Deep. Emotive. Euphoric. That is how the sincere, spirited, and fearless Avantika Bakshi describes her beat mixes. Armed with a business degree and following her family’s footsteps through the world of hospitality, Bakshi took a detour to pursue the soul-goal of her life, music. Delving deep into the Indian music circuit with a kick-ar$e can-do attitude, this genre-bending disk-jockey is changing the turntable game in #OurCity. Establishing an avid following within three short years, this fitness enthusiast has folks dancing to her divergent tunes, inspired from elements ranging from the Bhagwad Gita to deep house.
If being a DJ and brand consultant wasn’t time consuming enough, her latest project had her joining her father, Mr. Vikram Bakshi to have the capital city enamoured. #NewInTown, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum opens doors on December 1 at Connaught Place. Unveiling what maketh this powerhouse lady, we catch up over Moscow mules to decode everything from beats to Delhi’s music scene.
What led you to launch a career in music?
It wasn’t a divine intervention, but something 100% instinctive. Inclined towards creative fields since the early years, I’ve always been on the lookout for something ‘out of the box’ knowingly or unknowingly. Through the years I trained in Indian classical music, Bharatnatyam, and western vocal singing, before exploring the world of dance at Babson College, Massachusetts. However, it was my work for Coke Studio and projects like Jaipur Literature Festival & Filmfare Awards that spiralled my interest further. In all honesty, I never intended on becoming a DJ. It was a bid to carve my way into the industry, before moving on to my future goal – producing tracks with layers of live elements.
How was your experience of working with your family’s hospitality business – Ascot Hotels & Resorts?
After my stint at Coca-Cola, I worked at Savoy Suites (a unit of Ascot Hotels & Resorts) which gave me a level of confidence that I may not have achieved in any other field. In order to deliver impeccable customer service, you adopt a “yes, it can happen” attitude, which has played an integral part in shaping who I am today. It also taught me (and continues to till date) how to appreciate job-life flexibility, create a conducive work environment, and adept communication skills.
Tell us more about your experience at New York’s Electronic Music Production & DJ school, Dubspot?
Leaving the hospitality business was one of the biggest risks of my life. However, backed with immense support by F&F, I took it upon myself to pack my bags (and attitude), and embark for New York. Thriving on mixed culture and eclectic tastes, New York City opened doors that appeared bolted previously. Dubspot offered cadre of instructors who educated, motivated, and guided me to push the boundaries, step out of my comfort zone, and embrace the performer within. My vagabond shoes were longing to stray and my experience was inspiring, knowledge driven, and purely magical.
How has the Bhagavad Gita inspired your sounds?
I was (properly) introduced to the Bhagavad Gita in 2014 and it inspired me enormously. Understanding the simplest yet most fundamental principles of life changed my outlook by 180 degrees. The learnings helped re-establish the real purpose of my life, and find my calling – music.
Recording a mix-set is like stepping in the battlefield. It’s about survival, struggles, and gradual steps towards the truth. You start at a certain place, experience highs & lows, light & darkness, building up to a peak before gradually coming back to where it all began. Each track I choose is depicted as an individual character with distinct personalities. Some outspoken, loud, and seeking attention, whilst some are subtle and invoking mental peace. It is a medium to communicate, and lay a foundation of emotions & ideas for the journey ahead – Bhagavad Gita has helped me uncover this philosophy.
Tell us more about what goes into mixing tunes that embody the sentiments of the audience?
Musicians, producers, DJs, artists, or any other creative person needs a channel to translate their inner experience outside. The ability to convey emotion through music is personal, and I draw these emotions from a well of influences and experiences. It’s about what you feel from deep within brought together with the science of sound. Sound teaches us pattern, pulse, rhyme, and structure, without the complication of language. It teaches us how to bond and express emotion. It encourages imagination and storytelling. And that’s how I embody myself, as a storyteller.
You have an amazing recording studio at home – tell us more!
You must prioritise what you require and start building from there. My first few purchases only included a sound card, studio monitors, a MIDI controller, a microphone, CDJ (2000 Nexus), and a mixer (DJM-900 Nexus). It’s my ‘space of zen’ and ‘comfort room’. I’d suggest the same to anyone building their own home studio.
How is the experience of being a woman DJ in the Indian music circuit?
Being a woman is not easy in any industry, let alone the music industry. Being a part of a male dominated industry comes with its own set of challenges. Women are instantly judged on their appearance. The industry-initiated fear of failure hinders many women from testing their hand at being a DJ. Those who are bold enough to challenge the imbalance have a lot of doors open. So, we need to get rid of the “I don’t think I can” attitude and believe in “I know I can” to follow our ambitions. The industry is currently in its growth phase. Traditionally driven by Bollywood, the changing demographics and exposure to global music trends have culminated a youth culture that embraces change and has a blossoming taste for variety. For now, it’s traditional yet contemporary, but it’s progressing.
Whilst she keeps us in splits with her party-trick impressions from Michael Jackson to a Parisian cafe owner, we amp up the octave with DSSC Rapid Fire.
Your top 3 destinations across the world for their music scene?
Berlin, New York City, and Mumbai (meri jaan).
What’s your pre-performance routine?
Playlist – check; Headphones – check; Pen drives – check; Outfit – check; Dance moves – check!
Top 3 venues in Delhi where you like to play?
Delhi does not have a dearth of venues for the genre of music I enjoy playing, but based on experiences, ambience, and crowd response – Kitty Su, Auro, and Summer House trump my list.
An artist that never ceases to inspire you?
There isn’t one, there’s a list! Eric Prydz, Nicolas Jaar, Armin Van Buuren, 16 Bit Lolitas, Yotto, Coldplay, Kygo, AR Rahman, and the most recent additions include Prateek Kuhad and Sohrab Nicholson.
One piece of advice for young DJs starting out in the industry?
Serve people your soul. And never give up. As Tim Duncan says, “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.”