"I think Punjabi music is here to stay" - Sartek on his new Artist Originals release

Coming from a non-musical family that prioritized academia over hobbies, Delhi-based DJ Sartek had to work twice as hard to turn his passion into a career. This chartered accountancy student turned producer slowly worked his way up the dance music circuit and gradually had his songs recognized by top international DJs like David Guetta and Hardwell, after which there was no looking back.

Over the years, Sartek has played alongside artists like Justin Bieber, Martin Garrix, Armin van Buuren, Steve Aoki to name a few, and is now a regular at electronic music festivals around the world. 

After putting Indian EDM on the global map and collaborating with international artists, Sartek is revisiting his Punjabi roots with his upcoming track “Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga)” with GSD Singh. Read on to know more about his groovy new single, why he decided to switch sounds, his thoughts on the rise of Punjabi music, and much more.

Hitting off with your latest release, “Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga)” with GSD Singh. Tell us the story behind this track?

Having grown up with a lot of Punjabi influences around me and being an avid listener of Punjabi music since I was a kid, it’s always been something that I’ve wanted to try my hand at. Coincidentally, I met GSD through a mutual friend at a Punjabi wedding and we then scheduled another meeting to discuss music and share ideas. I really liked his voice and the lyrics were very cool. The only thing missing in his draft was a good production. So I asked him to send me his vocal stems and then I started working on the production from scratch. The result turned out great and that’s how my first ever Punjabi vocal-based track was born! The real inspiration for “Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga)” came from the ultra-cool lyrics of the track and that really encouraged me to produce it in a way that would do justice to these lyrics!

How did you make this beat? Walk us through the production process. 

With this song, I wanted to try something a little different and so I’ve used vocal chops of “Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga)” as the main drops which you wouldn’t find very easily on other Punjabi tracks. The song is not limited to being a dance anthem, but rather it has a dual feel. You can dance to it in a club and you can also listen to in a car while driving to work. 

You come from an EDM background, music-wise. What inspired you to take up the Punjabi route with this one?

After releasing music on multiple international labels, I really wanted to create a song for the local community. I’m a big fan of Punjabi music. I still recall only dancing to Punjabi numbers as a kid. However, my life took a different path that exposed me to a lot of English music and that overtook my childhood love for Punjabi music. But your first love can never be replaced and that’s why years later, I’ve now come full circle back to my roots with “Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga).”

What differences did you notice while working on this one vs. a full-blown dance music track?

A proper dance music track has many layers as compared to a vocal Punjabi track. For EDM, the main meat comes from the long melodies and bass lines, which is why it takes a lot of time to mix them well plus creating different kinds of effects (uplifters/snare roll) to make them stand out and sound interesting. 

In this case, the vocals of “Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga)” are the main element of the track which made my work easier because I did not have to focus on producing the drums and creating the perfect vibe. Production was much simpler and less layered since the whole purpose of the track was for the vocals to stand out with the main hook line. 

We also love the high energy music video! Tell us something about that too.

Shooting the music video for this song is probably one of the best experiences I’ve had. The warehouse we shot at was located on the outskirts of Delhi and the whole factory was converted into sets. There were over 50 dancers from all over the world and the whole atmosphere was absolutely exhilarating. I’ve been to a lot of sets for music video shoots but this one was in a different league altogether. 

What inspires you to create new music and how do you choose a genre or a sound for your tracks?

I usually find my inspiration from a place of artistry where composition and heartfelt words marry. I am a very emotional person so most of my music comes from incidents/experiences. In other words, when I sit in front of the computer to start a new project, all emotions come down and digitally get converted into melodies/beats. So if I’m in a happy mood you will hear chill melodic music and if the other way round get ready for some aggressive beats!

What’s the biggest challenge remaining in your way?

The competition is increasing day by day. One needs to up his production and musical game daily to stay relevant. In a way its good as it brings in healthy competition, which results in the betterment of the whole scene. 

Also, the labels locally need to start respecting the musicians more. A lot of deals are haywire and not in the favor of artists but the giant labels. 

Why did you choose Artist Originals to release this beast and not any other label?

