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Interviews |  07 Jul 2017 18:19 |  By Mallika Deb

I never considered music as a career earlier, because in India it was never an option: Ashvin Mani Sharma aka Calm Chor

MUMBAI: Every time we talk about music, that is out of the ordinary, unconventional, we can’t close eyes towards one of the most phenomenal DJs and producers from India Ashvin Mani Sharma. Ex-Jalebee Cartel, presently one-half of Bit of Both, Ashvin Mani Sharma has significantly shaped the Indian underground music since 1995. To the unknown and known, Ashvin started his individual project Calm Chor in 2011 where his music is overwhelmed by all the positive vibes, energy, detail and creativity until the end of time.

Ashvin was probably born to be a musician, for as a toddler the first thing that he learnt to use was the cassette player. At the age of six, he was sent to a boarding school where he learnt the piano. Carrying a walkman in his school was against the rules, but Ashvin always carried a Sony Walkman. “My parents knew that if they left me in front of the decks I wouldn’t move from there. Some years later we got a double cassette deck and I could record my own tapes. This for me was a technological leap. I started making mix tapes for all my parents' dance parties, selecting tracks and placing them one after the other in a sort of roughly mixed medley," narrated Ashvin.

Though, it was obvious that Ashvin was inclined towards music and that his career choice would be the same, his family had different plans. His parents always wanted him to join the family business, and he himself was pretty sure of it until he landed in Goa as a teenager. At the legendary Anjuna Flea Market in Goa, he heard of the weekly Shore Bar party that happens from sunset, so he set off to find it. “As I got closer I heard the loud thumping bass and my ears perked up. Nothing prepared me for the sight of a thousand plus people bouncing in unison to this crazy alien music. The image is branded in my mind. Music was like a lifeline for me. It made everything in my life better and in some cases bearable. I never considered music as a career earlier, because in India it was never an option,” he added.

Life has taken many twists and turns for Ashvin over the years that have been full of highs and lows throughout. Ashvin started off his musical journey as a psychedelic trance DJ in a club; however, he quickly realised that he didn’t want to play commercial music. In August 2000 he released his first Psy album with friend JP Dangman and hasn’t looked back since then. In 2004, he ruled the Indian underground music periphery with Ashvin Mani Sharma (laptop and synths), Ash Roy (vocals and percussions), Arjun Vagale (laptop, mixing, electronics), and G ‘Force’ Arjun (bass guitar), as Jalebee Cartel. They were also India’s first techno live act and it out them on the map internationally as well. After a highly successful stint for eight long years which included more than 100 shows in a year including Paradiso in Amsterdam and opening the Turmbuehne stage at Fusion Festival, the group disbanded and everyone decided to go their own ways because of ‘creative differences’.

Coming back to Ashvin’s solo project called Calm Chor, he stated that the ideology behind this was to push the sound that he likes. He also shared that after being in the music business for over 18 years, each time he goes on stage or to the DJ console, his heart still beats like a techno kick drum at Tremor and his palms are sweating with nervous energy. “Each gig feels like the first and I want to play every gig as if it were my last.”

Since Cartel’s disbanding in 2012, Ash and Ashvin have set up Soupherb Records, India’s fastest growing underground independent music label, also an experimental electronic outfit Bit of Both to push the avant-garde sound, to promote their brand of techno and house as Ashvin believes that the approach of electronic music in India right now is budding and the future is really bright. “The problem comes with lack of infrastructure and govt support for the F&B Industry. The depth of musical talent is staggering, but there are no outlets. This will take time, said Ashvin.

Their innovative live electronica act Bit of Both merges percussive elements with house and techno and the debut album, ‘Prequels and Sequels’ featured collaborations with producers like Grain, techno producer Kohra, singer Anushka Manchanda and guitarist Bhrigu Sahni. In addition, the debut album (Released on 22 January 2016 on Soupherb Records) went to No. 1 on the Beatport Deep House Release Charts too. Talking about it, Ashvin added, “The ideology behind Bit of both is basically the same, its live electronic music which allows us to jam with more musicians and work in the broader genre of all electronic music in any style. That was always our goal. It’s a pure labour of love to try and make something bigger than ourselves.”

Elaborating on the technicalities of his work Ashvin said, “A producer needs to be able to produce any style but the composition is at the heart of it all, putting the pieces together. Every little bit of knowledge makes you better so one must just keep learning.” Ashvin and Ash both have been a part of numerous international and national online radio shows. Talking about it, Ashvin stated, “Online radio can reach out to a bigger audience and an international audience. The impact has been great and over time more people who are realising that they can choose to listen to what they like and as this spreads it will really help the underground music scene.”

He further explained that every region has its own authentic underground music which is a cocktail unique to that. These days implementing many things is a lot easier with the internet being pretty fast. It’s fun and not difficult at all if one really wants. “We have tried to take this to other dance floors and I think it has always gone down well when we show our authenticity as opposed to trying and blending in. People are definitely more knowledgeable about electronic music abroad but awareness is rising exponentially here as well.”

Sharing special moments of his career he stated, “There are many proud moments by now but opening the main stage at Fusion Festival in Germany was one of the best experiences I ever had.”

As Bit of Both, Ashvin and Ash recently showcased their music at IOMMA at Reunion Island and for Ashvin the sound in IOMMA was unique but also had flavours of Indian folk rhythms and sounds. “It was very interesting for us to hear this new sound. There were very good bands at all the showcases and we had a blast at ours as well. We would love to return next year if they have us,” Sharma says passionately.

Completely inspired by the psytrance genre, Ashvin personally is just planning to sit and make lots of music. He recently performed at Freqs of Nature Festival, in Niedergörsdorf, Germany on 5 July 2017.

Last but not the least, give it a listen:

(Images: Artist's Facebook )