It seems that every Tamil boy at some stage of their teenage life wants to be a DJ, and they think that they can actually remix. Pop into any Tamil music store and you will see a huge section allocated to Tamil remix albums. Sometimes, the store owners don't even know the difference between a Tamil remix album and one by an independent artist, and - to the detriment of both genres - dump the two together!
However, some Tamil remix albums from the past did stand out, including Explosion by London's Ninja P (supported by Rishi Rich), and Toronto's DJ Kumar's series of Gaana 2k non-stop mixes. As a club DJ, to this day I personally have only played two Tamil remixes; the first is AR Rahman's "Pon Magal Vanthal", and secondly Black Eyed Peas' "Elephunk theme" - a remix of Ilaiyaraja's "Unakkum Enakkum". Other remixes simply don't make the cut.
What made Desi (North Indian) music reach its international status has been a steady flow of decent, dancefloor-friendly, catchy remixes since the late 90s by once-upon-a-time bedroom remixers like Punjabi MC or Rishi Rich, who turned Bollywood/Punjabi anthems into productions which the diaspora youth enjoyed.
That said, a new breed of Tamil remix DJ is emerging; those who are changing the game and have the potential to make a difference to the scene. One such DJ is dJ.icykle, a Toronto-based DJ who has so far released three Tamil remix albums and a number of singles. He's also the man behind the Tamil Gangnam Style remix that Review Raja released recently. I had a chat with him about his work...
How did you get into making music, and how did the name "dJ icykle" come about?
It all started in the spring of 2005, while helping some friends produce a “Tamil Remix CD” - from labels to CDs to covers. I was able to pick up the software they were using at the time, “Acoustica” and contribute my own piece. I had several names floating around, however, “icykle” has been a pseudo name I have been always using and thanks to my good friend Dew-V (Toronto Tamil rapper) insisted I go by dJ icykle (pronounced ice-sickle).
What program(s) do you use to make your music?
I remember when I was young I would try to fuse songs by playing English and Tamil tracks separately and recording them via audio cassette. Though what I did was just for fun, it turned out to be a hidden passion of mine for music and technology. Presently I use Sony Acid Pro along with Adobe Audition to master. It was never easy; there was a lot of dedication and hard work. I would put over 100 percent to make every track fresh and current for the new generation of music lovers today.
What is it you want to achieve via music?
My goal is to create a new experience for people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. The response I received after my first album, “First Breath” was just unbelievable! It brought forth a new wave of fans who appreciated my music. Like most artists in the creative industry it is very difficult to please everyone, so I spend more time on each track – quality over quantity as.
Who are your inspirations?
My musical inspirations are driven by talented artists around the world composing master pieces in different genres. Many people in my life have directly impacted the way I tailor my remixes. The most impactful person will have to be my girlfriend. I express my love through my music and she is the reason behind every successful love track. Other key inspirational composers/producers are A.R. Rahman, Yuvan Shankar Raja, Kanye West and Timbaland.
What direction do you think the industry is moving in?
It’s a new era in music; many of the composers, such as Yuvan, are already making their songs sound “remixed.” Tracks are polished with a very “clubby” and “hip-hop” like feel. This puts a major break on remixing as it requires more convincing from the DJs to make it sound more different. It would be great if we had access to acapellas and instrumentals straight from the music directors which could help us be more creative with our final products.
What have you been up to recently, and what's next for you?
I recently released my third album, “3 (Moonu) the R3MiX” with DJ Hecktic – which hit over 5000 album downloads. This album was greatly appreciated by the original composer, Anirudh R, who even retweeted it to his followers. It is still unclear whether my 4th installment will be a solo or a collaborative effort. However, my next remix will be a “dubstep” version of the Mankatha Theme.
You were involved in the popular Tamil Gangnam Style remix with Review Raja. How did you come to work with him?
I have been working with him from the beginning. He is a good friend of mine, and the persona of "Review Raja" actually came to be when we were watching Billa on Blu-ray at my house. After some research and brainstorming, the project took off with great success. I am currently the Director/Technology Lead for the Review Raja team. Tamil Gangnam Style was put together while we were thinking of contributing to the Gangnam series with a Tamil twist. With “style” being the main concept by PSY and Rajini holding the best track to resemble our Super Star style – the track was remixed. Our video reached over 60,000 views in 2 days.
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