Indira Kanawade aka Smokey, is a talented DJ, music producer, live artist and an educator hailing from Mumbai. From being a Professional Dancer in Bollywood to having an audience groove to her underground bass sets, Smokey has had quite a journey. We got in touch with her during the recent Ableton Live Education Tour to share her beginnings and what she’s been upto lately.
Growing up in a conservative Maharashtrian household, Smokey’s earliest exposure was to the native Marathi and Hindi music that her mother enjoyed listening to on the local radio and cable networks. She became particularly interested in music when she heard pop and hip hop genres for the first time. What really won her over was the fact that there were various subgenres, which would diversify over time from a niche scene to a global trend. The diverse palette of sounds across her productions to date is a testament to this “There’s one thing I like about Electronic music, is that it has no boundaries and no rules. There is nothing right or wrong, It’s all loved by one person or another.”
Music as a Career Choice:
Being a zoology graduate, for Smokey, meant living her life staring at a 9 to 5 routine, one way or another. She yearned to live differently. She tried working as a professional dancer in the Bollywood film industry but performing to someone else’s direction didn’t turn out to be a creatively rewarding experience. This is when she rallied her immense passion for electronic music, and worked vehemently towards being a DJ and then a music producer. The art of making & performing music got her creative juices flowing and she hasn’t looked back since. “[Producing music] allows me be more creative with sounds and it is something I’m never getting bored of.”
Dance floor to Studio :
For a lot of aspiring producers & DJ’s alike, the lines between music production and DJ’ing can be quite blurry. Smokey simplifies it as, “Music production is an art of creating music while DJ’ing is an art of performing music.” Interestingly enough, Smokey became a DJ first and then a music producer. This precedence can help develop a strong understanding of the performance and what works well with the audience. While performing her DJ sets, she realized there is a lot of passion put in by the artists in making those tunes and she felt the urge to make her own music. But not coming from a musical background and lack of formal training did not make it easy. She joined a music production course and also enrolled for piano classes to help develop a closer understanding of music theory and composition. Her DJ’ing gigs helped her invest in a home studio setup, where she started honing her production skills.
Production and Live Set-up:
Smokey started off producing with Ableton Live, and has been on it ever since. “.. it is very transparent & easy to use for music production, DJ sets & live sets,” she points out. Some of her favourite features with Live include:
- Built in Audio / Midi effects ( CPU friendly )
- Warp modes with more control.
- Midi, Key, Macro Mapping.
- Audio To Midi convert options.
- In/Out section and routing is flexible.
- Full screen video to be displayed which is great for background scoring.
Besides her system running live, her favourite go-to gear include Arturia Keylab 49 & APC40 MKII. This follows suit for her live set-up as well where she runs all this through her laptop hooked to a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 interface.
Current Musical Inspirations:
Smokey finds herself listening to a lot of new and upcoming artists. Few of her inspirations include Noisia, Ivy Lab, Arkaik and Skeptical. Some of the Indian artists she’s been fond of are Mayur Narvekar, Midival Punditz, Karsh Kale and Viveick Rajagopalan. The fusion elements in her music comes from her love for Indian classical music. “I’ve always liked the fusion of organic and electronic music,“ she adds.
Musical Making – Style & Process:
Smokey has had multiple releases to her name covering a wide range of electronic styles crossing over from textural downtempo tracks to hard hitting Drum n Bass. “My sound has matured quite a bit over the years. I’ve never been one to restrict myself to a certain genre as a producer.” Her diverse listening habits coupled with her DJ’ing experience understanding what really moves the crowd helps her be more creative in the studio. “I almost always start with a drop first by making bass sounds & drums; then create the melodies & chord progressions.. And [subsequently] layering a lot of sounds to fill it out. I’ve always saved the intro and outro for last, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Her last single ‘Maiden’ was her first Drum n Bass release, but it isn’t her maiden DnB production. She has a lot more tracks worked out over the last couple years, all waiting to get out of her hard drive. “I felt Maiden was release ready.” The result of this sheer patience and effort can be heard on this track, which decelerates effortlessly from a high speed DnB groove to a light indian percussive pit stop, before blazing away again to the finish line. Smokey is elated about this release as well as the overall reception. “… the response has been so amazing. I received messages from fellow producers / artists whom I admire and have an immense respect for. I finally got the recognition I deserve as a DnB music producer in india, which is another milestone.” If you haven’t heard it yet, a link to this single can be found below.
On Being an Educator:
Smokey has been working as a DJ instructor at Audioqube in mumbai for close to 6 years now. She genuinely believes that teaching is one of the most important jobs in any society. “..knowledge is power, but it’s only effective and far reaching if shared with others.” In line with honing the creative aspects of DJing, topics she enjoys teaching her students include harmonic mixing, beat mixing, working with effects & sampling. She’s happy with the grooming and support system available at Audioqube which does indulge their students in live shows to understand the distinction between learning in a classroom & performing live.
Words of Wisdom for Aspiring DJs:
Smokey feels that honing both skills is the best way forward in this industry. “Along with being a DJ, one should also produce music to build an identity which helps to break through in the industry more easily.” She adds that patience and hard work is necessary to make it, along with willingness to network with like minded people.
Highlights of the Road:
There have been some interesting highlights in her career that Smokey feels grateful for. She recalls the opportunity to open for The Midival Punditz at an early point in her career. Her dream come true moments also include performing at the mainstage at the 2018 Bacardi NH7 Weekender in pune & also, Life In Color Festival, where she shared the stage with noted electronic artist Diplo in Delhi. She feels thrilled to have represented Drum and Bass at such major festivals to great response.
Smokey performed at the Awestrung Festival powered by Hungama Artist Aloud, just a few weeks ago. This marathon performance festival saw 50 talented independent artists from across the country perform original music. Interestingly, Smokey was the only artist representing the electronic music community, performing her original Live set. “It was a great opportunity to showcase electronic side of music to mainstream audience.” she says.
While gigs can go amazing, she stresses on the need to be prepared for the flipside. “Now days I see a lot of DJs playing only via laptop, and in case that fails in between a gig, you need to have a backup plan.” She strongly suggests maintaining and carrying a backup external drive with the performance set to avoid an impossible situation.
More Music & Gigs in the Pipeline:
Smokey has been hitting the studio managing time between her gigs and teaching schedules but hopeful to finish her pending projects, as well as new ones in the pipeline. “Along with my studio work, I’m performing at a lot of interesting gigs coming up this year,” she adds. You can expect more DnB goodness and more music collaborations coming up on the horizon. We wish her the very groovy best on her journey ahead.
Follow her on social media (links below) to stay updated on her music and upcoming gig schedules.