Milestones are an important path to cross in everyone’s career. It is a sign of success, prosperity, motivation and drive to keep on moving forward in the direction one is extremely passionate about. Today, we celebrate one such milestone achieved by Reji Ravindran and ‘The Den’ for completely 100 editions of the micro party series Mixtaped! It isn’t an easy task to curate artists / selectors and people who work in the industry week after week to come and share their tunes with an audience. Safe to say that Mixtaped! has established itself as the goto party on a Wednesday night making the cosy and intimate venue a familial affair. Our warmest and heartiest congratulations to the team on hitting a century today which definitely urged us to know more about how it all began. Hence we had a little rendezvous with Reji and this is what came out of it….
How did Mixtaped! come about? What made you decide to pick ‘The Den’ as your venue?
Back in late 2012, I was done with my residency at Bonobo. It was a dream run for me there as I had the opportunity to establish it’s own musical identity by playing music throughout the week; and by opening/closing for numerous DJs & bands. In that process I got exposed to many new faces (from outside the music industry) too. Due to these new friendships, I got exposed in return to new songs, artists, bands & albums. That’s when I had this major epiphany that the personal tastes of Mumbaikars are not primarily dominated by charted club, TV & radio music. So, it was a very personal wish of mine to have a night in the city where one could get exposed to a featured personality’s core influences – instead of chasing trends.
We had our first Mixtaped! party on Wednesday, April 3rd 2013. And contrary to popular notion, it was the other way around – i.e. The Den chose me to do a weekly night with them. The owner’s brother – Digamber “Diggy” Mayekar – is an old friend of mine & used to earlier DJ actively in the Bombay circuit. Back in 2008, I used to organise a similar monthly night called “One Sunday” at H2O. Diggy used to frequently visit my nights. He was overseas for many years & was back in Mumbai in 2012. As he was now managing the Den, he approached me to play on Wednesday nights. I further tweaked the idea into having featured DJs/selectors on alternate weeks and the rest is history.
What is the most important thing a curator needs to bear in mind to deliver consistent gigs week after week ?
There is no one answer to this however I believe now that it’s the curator/programmer’s understanding of the dynamics between the venue, it’s crowd, the featured artist & his/her sound. I have personally never considered myself to be an expert on this matter (I believe there are many of my peers who do it much successfully) however my approach to programming artists is similar to how I personally program songs in my DJ sets. Further more, my naturally eclectic style of DJing has made me choose from a wider range of artists to program into the Mixtaped! roster so far.
Can you share with us your 3 favourite ‘Mixtaped’ moments?
1) All the live gigs at Mixtaped! have been super special for everybody. The Paralights, United Machines, Fuzzy Logic, Func, Karan Joseph & 5volts gigs (to name a few) were quite memorable ones. Likewise, all the live hip hop gigs by MC Kaur, Shah Rule, Grzly Adams, Marc Hype, DJ Skip & Argh the Hairy Beats.
2) When, father & son duo – Anil & Raffael Kably – played at Mixtaped! I’ve known them since their Zenzi Mills heydays & having them spin together & represent Zenzi was an absolute privilege.
3) Having Unnayanaa (Prashanth Pallemoni) come over from Bangalore has always been a personal highlight for me. We have common friends (who are also Mixtaped! patrons) in Mumbai. To get him to spin from his enormous African music collection for the Mixtaped! family was something that we were trying to do since our very first year.
March 1st marks your 100th gig! If you had to describe how you feel in three words, what would they be?
Do you have anything special planned for the 100th gig?
Of course we do. It’s a milestone event for all of us. So everybody is chipping in a chunk of their heart into it. However, you would have to turn up on Wednesday,March 1st at The Den to know more 😉
Who will be playing the 100th gig? (If you can’t or can disclose the name) could you tell us what decided you to pick this artist for such a special celebration?
I’m chuffed to announce to you that our 100th featured personality in The Mixtaped! series is one of Mumbai’s veteran DJs & now the resident DJ at The Den – DJ Ajmal. There is an interesting 2 part story to this, past & present..
Through the 90s, Ajmal had been a very successful DJ. Clubbing & nightlife was very different than what we have now and there were only a handful of professional DJs in the city. On a late Saturday night back in 1998, DJ Ajmal was the first DJ who I saw win the national Times War of the DJs Championship – live on cable TV. The older DJs would still remember this one trick in his routine which won everybody’s hearts – he lit his arms on fire with Zippo fuel & started to scratch on the turntable. That year I was anyway training to be a DJ however, watching Ajmal scratching on a turntable with flaming arms would become a memory deeply imprinted within my DJ psyche. So many years before meeting & knowing him personally, Ajmal had already inspired me to get really good with my DJ skills & participate in future DJ battles.For those who know him personally, Ajmal is a very private & recluse person by nature. He went ‘underground’ & away from the scene for more than a decade – in which time he thoroughly pursued musicianship, sound design/ studio production techniques & various subjects of his personal interest.
