Last year, Sahej Bakshi aka Dualist Inquiry, as part of Red Bull Music Academy, got a chance to meet some of the biggest names in the music business — dubstep producers Noisia and Kill Paris, Radiohead’s co-manager Brian Message and downtempo producer Michael Menert, among others. It wasn’t just a meet-and-greet; the 27-year-old artiste had long conversations about music and the industry. “Many had heard about the growing independent music scene in India and were interested to hear a few artistes. I wished I had a compilation of Indian music on me,” says Bakshi.
This incident inspired the creation of Dualism, a music label started by Bakshi and his manager Tej Brar, which caters to electronic music from India. The first compilation titled Subterra, which released last Friday, makes the label’s mission statement clear. From Frame/Frame to Sandunes and to Nanok, the artistes featured on the album do not fit into traditional genre definitions of EDM. “The music is not part of the techno, house or trance music scene. I want producers to feel that it is okay to make music that doesn’t really belong to any genre. I’m hoping our releases will give exposure to such artistes,” says Bakshi.
Dualism comes at a pivotal time for the electronic music scene. With the world’s eyes set on the Indian market, it’s time for local electronic music artistes to take the leap on to the global stage. Labels can play a big role in making this happen. Unlike big labels that rely majorly on publicity and distribution to sell records, the popularity of an artiste in electronic music largely depends on whom they are recommended by. For example, if techno biggie Richie Hawtin’s label Minus releases a track by an unknown artiste, Hawtin’s fans will follow everything that this artiste has made, get gigs booked, music downloaded, and so on.
In India, the model hasn’t seen much success, but with artistes such as Arjun Vagale (MakTub), Kohra and B.L.O.T performing internationally and owning labels, they now have an opportunity to take younger, newer talent from India and put them out internationally. “There are anywhere between 9,000-15,000 tracks released on Beatport (the Billboards for electronic music) every week. If you are one song among thousands, how do you get recognised?” says Vagale. Gaurav Malaker of B.L.O.T, who co-owns Qilla records, agrees. He says, “Electronic music labels are curators, and in Europe, people will go to your Soundcloud page after a party to hear your music and music that you release through your label.” With Dualism, Sahej Bakshi can do what Richie Hawtin does, albeit in a smaller way.
But Bakshi does not want that big a responsibility just yet. “The artistes on the compilation are all friends. We stay at each other’s places, help each other get gigs, and when we are stuck creatively, we take each other’s help. It’s not a label-artiste relationship, it’s friendship,” he explains. This casual approach is visible in the fact that most tracks part of Subterra have been released independently before, as opposed to the norm where labels ask for unreleased tracks. “The moment we announced Subterra, we received about 50 demos from producers we had never heard of. We didn’t see that coming. We did ask for exclusive tracks, but most were not made in time for the launch,” he says.Dualism’s heart is in the right place though. “The fundamental aim is not for the label to serve itself. It is not my primary occupation. This is a project close to our hearts, and we want to take it far only if it is benefitting the scene or the artistes involved. If we find an artiste we really like, we’ll support the act,” says Bakshi.