Reji: Living In The Mix

1 April 2014

Reji, the bar that feels like a house party, and the growth of the Mixtaped! empire.

I first met Reji a little over three years ago. I had seen him around at a few after-parties, but unless he knows you, he’s not the type of guy to insert himself into a conversation. What I mostly knew him for – and really, what we ought to know DJs for – was his music. Holding down residencies at Zenzi, Zenzi Mills, and Bonobo, Reji embodied my favourite quality in a DJ: a big middle finger to genres.

As a DJ, it’s hard to sell yourself to a club if you can’t tell them what genre you’re going to play. Often, that’s because it’s hard for the club to sell you when they don’t know what to put in the parentheses after your name on a flyer. But for Reji, that no longer seems to matter. He’s been on the Bombay scene for so many years that his name seems to be enough; punters know what they’re going to get.

And they’re gonna get big tunes. Breaks and big beat and a touch of hip-hop and out-of-this-world remixes of tracks you half remember, prompting fruitless Google searches upon waking. But since Reji isn’t one of these ninja DJs who closely guards his tunes, if you ask the next morning, he won’t just tell you, he’ll send you a copy of the track.

A Reji set may be many things, but it will never be minimal and it will never be monotonous.

All the same, I admit my scepticism when I first heard about Mixtaped! A Wednesday night party? In The Den, that tiny alley of a Bandra venue? With random non-DJs playing sometimes? No, I thought. This will never work.

But I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Very wrong.

The very reasons why Mixtaped! shouldn’t work turned out to be the reasons it succeeded. Yes, it’s a Wendesday night, but what better night for a new and slightly out of the box event? Yeah, the place is tiny, but, well… Wednesday night. Yes, non-DJs also play and that means the mixes probably aren’t silky smooth. But as I learned when I played a night at Mixtaped!, it’s precisely that DIY ethos that makes the place feel more like a house party where you happen to have to buy your drinks than like a bar.

I wasn’t alone in my initial skepticism.

“I started off with minimal expectations,” Reji told me, “and now it’s bloomed into something else. … From the first night ever, I was surprised by the turnout.” He pauses, and continues almost wistfully, “I’m still surprised by the turnout sometimes. A lot of people turn up regularly. … The roster is already full until August.”

And the roster, and everything it entails, is something that you ought to know about Mixtaped!. Reji is all business. Reji doesn’t fuck around. Upon being invited to play Mixtaped!, Reji sends you a link to a Google calendar. Every other Wednesday is blocked off, because Reji plays then. For the alternating Wednesdays, most will also be full for months in advance. Because that’s how many people – DJs and otherwise – are after Reji for a gig.

But while Mixtaped! rides on to glory with it’s upcoming one year anniversary – 52 weeks of Wednesdays – Reji’s also got his eyes on what’s next. It’s just part of his somewhat reluctant transition from DJ to DJ/Promoter.

“I’m trying to focus on pushing this style and culture more in the suburbs,” Reji says. And though I chuckle a bit at the things a townie might have to say to that statement – Bandra being, after all, the queen of the suburbs – I can’t help but admire his chutzpah. Because for a second, I started thinking to myself… “A Thursday night party? In a random venue in Andheri? No, that’ll never work.” But I’ve learned my lesson.

Go now. Next year, you’ll be able to say that you were at Beat Blender – Reji’s new Andheri property - right from the beginning.

“I see that there’s a lot of scope and a lot of potential,” Reji muses. “There are more venues in Andheri than Bandra. The venue owners are stepping up and realizing that they need something better.”

Reji might just have it.

Reji’s top Three guest performers so far:

Mandovi Menon
“Very impressive set from a very drunk birthday girl. DJing and using Ableton Live for the first time ever. All this while dancing on both sides of the console. All sorts of epicness from this little woman in one night.”

Big City Harmonics
“Making everybody bob and sway to downtempo breaks/trip hop all night. Personally I felt proud and accomplished to host and present artists/genres like Rohan Hastak.”

All my German veterans, Grizzly Adams, Marc Hype & Pawas
“Whether it was hip-hop, funk, turntablism or deep house, these guys gave us a proper schooling on what the DJs role should be behind the console. Danke schoen!”

Reji’s three most surprising Mixtaped! moments:

1. “Cops turning up to shut down Mixtaped! temporarily midway when Anil and Raffael Kably were playing. Anil saying that the Zenzi legacy chases him wherever he goes. Hillarious!”

2. “Around 300 people turning up suddenly on the night when SICKFLIP was playing. People spilling out on the streets. Not a micro-party anymore.”

3. “The biggest surprise was meeting my current girlfriend, Christelle, at Mixtaped! for the first time. Our whole love story/romance, began and revolves around Mixtaped! and The Den.”

** Mixtaped! will be celebrating it's 1st anniversary this Wednesday 2nd April at The Den, Bandra with Reji behind the decks. To get yourself in the mood you can also listen to this exclusive mix made by Reji for Wild City.**

Words: Kerry Harwin
Image Credit: Pop Splat


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