Cut to 2016 and Ajmal resurfaced back into the Mumbai club circuit, primarily as the weekend resident DJ of The Den. I’ve been listening to his recent performances & all of them have been mind blowing. I had to book him for Mixtaped! & we settled for a date sometime this year. Simultaneously, we had a crazy unique opportunity to have India’s biggest electronic music artist (now that would had been a surprise) as our 100th guest. However, this didn’t materialise because the artist got busy with other commitments on March 1st. It was an interesting situation for us and we decided to take a decision which would be the exact polar opposite of who it may had been. An absolute underdog. In true Mixtaped! fashion we decided to push DJ Ajmal – as our 100th guest. Also, having the resident DJ of Den to play as our 100th guest – brings us to a full circle in regards with our relationship through the years with the venue.
In your opinion, what do you feel has worked for this property to be successful week after week?
That’s a great question. However, I don’t think there is one definite answer to it as there have also been various factors pertaining uniquely to Mixtaped! – which may not work elsewhere.
Primarily it’s the deep support of the venue owners. The Den has grown hand in hand with Mixtaped. For a venue whose weekly highlight is a Wednesday (instead of the weekend) is highly unheard of. However, we have reached this status through years of learning from good & bad nights. In short, I have been organising Mixtaped! week after week because they understand my vision & they simply allow me to do so.
Next up, I believe it’s the concept of the night & its curation rules. We barely repeat any of the performers at Mixtaped! That is one prime factor that pushes us to hunt for newer names every week (and that’s how we hit 100 this week). In return the performers are also aware that they get to do this only once at Mixtaped! So they personally go all out to deliver a special performance. All in all, this also creates a win-win situation for people on both sides of the the DJ console, guaranteeing memorable nights.
Finally, the hard core patrons & supporters – who I call them as ‘The Mixtaped! Family’. I’ve known most of them since our very first night and it’s an ever growing family. They come from all sorts of musical influences – ranging from all club sounds, to rock and really niche micro-genres which even I have a tough time keeping track of. Collectively, they have now morphed into a community of music worshippers who are open to listen to new music every week. This kind of camaraderie amongst patrons, has never been witnessed by me in my entire career. Their constant support & love for what we do is what highly motivates me in presenting Mixtaped! to them every week.
Have you ever thought of scaling and expanding the property? If yes, what ideas have crossed your mind?
Since the time we started Mixtaped! there hasn’t been a single week where somebody has pitched this to me. However, I am not really keen to have a ‘franchise’ spin to it. Mixtaped! originated at The Den & it intends to stay there as long as we can. Beyond that, if we may have to move it to another venue, the new management must respect it’s legacy & adhere the core foundations on which we started the night. Besides doing a Mixtaped! night, I have no dearth of original ideas for other venues 😉
Pick a song that you would aptly describe your feelings on Mixtaped turning 100.
The whole feeling that I get is to just keep on doing what I’ve been doing (every week for almost 4 years now) wasy beyond our 100th feature edition. So the only song that chalks up to this feeling is Keep It Comin’ Love by KC & The Sunshine Band.
Name three artists who are on your bucket list to book for the upcoming Mixtaped events and why?
Ashvin Mani Sharma/Calm Chor – Ashvin has always expressed his wish to play at Mixtaped! since some years now. Also, he has been really supportive of our endeavours. Hopefully, we will get to see him at The Den soon.
Arjun Charanjiva – For those who don’t know him, Arjun is one of Kulture Shop’s co-founders. He & his crew have been long time supporters of Mixtaped! Many don’t know about his strong musical streak & I have been chasing him to play every year since our first year. I hope he reads this & get’s coaxed into it 😉
Luke Kenny – I’ve been a big fan of Luke for all the music that he had programmed for late night Channel V in it’s golden years. The man is a fanatic as far as music across the spectrum is concerned & all the trivia associated with it. He was also one of the first selectors who I had seen playing an open format set at Zenzi. So having him do what he does best would be simply fantastic.
Don’t miss this one folks, we all have a reason to celebrate tonight. Kudos to Reji and the team at The Den for doing such an amazingly consistent job with this property! To many more such milestones…