Sita Brahmachari: Researching Jasmine Skies and meeting Nihal Arthanayake
Posted By Joe, MKB Digital on Wednesday 21st Mar 2012
So we think that being a writer is a pretty cool job, but being a DJ is right up there too! We loved Sita Brahmachari's latest, coolest character Priya, the rebellious underground DJ from Jasmine Skies and in this special feature the author reveals how she created such a convincing character, followed by an exclusive interview with Radio 1 DJ Nihal Arthanayake!
Just after Artichoke Hearts was published I was sitting at the breakfast table with my children feeling nervous about doing a radio interview and when I told them I was going be interviewed by Nihal Arthanayake (DJ for Radio 1 and BBC Asian network) my son practically choked on his toast! ‘You can’t! He’s great. You don’t know anything about music Mum!’
Actually I do know some things
(!) but when I was writing Jasmine Skies and thinking about my character
DJ Prey (Priya) I knew I needed to ask for some advice. And who better to speak
to than Nihal? Hosting his own shows on Radio 1 and BBC Asian network as well
as club nights I knew he was a busy man, so I was really grateful he was
willing to help me with my research. I started by sending Nihal an email
describing my character, and the kind of things she was into:
She's a bit of a rebel in
that she sneaks out of the house with her mates to do this underground DJ
thing. She's recently cut off all her hair and she's starting to reinvent
herself as a bit of a punky pixie type (after years of classical dance
training). Now she wants to make something of her own. She's just
starting out as a DJ so she's only really sharing what she's up to with her
friends . . . it's all quite underground. She's experimenting with a
fusion between classical and contemporary. She dances Kathak and Bharata
Natayam. In my mind she takes classical music and fuses it with bass music.
So it's to dance to. Do you know of a club in London that Priya might have heard of where
this sort of experimentation is going on? Or DJ's/ artists who are interested
in this sort of mix?
And this was Nihal’s
brilliant reply that really helped me to understand Priya’s world and make her
into the character she is in Jasmine Skies:
It all depends if she’s
non-conformist. Is she rebelling against the axis of Bollywood/Bhangra she's
expected to like by being into metal, an indie kid or into dubstep and all
manner of bass music, or even a straight up pop kid?
From what you’ve
described I think she's into dark dubstep - her favourite producers are Sukh
Knight from the True Tiger Crew, and her favourite band are the Engine-Earz
Experiment http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/introducing/artists/engineearz/ and she
of course listens to my Radio 1 Asian beats show! There's no regular club
night as such that immediately springs to mind but she knows that Fabric and
XOYO are such cool places to hang out at. There is a real metal/punk crossover
going on into dubstep - it's electronic bass heavy music
When you read Jasmine
Skies you will see how important it was for me to have done this research.
Getting small details right is really important to me, because it’s the only way
to grow rounded characters. Even though I’ve never been to Fabric or XOYO I
needed to know that these are places that Priya would aspire to go to one day.
The other great thing about doing research is you get to open your mind to
different influences. While I was listening to the Engine-Earz Experiment my
son came in from school and said ‘That’s not the sort of stuff you like!’ I
smiled and said ‘Actually, I do now!’
Watching the way my children
and their friends share music on their iPods led to the scene in Jasmine
Skies where Priya tries to work out Mira’s character by listening to what’s
loaded on her iPod. This is what Priya picks up about Mira’s character:
‘A great way of finding
out who someone is, listening to their iPod! Let me guess … with that big
laugh, you’re really a quiet one, storing it all up! A bit romantic, retro,
arty, on the hippy side, the lyrics get you every time. Am I right?’
Where are your parents from?
My parents are from Sri Lanka a small beautiful pearl in the Indian
Ocean just off the SOuthern tip of India.
What sort of music did you listen to when you were a
A lot of Rap music, I didn't
grow up in a particularly musical household but my mother was into poetry and I
suppose that's how I really identified with Rap because of the use of language
and the way words bounced around clashing with each other in such an exciting
way. I loved the power and energy of it and the fact it was a sound and an
attitude that my parents couldn't understand or listen to.
How did you get into DJing and
what advice would you give to any young DJs out there?
I was an artist, then worked
in PR, journalism and management in the music industry, and then DJing became a
way of throwing parties and getting friends together, it started off as fun and
became much more serious once I joined BBC Radio 1. Always listen to how the
music sounds. DJing is about selection first and mixing and scratching second.
Some of the best DJs are less about tricks and totally about selection. So know
and love your music. Always do it for the music first. And never play a track
you don't at least like and preferably one that you LOVE.
What’s the best thing about being a DJ?
Getting people to lose
themselves in music in the same way I do, to see their faces light up as a beat
drops or a bassline shakes them to the core of their being. To stand on a stage
with my hands in the air while people go nuts, and most importantly to play
music that has been created by individuals who poured their heart and soul into
creating something that can connect with people from London to Mumbai.
What’s the most difficult thing?
Keeping a crowd on that
level, knowing when to give them a breather, choosing your selection of tracks
so that they flow not just in terms of how they mix but how they sound. But
then that's the art of the DJ.
Do you know any DJ’s into the sort of thing Priya’s
What are you listening to on your iPod at the moment?
I haven't used my iPod in
years, it's all laptop and CDJs (my turntables - the DJs sword and shield). I'm
listening to so much music as always from artists like Skream and Benga, Riz
MC, Odd Future, True Tiger, Capital H, Fusing Naked Beats, Childish Gambino and
so much more. I'm not listening to anything by Jedward.
You also present and interview people on your radio
show. What’s the most interesting interview you’ve had?
I interviewed a 16 year old
ex gang member recently and he was so interesting because he told it how it was
for him and his mates. He didn't hold back and was painfully honest, not
something many of the politicians I've interviewed have ever really been.
Another artist who stood out to me was the rapper Wretch 32, again because of
What’s the funniest thing anyone’s ever said to you
on a phone in?
The funniest thing anyone
has ever told me on radio was the worst Valentines Day mistake ever. A girl
told me that when her boyfriend proposed to her on Valentines Day she said yes
but called him her ex-boyfriend’s name! Now that's got to hurt.
Have you ever been to Kolkata or anywhere else in India? What
impression did it leave on you?
I have DJ'd in Mumbai, Delhi, Baroda,
and Pune. India is a vast
place, so exciting but I rarely see much of India
other than arrivals, hotel, club/festival departure and then I'm back in the UK.
you can see the biggest and flashiest cars hotels and diamonds and the worst
poverty you've ever seen in a matter of minutes. The NH7 Festival in Pune is
going to become one of the best Festivals in the world. I have DJ'd at the
first two and they are so good. India leaves me feeling contradicted because I
love the feeling of freedom I get when I am there, but then when i leave the
bubble of the stage, the venue or the club I realise that for so many of it's
inhabitants freedom is a very distant prospect indeed.
If you change one thing about the world, what would
I would replace the word
Charity with Empowerment and ensure that the money given helps to empower and
inspire not enslave and demoralise. When there is immediate need then of course
we must do all we can to make sure that the weakest survive, but we need to
help people to believe that they are worth something more than handouts.
Sukh Knight vs OGz -
Shutdown Engine Earz Experiment -
Kaliyuga Surinder Rattan featuring Metz & Trix - OMG (Dubstep remix) Jakwob - Electrify Talal Qureshi - Equator EP (Track: Andromeda) Chase n status - Eastern Jam Romay -Playing With Sound album (track: An Indian Love Story) Tigerstyle - Kudi Shizzio - Come Get Some
(remix) Nitin Sawhney - Homelands (Freeform five remix)
What ten songs would you
have on your playlist? Post them below!