The DJ-producer pairing of Rupinder Nanda and Kedar Santwani teamed up with fellow duo Rusha & Blizza
For the last five years, New Delhi DJ-producer duo Kenzani aka Kedar Santwani and Tech Panda aka Rupinder Nanda have been taking over clubs and playlists with a familiar yet fresh twist to Indian electronic music.
There are elements of fusion, mostly in their use of vocal samples (heard right from 2018’s “Saawariya” to “Uncertainty” in 2020 with Aneesha to their latest hit “Dilbar”) but their success lies in molding techno, downtempo and even a bit of trip-hop into India’s traditional music stories. Tech Panda and Kenzani have steadily made can’t-fail tunes for dancefloors and home listening alike, which has led to a massive following.
The duo were first drawn together around 2018, meeting through a common friend and Kenzani says they immediately began discussing goals as artists. Tech Panda adds, “The biggest draw was that I was finally introduced to someone who liked messing around with software and had an inclination to work on creating new cool sounds.” Following the creation of “Saawariya,” Kenzani says they began making hundreds of tracks “just to brainstorm possible track structures” and began releasing the ones they loved the most.
The reason you see them operating as a duo with different monikers is that they didn’t think they would go very far. “One thing led to another, and here we are in 2023,” Tech Panda says. In an interview with Rolling Stone India, the producers discuss the success of “Dilbar,” working with Rusha & Blizza, the common ground between India’s traditional music and electronic music and what’s next. Excerpts:
From “Saawariya” in 2018 to “Dilbar” in 2023, how would you look at the change you’ve seen or increase in fan-following you’ve had so far?
Kenzani: I think it has a lot to do with timing of the universe. Without “Saawariya,” there would be no opening to the gates of this musical world we have tried to create. It has been one hell of a journey and it certainly feels great to have more listeners enjoy our sound. “Dilbar” marked a new beginning for the era of electronic music and was definitely responsible for turning many listeners into fans today.
Tech Panda: When we started out in 2019 we were in some way introducing a new kind of sound to the Indian audience. I remember when we had first released our first few singles, we were not sure how they would sound on the dancefloor and if the audience would like this new kind of music. Music which was slow BPM, and more focused on melody and structure. We stuck to our style and started performing post-lockdown and were amazed by the audience’s response. So I would say the audience today is more attuned to the performer and more willing to listen to experimental sound. They love it when they find samples of their favorite Indian pop culture incorporated in our sets and their love and response are only getting better.
There was something about “Dilbar” that felt like it was ready to be your biggest song together as soon as it released or even when the teasers came out. Did you feel like it was going to be a breakout song?
Tech Panda: We release all our songs with the same amount of love and conviction and “Dilbar” was no different. As an artist, you can’t really predict the outcome of a song, but just do your best and have faith. I didn’t think it would break charts like this, but it’s nice to feel appreciated.
Kenzani: We had hoped that the track would do well since it had a catchy vibe to it. The ultimate test for us is to check if listening to the track gives us goosebumps. “Dilbar” pretty much ticked that box and more. When it released, the response to the song was good but it only skyrocketed after a month of its release. So, there is no way to tell which song will be the ‘biggest.’ The only way ahead is to keep dropping tracks that we love to share with the world.
Additionally, I think Rusha & Blizza being part of it was also pretty great since they brought their own style of desi/fusion bass to the track. How did the collaboration of four producers on one track go, in terms of having four creative minds working on one song?
Tech Panda: We knew these guys through their work and had been discussing collaborations for a while. We were both working with the same vocal sample without each other’s knowledge. When that came to the forefront, we decided to release “Dilbar” as a collaboration instead of a Tech Panda x Kenzani single.
Kenzani: Our collaboration with the boys was pending since we started releasing ‘Indian electronic music’ during the lockdown two years ago. The talented duo Rusha & Blizza have also innovated their own genre of music which focuses on experimental, powerful compositions paired with golden Indian melodies. The collaboration was done seamlessly with both duos bringing their own vibe and take on the song. A structure was built to join both worlds and voila! “Dilbar” was born!
What has been your favorite reaction or comment for “Dilbar” so far?
Kenzani: We are so grateful for all the praises and appreciation the track has received from all the reputed artists, actors, entrepreneurs, and fans all over the world. Comments such as “Been listening to the track on loop for days. It makes me feel alive!” always cheer us up. From smashing sets in Boiler Room to making the world dance and creating challenges such as the one by [Norwegian dance crew] Quickstyle, “Dilbar” has been lucky enough to receive so much love from all around the world.
Tech Panda: I like when I get smiles and nods of approval from youngsters and school-going kids. To appeal to them and the I.T. crowd must really mean we are doing something right.
Your work also proves how accessible this fusion of electronic music and Indian traditional music is becoming. What do you personally feel is a common ground that these (very varying) styles share that makes it conducive to weave together?
Kenzani: Music is universal. We can emphasize this the most in today’s times. All the boundaries and limitations on music creation or any artistic creation, for that matter, have disappeared. Traditional Indian music has a very profound effect on the listener. It stimulates emotions that most music styles cannot claim to. Tech Panda and I have always been admirers of Indian classical music, and we just wanted to figure out a way to blend it with international sound and showcase the beauty of fusion.
What’s coming up for both of you and also individually?
Kenzani: Currently we are in the middle of a few amazing collaborations with renowned labels as well as working on a new independent album. Panda and I have been working on the next fusion sound which we are very excited to display soon. We are also reconstructing our live set with audiovisuals for a more wholesome musical experience.