posts about that. Looked wild! Sounds like you’re building things up properly
Yes. We’re in a good place here now. Every city in India has its own drum & bass party now. Except Delhi! Delhi is a little too sporadic.
Why is that?
It’s a complicated one. Mumbai has a very deep history of parties and there’s a strong community of promoters and artists doing D&B for a long long time. Bangalore has an established youth culture of people loving drum & bass and that’s where D&B India is based. In Delhi it’s strange because we have the best bass producers but we’ve never had a real scene, just occasional things.
For example there are parties here that don’t specialise in bass but they do relative things every now and then. One such example is Boxout.fm’s Boxout Wednesdays; they hosted Hamdi in Delhi before Skanka blew up which was cool, the tour was managed by someone else, shouts to them, can’t quite remember their name. Skanka was blowing up before our eyes and there he was chilling out in India, playing different cities. So in answer to your question, things are building up and we want to do it properly.
And through that you’ve found inspiration as an artist as well?
These days I’ve been bashing out ideas like anything. The creative process is going really well again and I’m collaborating with a lot of Indian artists who are wanting to be part of what we’re doing. Since Imanu came over we’re seeing a lot more interest in the modern neuro sound.
I saw Nikki Nair came over lately too!
Oh man, he came to Delhi as well. There’s a company called Krunk who are the longest established company here for bass music. They’ve had a festival called Bass Camp and brought over guys like Alix Perez, Ivy Lab, all these people. When Nikki Nair came along they also brought over Khiva from Canada for whom Kreon and I did a little b2b. So that was a very big moment for us and another sick party.
Awesome. Let’s chat about Premonition. Brij is amazing – I didn’t know he made drum & bass too!
We’ve been talking about collaborating for a long long time. We met three or four years ago, kept in touch, my EP came out and he got in touch saying ‘dude I want to make drum & bass tune with you!’ I told him I was down with that. He’s one of the best producers in India, he’s been holding the torch for the underground for such a long time in India. So I sent him a sketch with the first drop and the basic groove and he came back saying, ‘let’s make it harder!’
So he added his own glitchy elements, those leads and the expansive pads. We were both very influenced by Imanu’s Come Forward for some reason so you might hear that in the build-up. So yeah it was really fun to work with him and it’s gone through the process of testing it on dancefloors and tweaks and we’re really happy with it. It got some interest from a very big label but they gave us a release date that was set so far in the future it didn’t make any sense to sign it to them. I want to evolve as an artist and do new things, I don’t want to sit and wait for a long time.
And things are happening so quickly in India with D&B right now, you want to be more immediate don’t you?
Yes. There’s a mentality here where the same DJs are being booked over and over and most of them don’t usually play different music/music made by them/just original edits and whatnot. It’s a weird grey area which we’re trying to grow out of but the commercialisation of dance music is making that go slower than maybe we would like it to. I feel like musicians and producers – the people actually making the music – are always on the backseat.
The music makers should be the driving force!
Exactly. There’s a lot of gatekeeping happening and you see it with the generations here, too. Like there’s a lot of older heads making the classic jungle sound and a bunch of us making the new age sound and it would be nice for the new age producers to get more of an influence.
Evolution! Like you said around the time of Delhi Shuffler – you’re creating your own sound and not going over something that’s already been done. You’re adding your own spice, sorry to be cliché!
No you’re absolutely right. I remember when I was making Delhi Shuffler, it was around the lockdown times. PAV4N had launched 4NCY and that was so inspiring. We’ve looked up to PAV4N forever. He’s done everything and always put India on the map. When he launched 4NCY I remember sending his label, Delhi Shuffler as I had named the file “Banger for 4NCY”. I was showing this to a friend at the time and he said ‘dude it’s nice but make it a bit more Indian. Make it more Delhi’. I messed around with samples, I got inspired and added that feel of our environment. It definitely worked and had an impact. Premonition is in that same vibe; dark, kinda ominous, very eerie.
Yeah I feel that. It’s not an easy track, it’s a bit confrontational like Delhi can be with all the people, traffic and heat. That’s the intensity of your day to day life in your music.
That’s true. And from Brij’s perspective, even though he suggested we make it harder, he brings a calming influence to the tune. My first version was more of a footwork tune with lots of tablas. Brij put it into more of D&B format and subtracted from it rather than adding and adding and adding. Then he poured that special sauce over the second drop and it’s like *chefs kiss* Ahhhh. It’s very brilliant! It’s a great balance of Delhi intensity and the calming chaos of Mumbai. Brij is a very inspiring artist so I’m looking forward to us collaborating again.
I hope you do soon! So what’s next?
The next tune is a Hindi drum & bass tune. There’s a guy I’ve worked with Bharg who made the biggest breakthrough album along with Rawal in India in 2020 called Sab Chahiye. Those guys blew up like anything. The album is hip-hop and all things related, which is huge here. So I thought it would be a cool opportunity to collaborate with hum and highlight what we do to a bigger audience. So we’ve made a tune which is kind of a weird but fun song.
Sick! Have Indian hip-hop and D&B met before?
It’s been done before but not on a major scale. There’s a crew called the Swadeshi Movement. They’re like Desi Grime if you can call it that. They made a bunch if music with Bamboy who plays a lot of 140 dubs and there’s drum & bass within that and there’s been some elements of it on TV or commercial sounds of it in Bollywood but it’s not a fucking skanker, you know?
I’m glad we’ve been able to collaborate to help highlight the real drum & bass sound. I’ve also been working with IYRE from Sri Lanka who’s been doing some great things recently. He was over in UK recently and playing some big shows which was fucking insane to see. You don’t know much about inspiration that is for us to see. We’re all trying to build this and working so hard and seeing things like that happen is so big you have no idea.
Yes! It’s happening!
Drum & bass is definitely becoming more commonplace here. I recently played a show in Pune and I was worried the crowd there would expect easy going tunes but I started my set with a Halogenix tune and they were all skanking and pulling gun fingers and that was another moment seeing how more and more people are understanding the culture here now.
There was a thriving drum & bass scene in the 90s in india, but to bring back it to its glory days, we will need to build a sense of community and not just put out a tune and wait for things to happen. In today’s world, its about bringing and coming all together in all forms. You’ve got to build a community of artists, producers, ravers, brands. With Backdoor Parade, which not entirely does D&B but focuses on bringing those communities together. And I’m telling you, Indian drum & bass is here to stay!
YES! Any final big ups to sign out?
Of course. Big shouts to Noizbleed, The Untitled One, the owner of D&B India, DnB Draft and Creative Minds Entertainment India.