Hyping hip-hop with Desi tadka!

Kolkata-based Disco Jockey and Music Producer, DJ Ritzzze, takes desi hip hop right where it belongs – in the international charts

If you live in Kolkata, you probably know him as the hottest DJ in town. Rittesh Sikri aka DJ Ritzzze has a resume far sparkly and extensive than that. Not convinced? Try to keep pace – he is the most popular (and the only other) Indian DJ to be signed by Smash the Trash records, an international brand and the biggest label in Italy; his viral track Haanji Namaste charted in the top 50 songs in the U.S. and was playlisted by UK radio; he started the trend of Kolkata clubs inviting guest DJs who were from Kolkata itself; he is also probably one of the only DJs ever to have formally studied music even after his career had already taken off.

Catching up with DJ Ritzzze just a day after the launch of his second studio album, Let’s Dance 2 (download it for free here) revealed another aspect to him – he is super charming and a genuinely nice person as well! Here is one of the most honest interviews you might ever read:

DJ Ritzzze’s second bootleg album, Let’s Dance 2

What’s the story behind DJ Ritzzze?

“It all started for me when I was 16 and attending socials and fests and nobody would dance with me because of my size. So I decided since no one would dance with me, why not become the guy who plays the music – at least I would get some attention!”

What was your 1st job like?

“I landed my first job at 18 as a 4th assistant DJ at a club called Prince of Cal – basically I would be playing when no one was in the club, bring my senior coffee, carry his luggage. 4 years down the line I became the resident DJ there. However, I decided to go out solo and disengage myself from any one particular institution – that was the birth of Ritzzze. It was also then that I became the first guest DJ to be invited to clubs in Calcutta who was from Calcutta. Generally it is only DJs from outside the city who get this honour.”

What made you divert into music production when DJing was going so well?

“A significant life event four years back made me decide that I had to do more than only DJing, thereby giving shape to my all-time passion for creating original music. Now, unlike a natural musician, I do not know how to play an instrument and use that knowledge to produce music. I am an ear musician – I can listen to music and create from it. I formally educated myself in music a few years back; if you love a subject, you need to understand it thoroughly.

More importantly, if you keep playing recorded music you end up becoming a juke box. When a DJ plays his own music people fall in love with that particular type of music. I have my signature sound can be discerned from the works of other DJs. It’s about being true to a style of music, all the more so if it is your own.”

Tell us about Haanji Namaste, your single that has gone viral!

“Haanji Namaste is a desi hip hop song which was made to cater to the mass. Till then I was making music for the a global audience, but this one is for the Indian listeners and it pays homage to our Indian culture –  it uses the most recognised Indian word for greeting people, Namaste, and being Punjabi the lyrics was very easy for me to write. I collaborated with this talented young rapper I came across online, Shuffle-U. It is written in a style that I definitely want to explore more.”

Which are the tracks to look out for most from you right now?

“The two most hyped numbers currently are Parmar and Raani. Raani is in collaboration with two Kolkata-based rappers who I had judged in a competition at a college fest- Dilfake and Captain Singh. Parmar has a May release with Smash the Trash records, and Raani will be out in June with a video that we are working on right now. Bass Mela (which featured in the dubstep charts) is also very popular.”

First Poster look of Raani, set to release in June

A lot of people think DJing is an easy job. What goes on behind the console actually?

“Just like the job of a chef is not only about mixing up different foods and putting it on a plate, it would be wrong to think DJing is only about changing tracks. It is definitely not an easy job – you have to be alert and sense what the crowd wants and what they are expecting, and that comes from years of experience. It’s quite taxing as well – every time I perform I have to hoist it with at least 3 days of homework, a labour which is required to live up to one’s audience’s expectation. That’s a tough thing to do.”

Who do you look up to in the industry for inspiration?

“For me it was always Rahman sahab. I’m in awe of him which is why my first remix, which I put online was Urvashi Urvashi. A.R. Rahman is god. he is all the inspiration I need to compose and direct music. As a child I idolised him and wished to grow up into a personality like his.”

Favorite city to play in in India, and overseas?

“Delhi, definitely! the vibe, the energy, the love are all on a different level. Overseas it is Bali.”

Most memorable compliment you received on your music?

“One time I was playing at City centre and a guy yelled out “Tumi bhogoban acho!” I think he might have been drunk but who wouldn’t remember such a remark about them! On a serious note though, someone at a club once told me not to lose my innocence because it reflects in my music, and I still hold those words in high regard.”

How is the DJ scene changing in India, and who, according to you, are the most promising artists in the field?

“The trend that I have noticed  unfortunately shows that a lot of talented DJs are being ignored over average Djs because of a lack of good management and funds (which fuels publicity). Having said that, personally I feel the artist doing best in India in this industry is DJ Ivan from Bangalore – he is a true example of a blend of hard work and real talent. Also, DJ Mash from Delhi is very noteworthy. Internationally, DJ Snake is really one who I feel is getting the fame he deserves.”

What is the one thing you dread going wrong when you are behind the console?

“One thing any DJ would dread is running out of music. It could happen because of any reason – technical glitches like a pen drive or a linkwire refusing to work, these are the worst things that could happen during a performance.”

Funniest thing that happened to you in the course of your career?

“I starred in a TVC ad for Panasonic which is still played at movie theatres, and overtime this happens there is someone or the other who recognises me and goes “ei eta to oi cheleta! This is the guy from the ad – let’s take a selfie!” They get excited because they think I’m an actor, and not because I’m a music producer or DJ!”

Would you like to take up acting ever?

“I think I would, actually. I’ve always had that little bug in my brain! I mean I am Indian, we all love drama anyway.”

What’s the one thing people don’t know about you?

“That probably I’m a person who has faced more rejections than anyone you probably know! There was a time when I used to hand out CDs of my demo work to producers in Mumbai and get those thrown at my face; I’ve heard more “no”s than I can count. But since I’ve never quit anything in my life (be it my passion, relationships, personal life), the rejections made me chase my dream with even more determination and helped me reach where I am today.”


-by Zaiceka Ahmed

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