The DJ-record producer, who was recently in Mumbai as a headliner for the Road to Ultra: India music festival, spoke exclusively to OTTplay about his deep connection to the country of India.
Last Updated: 09.53 AM, Apr 18, 2023
Too gora (light-skinned) to be an Indian, too desi not to be one!
America-born Niles Hollowell-Dhar—who goes by the stage name KHSMR; an ode to his paternal roots back in Jammu & Kashmir—has one foot in the western world he has grown up in and the other, firmly grounded in India.
In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, the 12th Best DJ in the World—according to a poll by DJ Mag in 2022—KSHMR talks about his deeper-than-just-music connection with his second home that is India, explains why he is ‘not sure’ if he is one of the finest amongst the crowd, and reveals which side of the fence he is on as far as the Kashmir debate is concerned.
Excerpts from our conversation with the star musician:
Your stage name KSHMR was derived from the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, and your paternal side hails from there. In what ways is India more than just a tour destination for you?
I grew up coming to India to see my family since I was young, and lived with my grandparents for a bit in Delhi. So my time in India came long before any touring and my love for India is much deeper than music.
Although you were raised in America, you have always inculcated India in your music. Why was it important for you to talk about J&K in your work?
It was impressed on me from a young age that I am a Kashmiri and to be proud (of that). It didn’t really set in until later in life when I spend more time in India, at which point I began incorporating more Indian influence into my music and ultimately chose the name KSHMR as I transitioned into the dance genre.
You are the 12th best DJ in the world and have been one of the most sought-after musicians for a while now. How does one stay on top? Also, maintain consistency at the same time?
(Laughs!) I am the 12th most voted for perhaps, not sure about 12th best. The best way to stay on top is to make music exciting for yourself, to keep the passion alive and the fans will hear that in the music.
We know that you know the Indian culture well. But how well do you know Bollywood and the Indian music scene?
My knowledge of Bollywood is limited, I rely on my friends to keep me updated with the latest music and films—I get teased for “living under a rock!” But my favorite (based) of recent memory is Dangal, which I've seen three or four times now. In my childhood, it was Bunty Aur Babli.
As someone who has a close bond to the beautiful land of Kashmiris, what are your thoughts on the conflicted state of Jammu & Kashmir? Growing up, what tales did you hear of it?
I steer clear of the politics but being that my family is Hindu, I was told of the brutality we faced and my own research has led me to the same conclusion. But my stance is one of compassion, not militance.