There are definite nods to Bollywood in his tracks, woven in deftly and without a shred of irony. It’s what sets him apart from other music producers. There’s no mistaking that unforgettable slice of Rangeela on his ‘Hauz’ or that hook from Judwa on ‘Staylo’. “Sometimes a sample will be really exciting. I’ll hear a song and I’ll want to sample it. Just that will be enough to start a whole song.” Other times he'll start with a larger idea, and fill the spaces – that’s where his field recordings come into play.
Azuma Kazuma’s landscape, for instance, is filled with almost mundane sounds. Like CD trays opening and spoons tinkling against glasses. Aside from such unique percussive elements, it features an army of collaborators. Singers Josh Fernandez (from The F16s on ‘Hauz’), Divya Lewis, Soopy (on ‘Prey’), Josh McDonald on trumpets, and a visual arc illustrated by Johnny Ganta and Akanksha Kukreja – you definitely don’t want to miss how the album unfolds on Vashi’s Instagram.
His album has a whimsical a narrative.
“It tells a story of this guy who’s lived in space; he’s had this job which has proven dangerous and unfulfilling. He has to escape to come back home, but it’s not an easy journey.”
His album really began with a broken leg.
“I broke my leg last August and I was in bed for six weeks. After that I called Johnny Ganta, who I’d met a couple of times and whose work I had loved, and I basically set up a studio with him.”
He started young.
“My first memory of music is listening to AR Rahman’s Bombay. When I was nine, I started playing the harmonium. When I was 11, I started playing the saxophone; picked up the piano a few years later, and then the guitar.”
He kind of slipped into electronic music.
“I never really planned on performing electronic music. I was always more of a jazz guy. (He was part of a jazz band in his teens.) I only started making electronic music when I didn’t have a drummer. So when I was 17, I would put in the drum machine parts. Then I started getting more interested in programming.”
He’s all about the harmonies.
“The biggest thing I get from jazz is the sense of harmony. The chords are a bit more complex, have more information in them, and that’s the kind of harmony that interests me.”
He likes to think of what he does as a form of sound collage.
“I was fully self-taught for a while. If I wanted to recreate a certain segment, I would basically look up that song – more often than not, there are YouTube tutorials for it. Then I met Rohan Ramanna (one half of Nicholson) he just taught me so much in terms of mixing. With electronic music, there’s so much freedom and diversity in the sounds that you can use, that the biggest challenge is getting them to feel cohesive. I like to think what I do as a form of sound collage.”