While Bollywood hits may dominate the airwaves, a small group of movers and shakers have established a bustling electronica scene in Mumbai. Leading the pack is Sanaya Ardeshir, known as Sandunes, a trained pianist turned producer who’s established a global reputation thanks to her distinctive music, which features elements of electronic jazz, hip-hop and UK garage plus bright synths and a spiritual feel. It’s a sound developed from her time spent in the industrial steel town of Jamshedpur, her surroundings in Mumbai and being inspired by London’s electronic music scene.
Having released her latest EP 11:11 via !K7 earlier this year, Sandunes is currently a regular fixture on the club circuit. While she’s currently trotting from London to Lisbon before her upcoming South East Asia tour, the DJ remains passionate about her hometown Mumbai. Curious about what’s going on? Just check out Sandunes’ shoutouts below…
How did you first develop a passion for music and nightlife?
My passion for nightlife and live music came from wanting to watch some of my favourite acts do their thing on stage. When I was a student of music production, living in London from 2011 to 2012, I was really inspired by every gig – small or large, and in a bit of a nerdy way. I just really wanted to understand how artists were taking their studio setups and converting their records into live shows.
What’s special about the Mumbai club scene?
At the moment, it really feels like a small and close-knit community that’s been around for just over a decade. Because of its size, musicians and producers from different genres, styles and backgrounds are forced to interact creatively, sharing gear, studio space production expertise. And the same is true on the live music consumption and venue side of things. A space that hosts an indie band might also host a techno DJ the following weekend, so people with different tastes are often connected to the same venues, artists and events. The attitude and culture is: think global – act local. It’s been incredible to watch the whole thing evolve.
What challenges does your scene face?
A severe lack of infrastructure – venues being built and setup to primarily survive off food and beverage revenue models, and music being an add-on factor. Prohibitively expensive license acquisition fees that discourage people from wanting to setup live music-venues at all. Curfews, adherence to outdated laws that prohibit spaces from hosting live-music, and a relentless cycle of bullying and bribery that make it difficult for promoters, even those who have been working within the system for several years, to profit off shows without a sponsor. The culture of buying tickets and paying for live music is still niche. It’s still only the bigger cities that are setting the precedent of hosting and supporting music on a consistent basis.
If someone is visiting Mumbai, where do you recommend they go?
I would always recommend Bonobo, in Bandra. This is my sort of “local” spot. It’s where I hosted my first DJ residency earlier this year. It’s a space that’s been crucial to supporting grassroots projects, and upcoming artists and has an awesome terrace, outdoor bit that flanks a narrow indoor dancefloor space.
It’s also been a spot that’s homed everything from hip-hop DJs, to acoustic jazz and the whole spectrum of live electronica, so it always makes sense to pop in. Another few I’d recommend would be Khar Social, especially when the Krunk #DanceOkPlease nights are on, and Above the Habitat, also in Khar.
But if we’re not talking about music, I’d recommend everyone go eat a Sadhya at Delux in Fort, and dosas at Madras Cafe in Matunga.
Any other DJs/promoters from the scene you’d like to shout out?
Krunk and Sohail Arora – he gave me my very first gig and pretty much started me off with any shape of live shows in India when I had just started out as Sandunes. His work has been really crucial to developing and broadening the landscape of live and electronic music that falls outside the mainstream/Bollywood spectrum.
All the boys from DASTA – my beat makers collective from across the country. OX7GEN, Kumail, Oceantied, Tarqeeb and Zokhuma – each a producer/musician/DJ/curator and each have been integral to helping cultivate an evolving shape of music consumption in India.
Any dream guests at future parties?
I’m a fan of Jayda G, she’s performed in India a few times. It would be great to experience that in an intimate space and with a really great sound system. I’ve also recently been converted into a MEGA fan of Raveena – RnB artist from the US. It would be great to have her come and do some shows in India.
If you could play a set anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I’ve always wanted to play at Red Rocks, in Colorado. I think being situated in a breathtaking spot in nature and additionally having the opportunity to perform music would be pretty incredible.