Immense potential + heart-warming humility – pretty much the first impression Sahej Bakshi leaves you with. This Delhi-based Electronica artist has an easily-endearing vibe that works in perfect harmony with his crowd-pleasing charm. Attend one of his gigs and you’ll see him work magic from behind his laptop and with a guitar strapped on. That of course, is when you get past the hordes of starry-eyed, reeling women. True story.
Using the moniker ‘Dualist Inquiry’ because of his belief in the dualist philosophy of ‘coexistence of extremes that balance each other out’, Sahej Bakshi is slowly but surely making his way into an ever-increasing number of hearts.
His passion, love for music and deep dedication span the skies but he is still so grounded. The sense of clarity that surrounds him makes you want to take a step back and admire the person that truly knows what he’s doing. Candid we like it best and that he is, with everything he has to say.
Apoorva Gavarraju: The lyrical aspects of a song often stem from inspirational experiences. But Electronica is almost purely just about the music and sounds. So what inspires this music in your head?
Sahej Bakshi: Even though my music is instrumental, it comes to me in much the same way a song with lyrics would to a singer. I just don’t hear lyrics when the song comes up in my head! I feel like the song can then become a soundtrack to your own thoughts, so in a very special way, every individual who listens to the song has a slightly different experience. It’s like I’m playing a fun little game of ‘Fill in the Blanks’ with whoever is listening, where each person is free to imagine and derive their own meaning and relationship to my music.
AG: When you make your music, is there a bigger part of your true self involved or is it more about pleasing the crowds?
SB: When I started making Electronic music in my college dorm in Los Angeles three years ago, there was definitely no crowd to please. Actually, I could hardly even get my roommate to listen! But I carried on because to me, making music is part of a really long-term search for the perfect song (which I doubt even exists). Even when I was making songs like ‘Qualia’ and ‘Gravitat’ on the Dualism EP, I wasn’t sure how many people would end up hearing them. So I made the music for myself, paying attention only to my own inner creative voice. Because at the end of the day if I don’t genuinely love the sounds I’ve made, I couldn’t expect anyone else to do the same.
However, now it feels different. There’s quite a lot of anticipation for my album which I’m currently working on and planning to release early next year. These days, while working on the album, my mind invariably comes up with the question, “What will they (fans and supporters) think?” I’ve found that the moment I start to consider that too seriously, I lose my direction and creative integrity, so I have to make a conscious effort not to think about that and just make songs that make me truly, blissfully happy and spaced out.
AG: What is the competition like to be an Electronica artist? And, does this affect you in any way?
SB: The great thing about music is that there isn’t any direct ‘competition’ with other artists, as there is in sport or business. There are more than enough music lovers in any given scene and definitely enough place for many artists to coexist and participate together on making a scene richer. By doing this, existing artists actually pave the way for newer artists to show their talent, and that is something that’s invaluable to the growing health of the scene. I was very fortunate and grateful to receive amazing support from all the established artists when I arrived two years ago, and if I could help someone new find their footing in a similar way, it would make me very happy. That being said, I think that a certain degree of healthy competition is a great thing to spur any artist’s creativity. A situation with benign competition is great and far better than having an inactive scene.
AG: What is the difference in response from the crowd, playing in India and abroad?
SB: There are so many different situations I’ve played in both in India and abroad, that I have to say that a ‘good response’ is basically the same all over the world – that people get up and dance! I find that people in cities with lots of live music are quicker to recognize a sound they like, even if it’s the first time they’re hearing it, whereas I’ve had to work a little harder to win people over in smaller cities. In Europe, I’ve found people take particularly well to alternative genres like Electro, Glitch-hop and Down-tempo. There’s a growing subculture of such genres in India as well, but people seem to love Techno and high-energy dance music across the board.
AG: What is your favourite place to play in India? Which city has been most enjoyable to play in?
SB: After the magic of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, I have to say that Pune is my current favourite. I’ve never seen crowds go as crazy during a gig as I have in Pune. Bangalore too has a fantastic crowd. Delhi is a special place for me. It’s my home now, and it has provided great opportunities for me to grow over the last two years.
AG: Do each or any of your tracks hold a personal significance to you through the way of their production or association?
SB: Each of the tracks holds a very deep and personal significance to me. Every song I make is a direct result of inspirations and experiences I come across in my daily life. I started Dualist Inquiry to just give myself a vehicle to explore and so, every song I’ve ever written and will write is part of a very personal exploration of making music.
AG: What about Qualia? How did that come about?
SB: I came across this word and concept while I was reading some philosophical text online, and was struck by the beauty of the word and its meaning. It refers to the subjective experience of consciousness, and pretty much anything you feel, see or think about is an example of Qualia. The plural of Qualia is Quale and life as an experience is nothing more than a relentless flow of Quale.
AG: You’ve seen much love and adulation in a stunningly short period. How and what keeps you grounded through everything that is going on for you?
SB: Well, it’s hard for me to fathom that there are people out there who care about the music I make. It all started as a bedroom project not too long ago. But now, meeting people at my gigs who tell me that they love my music feels like the best, most gratifying thing I could possibly hear. It just motivates me to put everything I have into making more music.
AG: Your music is so highly dependent on technology. Is Electronica your favourite genre? Personally, what are the kinds of music you enjoy?
SB: I absolutely love gadgets and technology and love the freedom they give me to do exactly what I want; all by myself. Though I make music by electronic means, Electronica isn’t necessarily my favourite genre. I grew up listening to rock and playing guitar in a rock band, and then swung over to electronic four years ago. Now I listen to just about anything I can find. I enjoy movie soundtracks, string quartets, 60s funk, post-rock, minimal-techno, psychedelic trance, dubstep, electro, glitch-hop and a lot of other stuff. I like my influences and inspirations to be as widely varied as possible.
AG: If music hadn’t been your calling in life, where would you be right now?
SB: I feel very lucky that I’ve never had to think about it, and that music has always been my biggest preoccupation since I was eight years old. If I had to choose another career today for some reason, it would probably be teaching music. But if I had to abandon music (gasp!), I’d probably go learn how to be a chef because I love food and enjoy creativity in the kitchen.
Photographs by Navin Devnani-Torres