Pathaan is one of the very few UK based DJ’s to have truly crossed the dance/world divide. Whereas many other world music DJ’s lean nearer to the roots market, Pathaan’s history is steeped in dance culture - a stance that is reflected in his popular ‘left-field’ reviews for DJ Magazine, and his numerous appearances in London, Ibiza, Italy, Madrid, Barcelona, Brazil, Istanbul, New York and many far away spots.
Most interesting to lovers of the Asian Underground sound has been his unique and highly absorbing Stoned Asia Music series of compilations, which reflect a personal passion for global chill-out with a sitar twist. Also a growing musical diversity had led to the release of ‘Pathaan’s Small World’; a moniker showcasing the open-minded attitude of his club nights combined with an obsession for seeking out the very latest global platters.
Pathaan’s obsession with music started when he was studying Software Engineering at University in Leeds. At the time it was house music that pressed his buttons, and most notably the acclaimed house DJ Danny Rampling that gained his admiration. After returning to London, Pathaan worked at Heathrow Airport for United Airlines. The hours suited his extra curricular activities, as a 5am – 1pm work shift gave him enough time to go record hunting in the afternoons and plan his bid for DJ stardom in the evenings.
After the obsession with house music ended a brief dalliance with trance began before being replaced by more ambient forms of electronica. “I became disillusioned with the whole club scene because I felt that club-land was full of pretentious, drugged up people,” he states.
Before going on a trip to India in December of 1996, Pathaan had given Talvin Singh a tape of his DJ’ing, and after he returned Singh offered him a residency in the now legendary Blue Note café. The club night known as Anokha, and alongside Pathaan’s chilled café sets would be resident DJ’s State of Bengal and Talvin Singh on the main dancefloor.
“At the time I was mixing anything from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, to Aphex Twin, to the Rolling Stones,” Pathaan states. “I played right across the board – which is a formula that I have stuck to over the years. One thing that stuck with me since my house days was the ‘Balearic’ sound, where musically anything goes. So as long as there is progression and food for thought in why I’m mixing the sounds that I do, then I’ll do it.”
Nowadays Pathaan incorporates a variety of sounds from throughout the world, but likes to maintain his strong Asian/World slant. “My aim has always been to share the hunt,” he confides. “Because I write for DJ magazine I get sent a lot of great music, and that combined with my passion for travel, and an inability to go past a record shop without diving in and buying loads of records, means that I’ve always wanted to share my passion. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the stage where I think I can’t buy records because you can always find something in the bargain buckets.”
A three-week trip to Brazil enlivened a continuing passion for Brazilian bossa nova, and Pathaan is at pains to point out that he’s always been a fan of this type of sound even if it hasn’t always been apparent in his DJ selections. “Stoned Asia Music was a tag that I gave to my music back then, but now I find that if I just play Asian beats all night long, it’s boring. Even if I played a three-hour set of Asian beats ranging from ambient to the dancefloor, then I would still think it’s the same sound. That’s why I released ‘Small World’ for Stoned Asia Music, to reap the benefits of my live sound as it stands today.”
With this said, it is another project that Pathaan thinks will really take him to the place he wants to be. Having reached an agreement with ‘Music For Dreams’ - to release a compilation entitled ‘Pathaan’s Global Rotation’. The name stems from his residency in New York up until September 11th, and the plan is to tour the album with a view to taking up a new residency in New York on a monthly basis. Watch this space...
The reason that Pathaan ended a very successful stint in the Big Apple is as unfortunate as the events themselves… “September 11th was on a Tuesday and I was due to go out on the Friday,” he explains . “Of course everything just shut down after that, and since then I just haven’t had the urge to go back. It’s all been put on hold to let things calm down. I just thought it was possible bad taste to go out there pioneering my own sound, so I backed off after knowing what the repercussions would be.
However Pathaan and his US representatives now feel that the time is right for him to return, and as soon as they have found the right venue he will return with renewed vigour.
Another string to the Pathaan bow is his association with Italian producer Gaudi, with whom he has combined forces as Orchestral World Groove. The duo combine a love of dub and percussion with global elements to provide a startling backdrop of live remixing and unrehearsed jamming in their unique sets. “Basically I’m on decks and CDJs with a 4 channel mixer, and through the mixer Gaudi’s got a Theremin, a Moog, a Khaos pad, and a drum/percussion machine with 2 or 3 effects boxes. So we are remixing our own music and other people’s music live and unrehearsed. It really seems to work and I guess that’s why we had one of the best residencies at Cargo in London.”
Pathaan’s path seems to be on an upward curve at present, and his aspirations for world domination are strong...“On the whole with ‘World Peace’, ‘Small World’, ‘Stoned Asia Music Editions’ and recently with ‘Pathaan’s Indian Sunset’, I want my CD’s as well as the artists albums by ‘Cosmic Rocker’ and ‘Spy From Cairo’ to sell the way the Buddha Bar does.
I really am on a mission to take the sound to as many ears as possible, whether I’m out of pocket or not. The English press aren’t going to help me because they’re too concerned with promoting major league DJ’s; they’re not into backing the likes of myself and other people who are pushing the left-field/world electronica sound. They really don’t understand it, and that’s the sad irony of the situation.
But I can’t let that bother me; I have a personal mission to get the hair at the back of people’s necks to stand-up when they listen to my sound. I want them to feel something in terms of production and spirituality. I know it’s a lot to ask, but if I stick to that formula which I have since ’97 with the infamous ‘Stoned Asia Music’ nights then one day it may happen…who knows?
Words: Phil Meadley