Lives music, breathes music

Versatile

Lives music, breathes music

His passion for music is unparalleled. Nikhil Chinapa — MTV mascot, DJ, VJ, promoter, festival director, radio host and dance music fanatic — is also an ambassador for electronic beats and club culture. Born in Bangalore, he has a degree in Architecture and is married to DJ Pearl, whom he incidentally met on a blind date. However, Chinapa believes that music was always an integral part of his life.

“I guess it was quite normal, as it is for anyone in college; but somewhere down the line, it took over my life. I can honestly confess that after I heard John Digweed play at a club called Heaven in London for the first time (in 2000), I decided that I wanted to go and find more music and places and experiences like the one I’d just had,” he avers.

Quiz him on what got him hooked to music and pat comes the reply, “Bangalore did. The sweaty, happy vibe at The Club, my friends and DJs who introduced us to new music. Before I discovered dance music, I fell in love with heavy metal and Rock N’ Roll — particularly Aerosmith.”

He got his first break in 1991, when he was asked to host the ‘request booth’ in a fund-raising fair by AIESEC Bangalore. “I’d just joined AIESEC, and for me, that little request booth where I announced dedications, was ground zero,” he reminisces.

What is less known about Chinapa is that he is constantly pushing India as a future dance music capital to some of the world’s most celebrated artistes. Last year alone, he managed to bring Above & Beyond, Swedish House Mafia, Armin van Buuren and Fatboy Slim to Indian ears. As Director in Submerge, his partners are Hermit Sethi and Pearl, and they have recently completed a decade in live concerts, artist management and music.

“Submerge was born out of the frustration of not finding music we loved in Mumbai. We decided to throw our own party and the first one had 42 people in a club in Mumbai on a Thursday night. In three weeks, we had 600 people — I guess there were others like us. Ten years later, Submerge has a trans-national presence,” he says with justifiable pride.
Next year, the  focus will be on creating a parallel alternative scene.

“When we started in 2002, house music was the alternative; today it’s mainstream and I’d like to think we had something to do with that change. Now that the mainstream is well-entrenched, I’d like to create  a strong alterative electronic scene. I’m also looking forward to having Armin van Buuren back in March. I’d met him briefly in Amsterdam while we were finalising the dates with his management,” he says.

For Chinapa, being a VJ, RJ, DJ and more has never been complicated simply because he perceives them as fun jobs. He is also associated with the Sunburn Festival in Goa.
“In 2007, Percept and I created Sunburn. I came up with the name, chose Goa as the location and booked all the DJs for the festival. Percept brought in their arena and production expertise but honestly, neither of us knew at the time that we had sparked a revolution in dance music. It evolved organically though grassroots support of the dance community amongst DJs, the Submerge fanbase and people like me who loved nothing more than dancing to the music we liked, with our friends around us. Till today, that remains the essence of Sunburn,” he says.

As a DJ, he counts his best experience as playing out to the sunset in Goa and says his favourite musician is anyone who can play an instrument well. He also has a long association with MTV which he believes has been a home from where he has been able to explore the world.

“Of all the shows I’ve hosted at MTV (I’ve lost count), MTV Select was my favourite. I hosted it for 11 continuous years and I loved every single failed attempt at trying to shoot baskets on set (we had a basketball hoop on the show),” he says.

Commenting on his stint as host and judge of shows, he adds, “I’m not particularly fond of judging people, but I do enjoy attempting to understand how they think.” He has also worked in films on and off, but confesses that, “Bollywood is not my cup of tea; unless it’s working with guys like Bijoy Nambiar. I don’t think I can act, but as I’ve done on Bijoy’s new film David, I’ll support him in any way I can.”

He has done a small non-speaking, characterless action sequence in David. But his first love is radio.  “I started with a show on AIR’s Medium Wave service in Bangalore in 1995. Going back to doing radio feels like going back home. The fact that I’m also doing a dance music show is amazing! I’m able to bring the music I love to millions of people across India every Saturday,” he signs off.

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