Indian DJ Khushi’s career has hit a high point with the track ‘Burj Khalifa’, an ode to the world’s tallest building and the city it’s in, and he can’t be more pleased with the response.
The music video of the track, from the upcoming Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani movie ‘Laxmii’, has been viewed more than 85 million times since it was released on October 18.
The DJ, who collaborated with Gagan Ahuja, Shashi and Nikhita Gandhi on ‘Burj Khalifa’, tells Gulf News about how the song idea came into existence, and what Bollywood star Kumar thought of it when he first heard it.
How did your journey as at DJ begin?
I actually never planned on being a DJ. As a kid, I always wanted to study in America... and basically live the American dream. That was my plan and I got into University of Pittsburg and was all set to go, but then 9/11 happened and my visa was rejected and so I ended up having to study in India.
I went into depression as I felt like my dream was snatched away from me and I had no Plan B. After a few months of being in depression, I finally went out partying, had a great time and came back home past midnight, which was then a big deal. My parents would scold me as a result. But since I really enjoyed it, I kept going out and the pattern of coming home late and getting scolded continued. After a few days, I decided that I needed to find a way to make some money so that I could avoid being scolded, so I decided to try my hand at being a DJ!
Could you tell us a bit how the Burj Khalifa song came about — how it was first created and how it became part of the movie ‘Laxmii’?
I come to Dubai very often as the city has always welcomed me with open arms and I have had great opportunities and success in Dubai. So every time I come there I am always in awe of the Burj Khalifa.
So when I got back to India from one of the trips, I was so inspired by the building that I told my partner Shashi that we should come up with a big hit, and it needs to be as big as the Burj Khalifa. To which our lyricist Gagan Ahuja caught onto that thought and said why don’t we just make a song about Burj Khalifa itself. We loved the idea, so he gave us the hook line and we put the tune together, got the beats together and everything just feel into place in the first go.
The moment we heard the final song we knew that for this song to be as big as the Burj Khalifa, we needed the right amplification. The only person we could think of when we heard the song was Mr Akshay Kumar. And so we reached out to Universal Music and Mr Vinit Thakkar also agreed to the same thought. So we then reached out to Mr Akshay Kumar, who loved the song.
He did not tell us what movie he would use it for, but he locked the song with us last year and said that we should leave it with him, and that he would use it the first opportunity he got.
Do you have any special memories from when you were working on the song?
When we first played the song to Akshay Kumar, his reaction was, ‘you couldn’t think of anything else, you just went straight for the Burj Khalifa? Is your father so rich?’ This made us all laugh so much.
What are your inspirations when making music?
While making music I take inspiration from anything in my surroundings. Things that I relate to, or I connect with. Just things that are around us in so many ways that we don’t realise how often we use them and don’t realise how quirky a topic they can come. So for my songs with Shashi, the USP is that there is always a quirky topic that it is based on. The first single I did with Shashi was a song called ‘High Court’, and nobody could think of a song on ‘High Court’.
How has COVID-19 affected your work and what do you think the future of the Indian music industry looks like?
COVID-19 has affect my work in so many different ways. For the longest time I couldn’t go to the studio, I couldn’t jam with musicians. I still can’t actually, because I am trying to be safe. Now things are getting better though. But my gigs are still not happening and I really, really miss performing.
My major source of money is gigs, which I am not yet able to do. But it has also given me time to think and reflect a lot. I’ve been working on new music, and trying different things. Time is on our side, so I am trying to use it wisely.
I think the Indian music industry is great right now because there is so much new talent coming up literally on a daily basis. Earlier there were only a few people that were running the entire music scene but with the entire independent music industry coming up, and the growth of digital, opportunities are available to literally everybody.
What’s the first thing you would do if COVID-19 suddenly disappeared?
The first thing I would love to do is travel. I used to travel 15-20 days a month and I really miss my Emirates flights. I am dying to take my mum for a holiday and spend time with her and just be out and about and have a great time.
Are there any music artists — Indian and international — who you dream of working with?
In India there is no culture of music directors usually collaborating, but I would love to work with all the great talents like Mr AR Rahman. I have, in fact, had the opportunity to remix for him — I may be the only DJ that has ever remixed for him, but I would love to compose something with him. Although I don’t have as much authority or knowledge as him but I would love to give it a try. I would also love to collaborate with Vishal-Shekhar, Pritam, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.
Internationally, I want to collaborate with so many different DJs like Tiesto, Solomun, Black Coffee. I also want to collaborate with pop artists — my dream is to collaborate with Justin Bieber and Katy Perry.
At the same time, I want to explore and venture into Latin music... I would love to collaborate with the likes of J Balvin and Maluma.
There might be readers out there who don’t know your work. What three quintessential DJ Khushi songs would you recommend for them to listen to and why?
There are many people who still don’t know about my body of work, or even if they do, they don’t know it’s by me. The three songs I would love for them to them to listen to are:
First, the ‘Chammak Challo’ remix because it made me who I am today. ‘Chammak Challo’ was in the SRK movie called ‘Ra.One’.
I would, of course, love for them to listen to ‘Burj Khalifa’ because it’s my first big commercial hit as a composer in a Bollywood movie.
I would also love for them to list to my single music so that gives them perspective of different genres of music that I can do, namely ‘High Court’ and ‘Soon’. I think if they listen to these different styles of music, they will get an idea of my versatility as a musician. Aside from these, there is so much new music to come, and I can’t wait for them to list to it!