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Hennessy artistry’s next gig at Ice Bar in Bangalore will feature a DJ set by Tapan Raj, one half of Midival Punditz (the other is his childhood friend, Gaurav Raina). In 1997, after being bored with the remix and Bollywood driven music scene in India, the duo started producing original electronic music and sending out demo tracks to labels and other producers. Simultaneously, their monthly parties, Cyber Mehfil started becoming hugely popular and soon achieved cult status. Other artists and producers in the US & UK quickly recognised their efforts. Word spread about the boys, and they came to be known as ‘The new sound of 21st Century India’.
Here, Tapan discusses his penchant for technology and his music ahead of his gig next week in Bangalore.


You were asked to organise the IIT’s rock show where you were studying textile engineering there. What bands did you end up booking and what was the experience like?


Yeah, that’s right. It was great fun organising the rock show. I remember taking a list of India’s rock bands at that time from Rock Street Journal’s Amit Saigal.  It was a competition and we sent requests for applications to approximately 100 bands and around 30 of them showed up for the qualifying round. The final five competed on the main stage – The Open Air Theatre at IIT Delhi.  The winner was Pentagram and that’s when I met them for the first time. We have been friends ever since. The IIT experience comes in handy more than the education. You are in the middle of the best academic talent from the country and I guess it’s good to be in such company. It’s things like being part of the organising team for the Rock show that I remember more fondly than other academic learnings from those days.



You were also a drummer in your college band. Was it any good? What kind of music did you’ll used to play?

I was the drummer for one of the bands in IIT. Our band was called ‘Heavy Waters’.  Looking back now, I am not sure how good we were, but we were definitely having a great time. Our choice of music was mostly classic rock like CCR, Hendrix, Led Zep and a few originals. There was one original called Icarus that I really liked.



What is your recollection of the Diwali night you played with Talvin Singh at Fabric?

That was back in 1999. It was Midival Punditz’s first international trip as a band. It was, of course, a great honour to be asked to play at Fabric for the iconic ‘Anokha’ nights. I remember our flight landing late into London and both of us went straight to the club instead of going to the hotel first because we needed to sound check. The bouncer stopped us from getting in and did not believe we were the Punditz and thought we were some punters with luggage trying to get into the club in the evening. We had to show him a fax from Talvin to prove that we have been asked to play for the big event that night and we were finally allowed to go in.



Can you tell listeners who have no clue about the Cyber Mehfil parties what they were like and what spurred you to start them?

When we started out back in 1998, the club scene in Delhi mostly revolved around bhangra, Indi-pop, Bollywood and some hip-hop (it was more RnB and rap, actually). We were making a different kind of music. It was heavily laced with drum & bass, breaks, big beat and to be able to play our style of music, we needed to have our own nights and create a whole new scene.


This is when we figured, ‘Let’s start club nights and we decided to call them Cyber Mehfils because we wanted to create a platform for everyone to listen to music and not just dance to it. The nights became very popular and soon we started getting other like-minded artists who wanted to collaborate with us in terms of visuals, décor and dance performances. That’s when the nights became a movement and we were not the focal point any more…it became a collaborative platform that gave other artists an opportunity to experiment on stage with us.



You’ve seen different waves of the Indian electronic music scene rise and crash past you in the past decade or so. What part of the experience has been most rewarding and what has been the most frustrating?


We haven’t really seen any consistently good scene in the Indian electronica vibe. Yes, you are right, too many started and too many have gone. The only ones who are really the flag bearers right now are the originals – Karsh Kale, Talvin Singh, Osmani Soundz, Bobby Friction and Nucleya.


How different is it working in Bollywood to score and produce remixes? How glamorous / non-glamorous is it for artists in the music side of the picture?

Bollywood has a whole different take on the musicians doing the background score versus the musicians doing the ‘songs’. The guys who do the score are a part of the technician crew and the guys who do the songs are a part of the lead crew and they are treated in the same bracket as the stars, director and producer. So, it can be a bit frustrating when you compare the two roles but its definitely rewarding when you see and hear your work on screen and notice how a good score lifts moments in the film. Also, we are picky about who we work with for both remixes and scores and require complete creative control over the music we deliver. It is very easy to start sounding like a different artist if we let creative directions from the producer or the director of the film to deviate our music from our original vision.



Which are your top 3 Midival Punditz tunes? Are there any Indian artists you’re really digging right now?

Air, Atomizer, Electric Universe.  The artists to watch from India right now are Nucleya and Jayant Luthra.


Is your work with Snap Lion the ultimate marriage of your music and technology halves?

If there are two things that I live for, they are music and technology. I can’t exist without either of them and I love them both equally. After graduating from IIT, I have always worked part time as a technology consultant. It was last year that I decided to start my own company since me and a couple of my technology partners had a few product ideas. SnapLion is our first product and we are very proud of it. It’s taken a while to set up the development team and get things in order but its great fun. Finally, I get to create technology that I think is interesting instead of helping clients implement technology that they think is important.



Are there any gigs in particular you are looking forward to in the season ahead?

NH7 Bangalore, Hennessey nights, Ragasthan, international festival tour with our new album.