Vishal Malik, better known as Oma, a prodigious and renowned Disc Jockey belonging to Delhi, talks to the G20 about his musical journey that spans more than two decades.
Signed to more than twenty critically acclaimed labels, Oma is known as the man who resurrected and revived the electronic music scene in India. Apart from India, he has performed in Russia, Canada, Brazil, UAE, UK, Germany, and the United States, among other places and is currently doing a show for a radio station in Ibiza. Excerpts:
Q: You have been credited with popularizing the house music scene in India. How did you achieve this feat?
A: When I started my journey into deejaying, it was very mainstream for a few years, it was good enough for an experience, and however, something was missing. It was then I decided to shift my focus from mainstream music to something that I was enthusiastic and passionate about and that was house music. I started doing gigs at prominent clubs. This was around 2001 and it was not easy to fetch a following to attend my gigs. The internet was not a prominent medium to propagate about the performances. It was hard core marketing with distribution of gig flyers-art worthy enough to catch the attention of the prospective audience. And those were distributed by hand at public places. Although word of mouth was also the strongest medium and till date is. Gradually I witnessed a good number of young crowd getting the hang of my music. It all flourished because of the best residencies in five-star properties that gave me a strong platform and I was able to deliver my music inclination to my audience. I feel the overall success came because of my love for electronic music and unrelenting music policy and I never detracted from it.
Q: How is a rock concert different from an EDM gig?
A: The overall difference is the music played or performed. In rock concerts the audiences are strictly rock followers, while in EDM gigs you might find people just for the sake of it, other than genuine fans. Rock concerts are mainly live performances by the bands, whereas in EDM gigs it is the DJ mixing music. DJ playing a live set is also a new norm.
Q: Which is better, working under a label or being independent?
A: Both have its pros and cons. Being signed up with a label is beneficial, especially a prominent one, so that whatever you release is accepted by the followers of the label and an artist is able to enhance his or her reach to indirect fans who become your fans eventually over a period of time, considering that an artist is consistent with his or her music production and releases. But the downside of it is that if you want to get more experimental with your music, maybe you are not able to release the same on your regular record label because of the vibe clash with what the label is known for. In such cases having one’s own record label is an excellent way to release whatever the artist wants.
Presently there are many platforms like Bandcamp where an artist is in touch with his fans and revenue of the sales comes directly to the artist since there is no label involved. It is a direct stage for the artist. Hence, an artist is independent label wise. I personally think that music releases should be equally bifurcated between the two platforms and that is exactly what I am trying to achieve.
Q: How do you arrive at a melody and a beat?
A: There is no hard and fast approach to this. Although I normally have a tangible vision of a track in my head minus the minute details. It mostly turns out to be an epic theme when I start writing down a track, rest of it comes with the flow in the studio with addition of elements. Normally in electronic music the overall track revolves around the groove and the melody of the track. I have never been encouraged to write any track or project without a good complexity of melodies, I intend to never follow what is selling in the music circuit and stay articulate to what and how I want to write my music. Unless you have your own unique style of production, your success will be impeded. Music is nothing but a stimulant of emotions. Unless a track moves me emotionally, it does not hold any significance to me. Sometimes travelling has helped me to write a fresh approach to my methodical ways and my sound also has evolved because of inspirations from favourite artistes and styles of electronic music sub genres. I believe that the music from the 1980s has had a major influence on me—the music I grew up with.
Q: Would you like to tell us something about the radioing experience in Ibiza?
A: It was a dream come true. What I was doing all these years in New Delhi and other metropolitan cities in India caused a sort of butterfly effect in Ibiza. The slots were so tight that on my arrival I was unsure of whether I would be able to play my DJ set at the radio station. But then I performed a good two-hour set on air from ibiza radio station headquarters. Spinning my music in a top of the line equipment-studded radio station, along with a mesmerizing view of the blue sea, rocky beach and palm trees—it will always be engraved in my memory. As my session ended, I got my contract of hosting a two-hour weekly show on Ibiza radio. It felt like a Bushido Code being handed over to me.
Q: Amid the pandemic, as the industry has come to a standstill, how are you coping?
A: The entertainment industry has suffered immensely, along with the hospitality and travelling industry. It’s a humungous challenge for all of us. All these sectors are dependent on each other and have this equilibrium which is destroyed as of now. The only industry which has been benefiting is the online streaming business of entertainment. Nevertheless, it is time to upgrade one’s skill-sets and learn new techniques and strategize what the future holds and what we have in store for us. From time to time going live online and reaching your fans. Maybe ticketed online event is the future for now on but it cannot replace the experience of going to a club or a bar.
Q. What endeavors are you currently engaged in?
A. Mostly studio and writing music, producing my weekly Ibiza radio show, making new playlists with updated music. I am also working on new strategies for my event company, Nomad Sound Events where we undertake installation of global standard equipment for events and provide DJs from our panel. Simultaneously, I have my online classes for students who are learning pro deejaying in my DJ school where I take one student at a time per batch to give my total attention to him or her.