"I have always believed in making and playing music beyond genres" - DJ NYK on new single, Play Life project

Nikhil Sahni, known professionally by his stage name NYK, is an Indian DJ, radio host, producer, and music coach. Apart from scoring official remixes for some of Bollywood‘s biggest hits, his passion for ‘Creating music beyond Genres’ has helped him produce enthralling music and his latest single, “Remember You,” is legit evidence of his versatility.

Taking some time off from juggling between his different ventures, NYK goes OnRecord about his new music, balancing Bollywood and EDM, his plans for the future and much more!

P.S. He’s got a surprise in store for the Electronyk Generation!

Let’s hit it off with your latest single, “Remember You,” what’s the it about and how did you come up with its production idea?

Remember You” is a song that I conceived two years ago. The song is about how moving on is hard when your mind lives in the past. It was initially recorded with a male vocalist but somehow it didn’t sound right to me so I tweaked the lyrics and redid the song with British singer-songwriter Tricia McTeague who has worked with legends like Paul Van Dyk & Schiller to name a few. It’s been a great experience bringing the whole song to life. Its music video was shot in the beautiful city of Tallinn in Estonia. I am grateful to all my listeners for such a positive response to this project. 

Speaking of the sound, “Remember You” has a bit of a different feel than the other songs you’ve released in the past. What inspired the future-pop vibe?

What I aspire to create as an artist is different genres of music. Since childhood, I’ve been open to all styles of music & have never buckled myself to one particular sound. As an artist, I like to create music that’s trendy and in line with the current prevailing music styles worldwide. It helps keep things fresh and interesting for the listeners as well as for me as an artist.

What’s the Play Life project about and how is the music under this alias different from NYK’s music? How did it all start? 

Play Life is an extension of what I do artistically. People have known me for Bollywood remixes for decades but as an artist, I had a lot more to offer & explore. I was always into electronic music since the time I started DJing and was one of the early Indian artists in 2009 to have signed with labels internationally and have original electronic music released on digital stores back then when EDM even popular here.

I loved fusing Bollywood sounds with electronic dance music. However, due to my growing career in Bollywood, my EDM projects took a back seat until 2014 when I decided to make the transition and launched the Play Life project in 2015.

Play Life is my attempt to collectively brand a billboard of such proportions that the world has no choice but to sit up and take notice. India as a nation has achieved phenomenal success in almost all areas of work and art, it is about time we pin us on the EDM map as a prominent site.

Play Life project comes equipped with an EDM podcast and a record label. So far I’ve been fortunate to receive support from the likes of Nicky Romero, KSHMR, Fedde Le Grand, Quintino, Nervo, Bassjackers, KURA, Sick Individuals, Danny Avila who have graced the guest mix on the Play Life podcast!

Being in a position where I had built a decent amount of goodwill in the industry I really felt it was also my duty to collectively take the Indian dance music scene forward through scouting our own homegrown talent and also giving them a platform to release their music through my imprint Play Life Records & take it to the world.

So far we’ve had 14 releases on the label and we prioritize quality over quantity to ensure we maintain international standards for the label. My team & family at Shark & Ink have worked shoulder to shoulder, especially Arjun Shah who stood by me since day one and believed in my vision I had for Play Life.

Since both these genres are poles apart, do you believe you’ve had to work harder since you’re juggling between Bollywood and EDM? How different is the creative/production process for both these genres?

Oh absolutely! It’s been maddening and has required back-breaking amount of hard work to establish Play Life alongside my Bollywood projects. It has required patience & strict schedules to achieve the same. It’s been a common notion that a Bollywood DJ cannot succeed in the EDM sphere too. I wanted to prove the naysayers wrong.

According to you, what are the essential ingredients to make a banging Bollywood remix? 

1) First and foremost keep the original essence of the song alive. This is what makes or breaks the remix. If you don’t get this right no matter what you do, the remix will never sound pleasing. 
2) Have a tight kick drum and a thumping bassline. 
3) Mix & master the remix well. 

Irrespective of what style or genre you make the remix in, these pointers always work. 

From Bollywood remixes to dance music production, how did this shift happen?

It’s been almost 15 years that I’ve been remixing music. It was about time for me as an artist to take the leap and get into scoring originals because that is what I always wanted to do but I wanted to move out of my comfort zone to grow further & challenge myself as an artist.

It is such a wonderful transition I am going through from a remixer to an original composer. My fans have been very supportive and appreciate the move. But having made this transition I will still always cater to what originally got my fans to follow me i.e Bollywood remixes and podcasts. 

It’s double the effort, but like they say nothing worthwhile comes easy. I am ready to put in the massive effort and that’s what drives me. 

Are there any learnings from making Bollywood remixes that you’ve applied to your electronic dance music production? 

Yes. Programming, mixing & mastering techniques remain pretty much the same. I’ve mastered that craft working on Bollywood remixes and fusing them with EDM for several years now and all that knowledge can also be applied while scoring original electronic dance music. However, recording vocals and sonically treating them professionally is something that I had to learn when I started doing dance music with vocals. Working with lyricists and understanding metering is also something that I had to learn. 

