The concept of two DJ’s rocking a crowd together started as a competition when the DJ’s would be spinning, leaving it on the crowd to decide the winner. Back 2 Back aka B2B set, is said to trace its roots all the way back to the Jamaican sound system culture which started in the 1940’s, in the ghettos of Kingston. It gained momentum in the 1990’s when DJ’s would load up a truck with a generator, turntables, and huge speakers and set up street parties. The idea of the Jamaican sound-clash was to engage in a a fierce sound battle between rival sound systems.
With music festivals now featuring multiple stages, the main stage is reserved for the headlining acts or the best artists in the line up. Due to the importance of the main stage, the DJ’s have to meticulously plan their sets and generally play only one track at a time and keep it less experimental. In the world of mainstream dance music, B2B sets offer a bit more breathing space for the DJ’s to exhibit their talent. B2B sessions happen a lot more frequently in the underground scene. In recent years, the B2B scene has erupted with dance music DJ’s performing together right from the decks of a nightclub to major music festivals.
A B2B set does not mean that one DJ will play immediately after the other. In dance music parlay, the phrase means while one DJ would be playing the record the other would be scanning their catalogue to set up the next track to be played. It is more of a collective effort on part of both the performers on stage.
When it comes to the B2B sets in the party scene in India, two DJ’s have set the bar high, Tuhin Mehta and Ash Roy. Together the duo have more than 40 years of experience in the dance music circuit.
“12 se zyada B2B baja chuke hai saath may boss,” popped in Ash.
Tuhin and Ash are the superstars of the Indian underground music scene. Tuhin, one of the most liked DJ in the country, also supports and promotes home grown talent through his music festivalGo:Madras. The festival, happening this year on the 2nd and 3rd of March would see both these DJ’s perform. Ash on the other hand has been running his own label, Soupherb with Ashvin Mani Sharma. Ash has been exploring music in different corners of the world and has represented India globally.
That fact that they are thick friends help them on stage and also reflects in the music they churn out. Who better to talk about a B2B set than these two!
“It is difficult for 2 artists who do not know each other to perform with gusto. It is like the two hands of a body. Both hands have to work in sync to get work done effectively,” asserted Tuhin.
It is extremely important for both the artists to have a good connection along with being a good support structure for one another. In a B2B set, one person cannot be doing everything, it is a team effort. One must also know when to mix his or her track while the other is performing.
“I send him an email before doing it,” laughed Ash, adding,
“It takes time for people to connect when they start performing together but it is important to have fun while performing. If you are having a good time while performing, it reflects in the music and that rubs on to the crowd.”
The beautiful thing about a B2B set is that it is random and that’s what excites the crowd. It may never be as popular as a regular DJ set but it is the element of spontaneity which creates the magic in every great B2B session.
Ash feels this is what makes Tuhin and him click, their sets are always spontaneous. The duo vibe on each-other on stage and just go with the flow.
“Before any B2B we make it a point we sit together for half an hour and discuss our set. I have a certain selection of tracks and so does Tuhin. While playing our set I drop a track and then Tuhin mixes the second one in, we follow this routine throughout our set. We either decide to play one track or two depending on the situation. Now to make our set more interactive I jam on my Roland Handsonic and other percussion’s, while Tuhin adds loops through his sampler and adds effects on the mix. This makes our B2B really interesting and special compared to regular B2B’s,” explained Ash.
It is very easy for DJ’s to play hits and get away with it. The real challenge lies in getting the crowd to groove to music that they have not heard before.
“When you are playing music the crowd does not know, you have to present it in such a manner that even a virgin mind or ear laps it up, that’s the key,” expressed Tuhin.
A B2B set, just like a regular DJ set, is about connecting with the crowd and getting them involved not only with your music but also your persona. DJ’s take a step further to ensure that they appeal to the fans even when they are not on stage. Tuhin and Ash have very different personalities offstage but their camaraderie helps in pulling off a set that has the crowd bouncing.
“As performers you need to entertain the crowd. Your music is one thing but your stage presence matters too,” quipped Ash.
“Bottom line is you have to be good presenters,” said Tuhin, as we stepped out to groove to the music.