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Putting percussion on the musical landscape


BEAT MACHINE: DJ Ravidrums
BEAT MACHINE: DJ Ravidrums

DJ RAVIDRUMS ON AN AMAZING JOURNEY THAT INCLUDES OSCARS AND A-LIST STARS

by ASJAD NAZIR

DJ RAVIDRUMS has left a permanent mark on the North American musical landscape with a stellar career filled with scintillating moments.

The DJ, drummer and radio host has performed with Mariah Carey and at events, including the Oscars, and delivered music releases, such as his latest single Freak Like An Indian, featuring hip hop legend Fatman Scoop. Recently, he performed to a packed auditorium for the Howdy Modi event in Houston, Texas, in honour of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

These like many other memorable moments are a part of a journey that stretches back to his childhood when as a four-year-old he got connected to the magic of music.

Eastern Eye caught up with DJ Ravidrums to find out more about his amazing journey and talk about all things music.

How do you look back on your amazing journey?
Being a musician is an amazing experience and an epic tragedy at the same time. The highs are so high, it fills your soul and spirit with everything it needs, and the lows make you question humanity. My journey has been a long and winding road from a high school marching band and jazz band to symphonic wind ensembles in college, metal bands, Cuban bands, hip-hop acts and pop acts – now I DJ and drum, creating live remixes.

What have been your most memorable moments?
It was breath-taking to be on stage, performing Jai Ho and Learning To Fall by Peter Gabriel with AR Rahman and John Legend at the Oscars. Super Bowl was high voltage, Oprah was beautiful and being personally hired by Hugh Hefner for the Playboy Mansion was pretty incredible.

You have had big encounters with amazing artists, but what has been the most memorable?
I’ve had the great privilege of performing with many of my heroes, including George Clinton. I recorded a song with the Red Hot Chili Peppers & Fishbone (I played some percussion). I just jammed with the Zac Brown Band a few weeks ago and that was just incredible. Headlining Coachella with Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction, and so many amazing jam nights in LA, it’s hard to keep track.

How did you feel performing at the Oscars?
That was the ultimate proud Indian moment. I’m on the side stage looking at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and Slumdog Millionaire won nine Oscars. Then I was performing right next to John Legend. Meryl Streep was directly in front of me and then I walked out to right where Steven Spielberg was and played. All those moments were spectacular on so many levels. It was a moment of redemption.

What do you mean?
As an Indian you’re supposed to be a doctor or engineer, and I was a musician. All the people in my life who told me it was a poor choice could say nothing – it was full redemption. I was on my own path regardless and never cared what others thought. I was and am still on a mission.

You are multi-talented by DJing and also being a great percussionist, but what takes priority today?
They’re both same these days for me. I combined them both into my performances, so it’s a hybrid blend. It’s demanding and difficult, but I love it.

What gives you the greatest high out of the two?
They’re both so intertwined it’s kind of like saying what do you like better, the chicken or the curry – they just go together. But I believe drumming still gets me the highest. I reach my higher self when I land in that magical space.

What is the secret of a great DJ set?
The secret is taking the crowd on a journey and to a higher emotional place. There are just some nights where you are an indestructible force and everything works. You and the crowd are married for the set, and you go on an emotional journey that raises your spirit and takes you to a magical place.

Tell us about your current projects?
The Freak It Like An Indian dance challenge. I also have a documentary travelogue TV show we’re working on right now called Soul In The Machines. We’ve gone to India and Cuba so far. I experience the culture, sounds and technology, then we make records and perform on location. It’s such a total blast. I really love the experience of it on every level.

What music dominates your playlist?
In the morning, it’s meditative and inspirational. If I’m going to the gym then it’s Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers and aggressive music. For my shows, it depends. If I’m in Las Vegas, then it’s all the bangers. I was in Jodhpur earlier this year and mixed a lot of the bangers I’d play in Vegas with some Bollywood remixes, hip hop and rock mash-ups.

You have achieved a lot, but what is your greatest unfulfilled ambition?
Freak It Like An Indian to become number one and the dance challenge to go viral.

What inspires you?
The magic you find when you’re creating. Sometimes nothing happens, then other times you’ll find a sound that just stirs your soul and you’ll create around that. Could be a kick drum sound, a loop or vocal sample. Or I may wake up with a lyrical idea. Usually at the end of yoga, I get some lyrical ideas or an energy in my head for some music. The tricky part of that is trying to remember it and record it into your phone before it’s lost in the ethers forever.

DJ Ravidrums performing at the Howdy Modi event in Houston

Why do you love music?
I believe it’s magic. Music has the power to make us better people – to inspire and motivate us. It’s created revolutions or it’s been the psychological push and pull in your favourite movies. Sometimes you’ll hear a song and it’ll take you back to a special moment with your friends or someone you love – or a great moment with your family. It’s strange you can’t touch the song, but a song can touch you and when it does, it lasts a lifetime. Isn’t that magic?