Currently consisting of eight members, Jwala’s combination of work ethic, youthful talent and mastery of a range of styles is making the collective an essential addition to India’s DIY music scene. With most members currently still in their teenage years, much of the press around them has focused on the surprise that their generation are able to form a motivated and multifaceted artistic movement. As they discuss below, they’d rather be critiqued on their output than their youth.
Jwala are impressive enough without commenting on their ages anyway. In typical internet culture fashion, it’s the attitude rather than the aesthetic that is considered paramount. Genre wise, their scene encompasses producers wanting to recreate the big room EDM of major names like Deadmau5 and Skrillex, while others tap into traditional Indian timbres, which both sit alongside various forms of pop, lo-fi and experimentation. What they all share is eagerness to be involved, both with each other and the world around them.
We reached out to the collective to get all the insider info on their history, hometowns, activity, and plans for the future.
Describe where you live in ten words or less.
Ayush Jajoria (Ayush.): I live in New Delhi, India and it’s nothing compared to what you expect it to be, still decent. Could be worse.
Palash Kothari (Sparkle & Fade): All of us live in different areas of two major cities of India, Delhi and Mumbai. Although I think it’s the internet where we all grew up so geography never really mattered too much.
Who are you, and what first got you interested in music production?
Brij Dalvi: Well I used to listen to a lot of Skrillex and Savant and a host of other artists back when I was in junior college. It was the sounds that they made that made me want to explore music production further because I wanted to emulate these guys.
Ayush Jajoria: I am an independent indie musician/music producer with the interest varying in lots of different genres but for the most part indie Music is my thing. What first got me interested in music production or rather electronic music in general was Deadmau5 and Armin van Buuren I think. Back in the day I was really fascinated by the sound they created as it was something totally new to me so I was so so soo amazed by it that I wanted to see how it’d been created. One time during my summer holidays I gave it a go and here I am.
Palash Kothari: I’m currently studying journalism and have been making music as Sparkle & Fade for almost two years now but I’ve messed around with other aliases before. Music production for me started off when I was in junior high school as a means to be able to write and record without really going through the trouble of putting a band together. I got into electronic music a couple of months after. I didn’t even realise how it transitioned from being a hobby to something that I’d do most of my teenage life.
Jwala consists of around seven artists, could you give us an overview of the players involved?
Brij Dalvi: We’re actually eight members now; we just included a new member from Delhi some time ago. To give you an overview:
Palash Kothari goes by the stage name Sparkle & Fade and he’s the one who planted the seed to forming a collective, and we all joined. Palash makes chilled out, introspective tunes, sometimes loaded with Indian instruments. Karan Kanchan uses his own name on stage and is influenced by Japan and its vibrant culture, and it’s reflected in a ton of his tracks that loosely fall under the “Trap” category, but have distinct identities of their own, thanks to Karan’s sound designing skills.
Apurv Agarwal goes by the name Cowboy and Sailor Man, and during the times that he doesn’t make songs for his solo project he produces for several Indian bands and is a member of several more, as a guitarist or a synthesist. Ayush Jajoria goes by the stage name Ayush. His tunes fall under the Garage and ambient categories, and he has some aliases in development that aim to cover genres pertaining to dance and harder styles of electronic music.
Nikunj Patel aka Moebius does a lot of visual work apart from his music. He makes a lot of trip-hop and offbeat electronica, usually influenced by a ton of movies, and is a major contributor to most of our artworks. Veer Kowli (aka Chrms) mostly makes future bass and trap, while occasionally indulging in ambient soundscapes. Veer also dabbles in graphics and film making from time to time, all self-taught.
Dolorblind is Rohan Sinha, an industrial design student who makes a lot of dark, eerie ambient music. He’s the newest member of Jwala and only one out of the two people from Delhi (the other being Ayush.) The rest of us are from Mumbai.
Your collective output consists of a lot of future beats and chilled hip-hop vibes, who are the artists that inspire you?
Palash Kothari: I’m sure we have a long list of influences but for the most part we’re very inspired by each other. It was what made us leave the ‘online’ space and work together to build something which stretches to real offline interaction.
In terms of sound, I’d say Four Tet has been the biggest inspiration. I also had the privilege of meeting him when he played at Magnetic Fields Festival in Rajasthan last December. Yeah, Four Tet, Porter Robinson, Madeon, Anoushka Shankar, Shivkumar Sharma, MIDIval Punditz, Bon Iver, AR Rahman, Talvin Singh etc.