All my past releases have been on major international labels like Armada, Sony, Revealed, etc because the productions were more appropriate with the genres they released. When I finished the production on “Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga),” I realized that even with Punjabi vocals on it, it isn’t ‘thait-Punjabi’ but rather it has an international vibe to it. Several conversations and meetings with my management team; Shark & Ink, we collectively decided that AO would be the ideal choice for this song as they release great quality music and are not labeled as a pure Bollywood or commercial label but instead release music across various genres. Ultimately, AO was the perfect combination of niche and commercial. 

What do you wish to achieve with ‘Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga)’? What is the definition of success of a track in your head?

Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga)” is going to be my debut track for the local market, I’m extremely excited and nervous at the same time. With this release, I’ve attempted to create a perfect blend of groovy beats on Punjabi vocals. Additionally being a Punjabi myself, I’ve always wanted to venture into the ever-growing Punjabi market and now I finally have. For me, a successful track is one which has over 100 million views, hahaha No! 

I believe a successful track is one that appeals to everyone from a 3rd-grade student to a grandparent, both should be able to relate to the track and easily hum or sing it. Although views are indeed important for digital marketers, the recall and nostalgia that the song invokes when it is played are much more important as it manifests as an emotion within someone as opposed to a one time view that fades from memory with time.

What are the things that you’ll never compromise on, musically? 

A good vocalist but more important a clean mixdown/master. It is very important that the audience listens to high-quality music, hence I end up spending more time cleaning the frequencies than actually producing a beat.

What do you think of the direction in which Punjabi music is headed and its future in the Indian market?

I think the best part of the Punjabi language is that it is understood by people from all across India. The language also has a very cool accent, which I believe is melodic even when it’s not being sung haha! 

Punjabi
music isn’t an emerging trend, in fact, it’s one of the biggest genres after Bollywood. With the recent flood of music being created from dance beats with Punjabi vocals (thanks to Guru and Harrdy), Punjabi music has become more mainstream than ever and is now enjoyed by people of all age groups. I think Punjabi music is here to stay and it will continue to evolve over time with innovative beats and melodies.

What do you have to say to people who are not so happy with your switch in sound?

I think at this point in time, everyone’s a little bored with the EDM/Future Bass sounds, so I doubt there’s anyone who won’t be happy about my new music. Not too long ago, I did a remix of the popular Punjabi track, “Thug Ranjha” and the response was amazing! I genuinely believe that I have the best fans ever who have been encouraging and supporting me since the inception of my career. Even if there are a few fans who are not very happy with my switch, I’m sure once they hear the track they will go completely bonkers over it and LOVE ME even more! 

Does “Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga)” signify that you won’t be producing dance music anymore?

No, not at all. I have two big tracks scheduled for release at the end of this year on really cool EDM labels.

Punjabi music is on the rise, and we’re seeing a lot of dance music crossovers with Punjabi artists; what do you think appeals to the listeners about this combination?

Have you heard about this really cool cuisine called modern Indian? It’s a mixture of Italian/Asian recipes with our Indian masalas and curries, giving the food a completely new twist. This is exactly what is happening with Punjabi music. The singers are changing their singing style and the producers who make dance music are collaborating with them to give the track a really innovative vibe.

Punjabi music isn’t limited to India, it has slowly spread to other parts of the world too. Do you think we might see a boom like Latin music in recent times? If so, how can we expedite this process?

I think we’re definitely going to see Punjabi music on Global charts very soon! We all know Punjabi music is already being played in clubs all over the world. As I’ve said before, there is something really cool about Punjabi music; the vocals and the groove are so catchy that anyone would get on the floor to dance. Music is a universal language and I think Punjabi will soon be one of the most played genres in the world considering the fact that Canada and the UK (two of the most important music markets) have a large population of Punjabis!

Bringing this conversation to end with something that everyone’s trying to nail, how would you like your music and your brand to be remembered in 10 years?

An artist who gave quality meaningful and yet dancing music! More than that, I want to be remembered as a guy who helped in mentoring upcoming producers. I always believe the best way to grow is by helping others grow!

Dance along to Sartek and GSD Singh’s catchy new single, “Tere Karke (Ballin’ Ciaga)” now streaming on JioSaavn