We’ve seen Hary Shanthi around on both editions of Label Unknown and yet we’ve only discovered a sneak preview of his musical ambitions. As official resident DJ for Label Unknown and the very successful KLANK events in Antwerp (BE), we are honored to have him onboard of this unique project. Besides performing at our events, Hary is also our programmer, promising an intriguing line up that invites crate diggers from a wide spectrum of genres across the globe aiming to not only bring new sounds, but also to shed light on the ones who dare to re-invent the wheel for the better. Time to get to know him a bit better!
Hary, you came onboard from the very beginning of Label Unknown. How did it all start for you?
I think I would like to take this opportunity to thank my friend “Manon” who actually kept asking me when I am going to step into the Amsterdam scene. Apart from the fact that my network was small, I had an important project running which took most of my time. I wanted to step in at the right moment where there will be no distraction while having all the energy to manage my risks and ambitions. Most importantly, associate with the right people whose values/vision aligns with mine. I modeled a concept and build a business strategy to launch it but I didn’t have the right people to launch it with me. This is when she introduced me to “Erwin” suggesting me to meet him for a coffee. We had an open discussion and we pitched each other’s ideas only to realize we had a common vision with a different brand name. The chemistry needed to build trust and respect was there. I had to compromise my brand name to “label Unknown” but I am glad I did, as branding isn’t my biggest strength.
You performed at both events this year, but both delivered a complete different experience to the visitors. How did you experience it yourself?
Both needed a completely different approach. The first edition, I wrote a story to express not only my identity but also “Label unknown’s” identity. The story was our mission – “To create a platform that promotes solidarity, diversity and multiculturalism. I used the keywords to build my story, which varied from cosmic to organic techno to ethnic sounds spanning from Persia, India, Kurdish folk songs, and lasted up till tribal/afro and cinematic electronica. My identity as a DJ was never to place myself into one genre as I always felt it as a limiting factor then strength. Me, Erwin & Sander adopted that as our music policy so I had all the freedom to be myself as an artist with no boundaries and no attachments.
The second edition was my biggest challenge as I never did a back 2 back with anyone but after some thoughts, I agreed to come out of my shell and decided to do a b2b with Lin. Lin and me, had a great connection as artists. We always have fun when we meet. But I realized none of this matter when you play B2B. It’s about artistic identity and the willingness to cooperate and compromise from both sides to bring that special vibe without compromising our core. It was a lot of work and I even recall my phone call with Lin asking her so many questions in an attempt to understand her approach. I am sure, Lin found it weird. I build my crate finding a middle ground where we both could meet musically without comprising our identities. It was fun and I learned a lot from this one.
Your DJ career started in India where you came second in the IDJ competition in 2006, India’s national DJ
competition. How did that influence your career?
It was a long time ago so I need to dig into my hippocampus and see what I can find. I do recognize the importance it played in taking the “art of dj-ing” seriously. Before the competition, dj-ing was a fun activity. I wouldn’t even call it dj-ing but I played music because I loved music and thanks to my parents, I had knowledge of a wide variety of music genres. It seemed fun and natural to just play and dance with friends.
The competition made me practice day and night! I used to travel more than 15 miles for that. Being a DJ during the early 2000’s in India wasn’t easy, especially if you’re not from a privileged family. It was hard work, immense compromises, sharing minimal resources, social prejudices, lot of tolerance and patience. Most of the time, the scene gets stagnated because of the wrong people and commercial factors. I remember my neighbor’s asking my mother why I was playing music for drunken people haha. Social stigma was a huge factor at that time. But more than my internal support, I had my family’s support to pursue it. Since it’s been more than 11 years I lived there, I would definitely not know what it’s like now!
Participating in the competition made me understand that dj-ing is more than playing or mixing two tracks. It made me realize that I am looking at an ocean and I knew nothing. I had to change my whole perspective. It was the point where I started learning thru research, from my good friend “Manny” and mainly by just doing it. I didn’t know back then, but the “art of critical thinking” was a huge part of my identity. I questioned every conventional methodology of dj-ing from the art of crate digging, to EQ management, transition tactics and communicating with your crowd to find what’s best and most of all, what fits my vision. I immersed myself into it for all the right reasons and never turned back.
You are, besides Label Unknown, resident DJ of KLANK events. You are still dj-ing at their very successful events. What was the most memorable show you did there?
Definitely, when Klank invited Konstantin Sibold @ Club Vaag. I have huge respect for eclectic dj’ s, in other words dj’s who dare to shift boundaries. Even from evolutionary perspective, boundaries and roots limit us from our full capabilities. Konstantin was multifaceted in his crate digging. I have seen him before so I had an idea how he adapts and about his transition approach. It was a challenge as I had an important time slot. I was very nervous. I remember, when I touched my remix controller, I realized that my hands were shaking. I avoided eye contact with the crowd. But I had an undivided focus and a story that I believed in. I built my set based on the concept of “roots”. What does roots mean to us humans and how does it affect our perception of our environment? The concept was chosen based on a book, I was reading at that time. My track selection was heterogeneous even though I was quiet biased with Afro sounds that night J I would do it all over again but would definitely have more eye contact with the crowd.
Your music can’t be put in a box, just like us humans. What is your philosophy with the music policy of Label Unknown?
Our music policy is based on the simple natural phenomena “Evolution”. At this point, we have carefully selected genres that we would like to cultivate but this list will grow or be cut short when we feel that it doesn’t serve our mission nor educate our followers anymore. Of course, I also placed a huge importance on the social dynamics each genre has on people. For example, you can’t go to a dark room with industrial/experimental techno and expect to socialize and connect deeply with people. Each genre plays its purpose in our social behavior. The goal is to educate, inspire and change for the better. The music policy will evolve as we evolve for the better.
Me along with Erwin and sander, we had a discussion. We want to keep it simple. We want to promote carefully handpicked unexplored talents from uncharted landscapes. We define talent as an artist who can be a compassionate crate digger and a great storyteller. It doesn’t matter, if the artist is a great producer with great label signings. The producer culture has already underrated many great dj; let’s see if we can reverse it to bring back a healthy balance.
Label Unknown yet still needs to be discovered, but we aim for organic growth rather than being the next commercial success. How do you envision the future of our organization?
As you already mentioned in the question itself, how I envision the future of our organization – Organic growth. My personal definition of organic growth would consist of three elements; Persistence, Tolerance and Dedication. I am sure, that these three would help us to get back from all the failures and come back stronger to pursue our path.
As we grow, I would like to connect all forms of expressive arts within the umbrella of Label Unknown. Hopefully in this way, we could show the world the dots that connect all of us thru honest and vulnerable expression. Something we all have in common but somehow we have managed to create a world where we do this less. At the end of day, our internal motivation all comes down to this. We are driven by a need for authentic connection by being who we really are and multiply our happiness. This is one common trait we all share and no one can take this from us until the existence of humanity.
Hary Shanthi will perform in Riga – Latvia on the 2nd March for the infamous frequencies party. He will back with us on the 5th of May for Label Unknown.