Growing up in Delhi and Dubai, DJ MojoJojo (real name: Akshay Johar, 27) was fascinated by mythological tales, from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, that his grandmother would narrate. At home, havans, pujas and aartis were part of daily life. He draws inspiration from his childhood for his upcoming EP (Extended Play), Rudra. It’s Johar’s tribute to the different forms of Lord Shiva. The first of the three-track EP, Shankar, was launched on May 15, and prominently features bass drops along with religious chants.
“Although I’m not a religious person, as an artist, I feel deeply moved by chanting in any form. It speaks to the child within and transports me to a place of wonder and fantasy,” he says. Johar travelled to Haridwar (Uttarakhand) last year to record the evening aarti and other ceremonies along the ghats, which are used in the EP. His debut album, Shots Fired (2015), too, featured chants in a few songs.
Shankar’s video was shot in Haridwar and features masses of pilgrims deep in prayer and everyday life in the holy city, with a psychedelic twist. “One gets to see how religion is a common denominator across people of different classes, and how it affects people who call that city home. I wanted to capture the grandeur and simplicity of it in one video,” he says.
This is also Johar’s first music video. “Unfortunately, there were no videos for Shots Fired, which remains a cause of discomfort for me even now. I was exploring the option with a few film-makers but it never worked out due to budget constraints or date issues. However, it’s my personal ambition to work on videos for a couple of tracks,” he says.
This video might be a first for him, but featuring Indian elements in his music is not. For instance, in Shots Fired, there are voice samples of nomadic tribes from Rajasthan in the song, Thar Bomb, and Baba Ramdev’s voice in Yogic Jogging. “I grew up in a middle class, white collar, Punjabi household. I had a limited exposure to international music till I was 10 or 11. Till then, it was all about Bollywood,” he says, adding, “For me, even after a period of playing and listening to English music, it was impossible to become a part of that bourgeois setting completely. Now, I’ve come to a place where I’m the sum of all of my musical experiences.”
Recently, the self-taught musician has also started putting out online tutorials on music production, and has plans to touch upon things he struggled with in the initial years of his career. “Everything I learnt over the years, about making and playing music, and earning a living as a musician, was through trial and error. There were times when I felt utterly hopeless and frustrated. There was no guidance. [But] there were certain people who guided me even though I was an unknown name,” he recalls. Now, he wants to send the elevator back down for upcoming musicians who are hustling today.