Very few have been as closely associated with India’s dance music scene as Ashvin Mani Sharma aka Calm Chor. Ashvin’s 20+ year long career has seen him storm dancefloors around the globe, from Paradiso in Amsterdam to Blue Frog in Mumbai, first with Jalebee Cartel, and after that under his solo techno avatar Calm Chor. In the year 2013, Ashvin co-founded Soupherb records. In a span of 7+ years, Soupherb records has built a reputation to be India’s finest underground dance music record label.
There's Always a First Time
The first time I played music was for my friends at a small private rave that we did in the wild. It was one of the best and most enjoyable experiences I have had till date. Just 15 of us but it was the first time playing music and that too on cassette!
Origin of the Soup
Ash (Ash Roy) was very interested in the idea of starting a label, but as you know I don’t like to work so I was not on board 100%, because I knew it will be a lot of work and no money! Slowly he convinced me and then getting the Folic State demo was the final decider! I became enthusiastic after that and there has been no looking back since.
If i can visualise playing the song in my set then I sign it . That is the rule we both follow . It can also be a more chill or housey track but I have to know instantly that I will play it ! That’s all I look for .
Both are completely different situations and are approached differently . I don’t think one is better than the other … both have their place. For example the sound in a big festival is unbeatable !
Music and Business
Music sales are important but not critical. Now the whole game has changed after the pandemic so one must look for better business models.
Pros & Cons
Pros - Events are the only way to make money for most underground artists and as long as we can do that I think it is still good. Obviously we have to wait and see how the situation pans out .
Cons - Artists make the least money in today’s situation and we must find a way to remedy that.
I think all aspiring artists have to see the current music quality and production standards and try and achieve that. Basically since the whole process is democratised one must be on top of the game to be able to make a living from it. If your music is good only then you can step into the playing field and even then you have to market and promote yourself to get noticed. There is no way around that.
Top 5 labels to watch out for
Personally I always look out for Zenon , Digital Diamonds , Techgnosis , and from the new crop there is Alula and Subios.
Best clubbing destination in India and Europe
In India it has to be Mumbai because they have the numbers and in Europe it is definitely Berlin because they are the mainstay of club culture in the world.
Indian labels for your music
Apart from Soupherb I would release on Occultech and Qilla . These are the ones closest to my sound and aesthetic.
The Naive Lot
Artists and agencies who can hype and promote themselves by virtue of contacts . This leaves a lot of deserving talent on the outside , but again this is part of the game and I’m not complaining. One has to work hard to counter these forces and be on par with them.
Streaming it Wrong
Streaming has broken the small artists, and now lack of gigs for smaller artists has killed them completely. I’m not sure how this will play out but all I can say that everything needs to shift to a new paradigm so that the composer and producer can start making more money for their efforts. The funny thing is that we are underground artists but want treatment like mainstream artists. Most of the underground artists I know abroad already have a main job which finances their music and it’s still considered a hobby i.e. they don’t depend on the music for their livelihood.
How to Keep Calm
All good things take time and one must not be afraid of rejection and refusal. All these are opportunities to make your music undeniable. As much as it hurts one must pick up the pieces and come back stronger and better musically and as a performer. Basically don’t be a crybaby and a complainer. Do what needs to be done instead of wasting energy there.