Ayush Jajoria: Mainly we all inspire each other to do better work but my personal picks are Owesey, Enzalla, joji, Direct etc.
What’s the ‘motto’ of the Jwala collective (if there is one)?
Brij Dalvi: Spread the fire (Jwala means fire in Hindi).
Talk to us about your local scenes, what venues and parties are you playing?
Brij Dalvi: As a collective, we’ve played thrice ’till now. It has been a privilege to play at some of the best venues in Mumbai, like Raasta and antiSOCIAL. As individuals, we play often at some usual places not limited to the aforementioned spots.
Palash Kothari: A lot of gigs which happen here are DIY or semi-DIY, where neither the artist or the promoter makes money. There’s a lot of stuff happening in different pockets of the country and a lot of people are doing what they do just for the love of music without expecting anything in return. I see a lot of people curb creativity for a fatter booking fee but where there’s no money (like a lot of the space here) everybody does what they feel like without giving much of a fuck.
Personally I’ve played everything from the “typical” party where people come in, drink their hearts out and music is just there in the background to extremely ‘experimental’ ones where I have complete creative freedom and am not expected to sell any booze.
What are the most important artists from your scene, both from Jwala and elsewhere, who we should be listening to?
Palash Kothari: These are some of the biggest names in the scene, in no particular order…
A lot of the articles around you mention your ages, usually the writers are surprised you’re that young. Does this focus on your age annoy you or is this something you think about as well?
Brij Dalvi: It’s definitely a little annoying. We’d rather be judged on the content we put out rather than the fact that we’re below 25 or something. The surprise element doesn’t exist anymore, because there are several young kids doing some amazing stuff out there, and it’s not only limited to music. Age shouldn’t be a bragging right in music. However old you are, if you’re a hard worker and you make good music, you deserve the spotlight in equal measure.
Ayush Jajoria: It’s good to know the context before reading but at times it does get a bit annoying, seeing our age be the focus point of all this. While I don’t mind it much, I still would like them to focus more on our music and what we are doing rather than on the personal aspect of it.
Palash Kothari: I think most of it is because ’15 year old xyz’ would get more clicks than ‘producer xyz’ in an article. Some of it is also genuine surprise because there’s some sort of new wave of young producers flooding in the [independent] ‘scene’ previously dominated by an older age group.
What is the DIY/internet community like in India, are there other collectives or artists who inspired you to start Jwala? I see the REProduce name pop up in relation to you quite a lot…
Brij Dalvi: It’s still nascent but it’s growing. Our city has a collective named Dasta and a label named Nrtya. They’re both doing some amazing work when it comes to propagating music production and the so-called DIY culture, and we’re doing something along the same lines.
As far as REProduce goes, it is headed by Rana Ghose, and he organises Listening Rooms around India. The concept is: people come for the gig and absorb the music on their own terms. These Listening Rooms are the reason we could express our music freely, and it was one such Listening Room during the end of April that we were all on the same lineup. Most of us met each other for the first time there. We got together on Facebook a couple of months later and that’s how Jwala happened.
Ayush Jajoria: The idea behind Jwala was to combine our friendship and love for the similar taste in music into a collective a group thing. Usually the live acts around us inspire us to do more and do it better, and with the help and support from REProduce artists, and Rana Ghose, we get to do that, which is really nice and we can’t thank him enough for it.
Palash Kothari: Bollywood and Commercial ‘EDM’ is huge in India because there’s that kind of an audience. For some reason ‘alternative’ genres haven’t been able to get that coverage barring a few circles in urban cities but that’s changing slowly. Even if I live in a small city, because of the internet I’m exposed to certain genres of music which nobody around me even knows exist, there’s not a lot I can do to further explore my interests except move to a bigger city and that is a financial hustle.
Also, India in general has a very small English-speaking urban population and that too is concentrated in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai. There’s also prohibition in a few states and add that to the level of corruption involved at both the lower rungs and the upper rungs of the government…
It’s difficult to get police permission to organise gigs unless you have the connection or the money to bribe and even if you do somehow put something together, the few who show up won’t be able to support your model. You’re limited to a handful of venues in the city who also don’t want to take risks booking acts ‘too experimental’. This is where REProduce comes in.
What are your goals for 2018?
Brij Dalvi: Apart from increasing our reach tremendously, we want to be a more accessible source for electronic music in India, and we want to further facilitate the producer community here in various ways. Because it needs to grow, both in terms of artistic output and fanbase. Small steps at a time!
Interview by Nicholas Burman