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30 Years and Spinning: DJing In India Since 1990, A Talk With Sanjay Dutta

In his 30th year as a DJ, Sanjay Dutta is a known name in the underground electronic music community in the country. Amongst some of the most active DJs in the city, the artist has seen the revolution and evolution of the electronic music scene. Beginning his career from the musical city of Kolkata and having played thousands of gigs all over the country over his 30 years of being active, Sanjay continues to be a perfromer for the love of dance music and clubbing. We talked to him to know more about his journey, his thoughts on the dance music culture today and more!

a) Why did you get into DJing 30 years ago and what makes you keep going now?

There wasn’t any plan as such, I am a DJ by chance. I had no inkling that I would be pursuing a career in DJ’ing. It all started with playing for friends at their parties and then 1 thing led to the other. In no time I was playing at the Calcutta Swimming Club’s then famous Sat night soirees. It was well received by the city’s glitterati. People accepted my style of playing and as their choice of entertainer. Night clubs followed close in heels. There was no looking back thereafter. All this happened between 1990-93. Thereafter it’s been a non-stop, exciting and a blurry roller coaster ride.What keeps me going is a simple philosophy: I am a clubber first and then a DJ. Feel like a clubber and expect like one from myself.

b) If you could define each of your decade in a few words, what would the 90s be, 2000’s be and 2010’s be?

1990s: The 90’s were my early years. I was exploring unabashedly. No inhibitions whatsoever. It was a time of EUPHORIA in every way. Electronic music was like a brand new language for the clubbers. It was unique, sexy and beautiful for the punters. Once they got a taste of it they helplessly drowned in it’s immensity. I was in the vortex of all this. Great times in every way for the clubbing world. House music and trance have arrived.

2000s: The energy of the new millennium simply added fuel to the fire. Clubbing in India had started to bloom. There were new entrants on the dance floor bringing in fresh energy. Things shifted to TOP gear. Memories were made in dollops and music was taking magical shapes. It was hysteria in the clubs till wee hours in the morning and all with a single purpose…. MUSIC. Undiluted, unhindered and still not violated by hype. All still sublimely pure. Progressive house and trance rule the dance floors for me.

2010s: Social media takes over. Awareness has peaked, information is flowing at lightning speed. This is definitely a time of tremendous possibilities. India somewhat arrives into the global arena as a party destination. It’s a decade of excesses I guess and it’s all a part of evolution and changing times. Being the person that I am, it has continued to be as exciting for me as it was in the beginning. I feel elated to be playing what I personally enjoy listening to. That gives me incredible gratification. To me that’s all that matters. My repertoire gets fixated between progressive house to techno and remains unchanged till this day 🙂

c) What were the challenges you faced in the industry when you initially started?

I have been very fortunate. I have a very supportive family. There were NO CHALLENGES or CHALLENGERS ever for me. It was way back in time when things were so different. And in many ways it continues even now. My experience and wisdom keeps me afloat I guess 🙂

d) What are some of your most memorable gigs from your career?

I have played for 30 years. It is absolutely impossible to remember the memorable gigs as such. I have played a few thousand times at amazing clubs/events/festivals/gatherings and most of them were simply fabulous. So in all honesty, my memory fails me to recall ANY extra special gig. Almost all have made me a happier person 🙂

e) Which were some of the clubs that featured electronic music during the 90’s? 

All the clubs that I played in Kolkata turned into electronic music destinations back then because that’s exactly what people expected out of me and that’s what defined me as a DJ. It all started with Someplace Else and Tantra at the Park Hotel and Incognito at the Taj Bengal. Insane times and sublime vibes. I am not aware of any club/venue in any other city in India promoting electronic music in the 90s. Perhaps there were but I have no clue of it. 

f) How do you think the audience to electronic music has changed over the years? 

No doubt that the audience in India has multiplied exponentially. The awareness level is better than ever before. Thankfully people know the existence of genres and subgenres of electronic music but unfortunately they are yet to understand the finer nuances of a DJ set and the difference between a supremely woven set and a sub standard one. That’s also because we in India do not have the luxury of a free and uninterrupted nightlife with a longer time frame resulting in more exposure to clubbing. The restrictions in our country have curtailed the timings of nightlife so much that it has resulted in a stunted growth of mature and well played DJ sets. IMO, the shortest DJ set should be a minimum of 120 mins duration. Anything less doesn’t qualify to be a DJ set. My ideal set time is between 4 – 6 hours. That’s when I get to do what I set out to do. 

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