You’ve often talked about “creating music beyond genres.” Why is breaking the boundaries of genres so important to you and how do you plan to achieve it?

I feel its extremely unfair to label an artist especially a DJ for one particular style. DJs have exposure to various styles of music and it’s natural for them as a producer to work with different sounds. I have always believed in making and playing music beyond genres, having creative freedom, and not staying within the confines of one particular genre. It’s freaking boring to rinse one style for your entire life. I also strongly believe that there are no rules in making music. Create art/music that makes you come alive and everything else falls in place eventually even if you don’t find success right away. 

Can we expect to hear some original Hindi music from you anytime soon?

Yup absolutely! That’s what’s in store for my listeners next. A new original series where I collaborate with like-minded musicians and lyricists and discover new talented singers from different corners of India to create original Hindi music with new-age sounds. My first Hindi original is called “Panchhi Befikre” which I’ve recorded with a very talented Mumbai based singer/songwriter Ashish Bhatt is slated for a September release.

Did your upbringing in New Delhi impact your musical palette in any way possible? 

I don’t think that the city influenced me as such in terms of the musical palette. However, the DJ training I received in Delhi through my teacher Sanat had a major impact as he introduced me to a variety of musical genres which I wasn’t listening to or had access to back in 2003. House, Psy Trance, Drum & Bass, Acid Jazz, Ambient, Lounge & Chillout were the genres I discovered during my training days. 

Apart from your music, you’ve gained prominence in the circuit with your Electronyk Show. How would you describe the concept to someone who hasn’t been to your shows? 

Electronyk Show is an arena show designed & programmed to give my fans an immersive experience with sense altering synchronized visuals, pyrotechnics, state of the art lighting & music beyond genres. 

The music at an arena show in India is either totally EDM or totally Bollywood. But at the Electronyk Show, I playlist music beyond genres, giving the audience the best of both worlds. I host the Electronyk Show mostly at the campuses as I feel that’s the right place for that vibe & to execute something that massive. However, I’ve also taken the Electronyk Show overseas to cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Tenerife (Spain) as well. 

What do you have in mind to amp up the Electronyk Show and make it different from anything out there in the Indian music circuit? 

I feel there are only a handful of DJs in India who have their own standalone arena show. You’ll see big stage productions only at major music festivals or when an International DJ is touring but not when an Indian DJ is performing solo.

I am currently working on the Electronyk Show 2.0 where I plan to introduce 3D holographic visuals, theatrics, new stage design & a massive lighting rig with synchronized programming. Building something of this magnitude always takes time & requires teaming up with the best technicians from around the world. I am hoping to be able to execute this by end of 2019 & give my fans a world-class experience. Touchwood!

What difference do you see in the nightlife scene of New Delhi compared to other cities like Mumbai and Pune? 

Every city has a different scene running parallel to mainstream Bollywood music. There are fans for every genre of music in every city. However, I think there is more demand for Punjabi music in New Delhi than Mumbai or Pune. I wish there were more superclubs with a big stage and thumping sound system in India. One club that has been very impressive lately is Prism in Hyderabad. We need more such venues in our country. 

So many artists get discouraged while climbing the ladder, do you have any advice for the talented artists out there that are having trouble getting their sound heard?

Technically there is no “Do this to become successful in the music business” kind of strategy. But surely there are two words of wisdom that would work; Patience and perseverance. Never compare yourself to another artist as everyone is unique and has his or her own journey. Some achieve cult status at the age of 16, some in their 30’s & some even later.

All the effort that you put in the studio when no one is watching will eventually be recognized at some point in life & your music will be heard and discovered when the time is right. So just keep working hard and pursue a career in music because you love making and performing music. If money or fame is your reason, then I’m sorry it might not work for you in the long run. Keep hustling & keep it real!  

Do you think is it necessary for a beginner to go to a school for learning the art of DJing or self-learning does the trick?

Formal training isn’t mandatory but like how you have a GPS to guide you & give you directions in territories that you are unfamiliar with, having a teacher guiding you through his experience is always better. 

DJ NYK at Electronyk Academy in Mumbai

Bringing this conversation to end what’s next for DJ NYK the artist and Nikhil Sahni, the human being?

Besides the usual, DJ NYK is definitely bringing his listener’s more original music (both Hindi & English) and three brand new series for remix renditions, and original songs (Ssshh. Wouldn’t let the cat out of the bag completely!) Lots of music videos and cutting edge live performances. I am also hosting a free concert for my fans later this year to celebrate 10 years of Electronyk Podcast which would feature performances by me & the other Indian DJs who have contributed their music on the podcast over the years. This is going to be really special one for me and my fans whom I dearly call the Electronyk Generation.

Personally, Nikhil Sahni is working on becoming a better version of himself with each passing day. Having a better sleep cycle, meditating more often, getting fitter physically as well as developing spiritual muscles and achieving that long-time goal of having six-pack abs is the plan!

Listen to DJ NYK‘s latest hit “Remember You” only on JioSaavn.