DJ Aqeel played his first few sets at private parties in Mumbai. Bollywood remixes of Keh doon tumhein and Yeh waada raha, his first chart toppers, saw him eventually churn out seven No 1 albums, the latest being Forever.
He’s toured the world and played for Bill Clinton and the World Economic Forum. Aqeel now runs a nightclub, Hype, and his own DJ school, Future DJ Academy.
1. It was 16 years ago, when I saw a Chinese girl in Hong Kong mix tapes and got hooked to DJjing. There wasn’t a scene in India at that time, so I bought my own equipment, read up how-to books, and experimented on my own. People used to call me bandwallah or soundwallah, but I laughed that away and believed in myself.
2. I started out by asking friends to let me DJ at their parties. Later, my music started attracting an audience. Soon, I got an album deal but I made it a point to spend a lot of time in my studio every day to remix all the No 1 Bollywood hits. I didn’t put most of these remixes in an album, so if people wanted to hear my stuff, they’d have to hire me to play.
3. I didn’t want my music only to be known locally. So I toured the world, playing for private parties, weddings and clubs. Some people laughed at me for playing Bollywood, but my instinct said I was right – and all my albums became smash hits. At one time, I was doing 180 flights a year, sacrificing sleep, family life and health. But that was important to get noticed.
4. I played at private parties in the beginning, but when I got an offer to play for JW Marriott’s club, Enigma, I didn’t turn it down. They wanted me to play lounge music, but I stood my ground because my strength was dance music. It worked, and till I left Enigma, every night I played was a full house.
5. While I was happy in Enigma, I couldn’t control the quality of the crowd. So I, along with a few partners, decided to open my own club, with my rules and my kind of music. I started Poison, then Bling, and now Hype. I plan to take Hype to other cities.