Calm Chor (IND): “Music was my lifeline”

calm chor around the time of his first gig
Our first real conversation took place while walking through Amsterdam during ADE 2016. Later the Indian Calm Chor aka Ashvin Mani Sharma told me about his surprising DJ-debut. "I had two faders per channel and small fiddly EQ knobs."

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Calm Chor aka Ashvin Mani Sharma and I met during ADE 2016 in the vibrant Amsterdam based record shop InDeep&Dance. Later he told me some more about his youth and of course about his DJ debut. “I was praying that, due to my incompetence, I wouldn’t get sent back on the next flight."

“Music has always been very close to me. Since I was a small child and could barely walk, the first thing that I learnt to use was the cassette player. My parents knew that if they left me in front of the decks, I wouldn’t move from there. Some years later, we got a double cassette deck and I could record my own tapes. For me, this was a technological leap. I started making mix tapes for all my parents’ dance-parties by selecting tracks and placing them one after the other in a sort of roughly mixed medley. Later, in boarding school, the only illegal item I had was a Sony walkman.”

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Goa

“What I am trying to say, is that music was a lifeline for me. It made everything in my life better and in some cases bearable. In those days, I never considered music as a possible career, because in India this just wasn’t an option. My parents always wanted me to follow their footsteps and go into business. I myself was pretty sure of that as well, until I went to Goa as a teenager.”

Crazy alien music

“At the legendary Anjuna Flea Market in Goa I heard of a weekly Shore Bar party that started at sunset, so I set off to the beach to find it. As I got close, I heard the loud thumping bass and my ears perked up. Nothing prepared me for the sight of a thousand-plus people bouncing in unison to this crazy alien music. The image is branded in my mind.”

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Business

“I finished college with a degree in Economics but by the time of my graduation, I had lost all interest in any kind of business. All I wanted to do was to learn to produce this crazy music. Opportunities were limited though and without a computer or software I couldn’t even start. So, I took a loan from my dad and bought a keyboard and a Roland MC 303 and got started.“

Desperate

“Soon I discovered a computer program called Rebirth and got sucked in further. I started making music with a friend, Tarun Shahani aka Boombaba, but making money with this was impossible at the time and none of the other jobs I tried, kept me interested for very long. I figured out that I would have to DJ to make money, because I still had a lot to learn about producing. By now my parents were getting antsy about my career choice and wanted me to join either one of them in their company. I was desperately in need for a job.”

Jewelry

“Around this time a friend who worked in Almaty, Kazakhstan, sent word that the hotel he was working for needed a DJ urgently as their DJ had left. The club owner had come to Mumbai to scout for DJ’s and I went to meet him to apply for the position. He took one look at me (long hair, junk jewelry, etc.) and hired me on the spot.”

Incompetence

“Within a week I was in Almaty at the hotel’s nightclub and the first time I ever properly played as a DJ was my first night on the job! I had never played any party before and just watched my friends do it. I was praying that, due to my incompetence, I wouldn’t get sent back on the next flight.”

ashvin vroeger1 - Calm Chor (IND): "Music was my lifeline"

Vodka

“I became even more nervous as I saw a really old Denon player connected to an ancient Mackie Studio mixer with 8 channels (mono), so I had two faders per channel and small fiddly EQ knobs. On top of that, it was a 5-star nightclub full of people. Obviously, I was really nervous at the start of the night but two hours and half a bottle of vodka later, I got into the groove. I ended up playing for five more hours. It really helped that the crowd wanted the same ten tracks over and over again, so I didn’t have to look too hard for the music.”

Euphoria

“The euphoria of that first night overshadowed many things for a while. Later that year, I realized how much I loved music and what I really wanted out of my life. That one year made me a man and brought me back to underground music.”

Psy trance

“When I got back to India, I started playing only techno and psy trance. I also started organizing my own parties. In August 2000 I released my first psy album with my friend JP Dangman and I haven’t looked back since.”

Jalebee Cartel

“Life has taken many twists and turns since then and I have seen many highs and lows throughout my career, but love of the music has guided me through the smooth and rocky moments. I have met some really talented people and formed India’s first techno live act called Jalebee Cartel, which put us on the map internationally as well.”

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Live performances

“After a highly successful stint that lasted eight years, which included us doing more than 100 shows a year, including Paradiso in Amsterdam and opening the Turmbuhne stage at Fusion Festival, we disbanded and decided to go our own ways. I started my solo echno project called Calm Chor and continued to work with Ash Roy from Jalebee Cartel. We started a label called Soupherb Records to push the sound that we like and went back to performing live as a duo called Bit of Both. Our debut album reached # 1 on the Beatport Deep House Release Charts.”

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“After being in the music business for over 18 years, each time I go on stage or to the DJ console, my heart still beats like a techno kick drum at Tresor and my palms are sweating with nervous energy. Each gig feels like the first and I want to play every gig as if it were my last.”

This article is originally published on DJMag.nl on Thursday June 8th 2017.

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