The Bengaluru-based DJ and producer is the first Indian trap artiste to perform at the fest, which was held online this year
The beginning of September turned out to be particularly memorable for Bengaluru-based DJ and producer GURBAX, known for hits such as ‘Boom Shankar’ and ‘Aghori’, as he became the first Indian trap artiste to perform at the iconic Burning Man festival, alongside big names such as American DJ Diplo, French composer CloZee, and American comedian/musician Reggie Watts.
This year, the event, held online from August 30 to September 6, had a ticketed VR experience that replicated the locations and installations of the desert festival usually held at Black Rock City, Nevada.
Says GURBAX, “The experience was incredible. I have been very sceptical about virtual festivals but the entire VR experience was absolutely amazing. It was almost like we were playing within the VR world. I had a great time preparing and performing. It’s such a huge deal for me because I have always dreamt of being on these larger festival line-ups and to see my name up there, alongside some of the artistes that actually inspired me to start making music, was surreal.”
Explaining the process, he says that he pre-recorded his 45-minute set which was then ‘green-screened’ into the VR world. This meant that he didn’t have a crowd in front of him, dancing and giving off energy that he could feed off. GURBAX laughs as he says, “It definitely was a challenge but you know the thing with me is I feed off myself. Even when I’m performing in a city where the crowd isn’t as energetic, I’m still the most energetic person in the room. Yes, seeing people’s expressions and feeling their energy in a club creates that feedback loop of energy within you as well. But, it was a new experience and I’m always open to trying new things and seeing where they take me.”
While GURBAX grew up in Bengaluru (“I went to six schools. My parents were very indecisive,” he laughs), playing guitar (“I wasn’t even the best guitarist in my school”) and taking part in a few battle of the bands competitions, it was when he went to study Industrial Engineering in Atlanta, US,that he discovered a passion for music, specifically electronic music.
“The electronic music that I had been exposed to in Bengaluru was a very cookie-cutter, top 1% that kind of cut through all the way to India. But when I went to the US, I was exposed to all these crazy artistes that I never knew existed. I started hearing electronic music that wasn’t the typical EDM style, but music that had elements of jazz, funk, soul, and hip-hop fused into it. It kind of blew my mind because I didn’t really know that music could be made this way.”
This eventually spurred him to buy a DJ controller and start DJ-ing small college parties. “Then during my last summer holidays, I told my dad I really want to try this out. So, I went to New York to study music production for three months. That changed my life. I finished college and made the decision to move back to India and pursue music.”
The South of it all
Cut to the present and his latest track, ‘Dirty South’, with Beats Antique, has accumulated 31,000 views on YouTube since its release about two months ago. Talking about the track, which prominently features a nadaswaram, GURBAX says, “The song actually feels like the culmination of the last 10 years of my life. I have spent so much time in Bengaluru but then I also feel like one part of me has this inspiration from the West, specifically Atlanta. There’s always been this fire within me to kind of merge these two cultures in a way that’s unique to me. I feel like ‘Dirty South’ is that song.”
He further explains, “Even the name of the song has a dual meaning. One is that the nadaswaram is used as an instrument that is iconic to South India and it has this jagged, edgy kind of sound. The other reason is that Atlanta is in the south of the US and the underlying beat of the track is like this ‘Dirty South’ hip-hop beat. Dirty South is also a genre of hip-hop that originated in Atlanta.”