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Verve Trendsetters
October 06, 2016

Meet DJ Ishani, The First Lady of Indian Hip-Hop

Text by Simone Louis. Photograph by Prateek Patel

A part of our home-grown elite DJ fraternity, DJ Ishani is a trailblazer in every sense of the word

The epitome of poise, DJ Ishani conjures up fresh tunes and delivers major throwbacks at every gig she plays. But what’s also interesting is the fact that Ishani Majumdar first got into the scene to cope with a spell of depression. “It was an exercise in catharsis; I was sort of self-medicating, with music being my chosen form of therapy,” she muses. Today, she’s one of the pillars of Mumbai’s nightlife with a major cult following, having performed overseas alongside global acts like DJs Mark Da Spot, Doc and Power.

Citing influences such as 2Pac, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé and J. Cole, she elaborates on the unique challenges that come with being a woman in such a male-dominated realm. “As a hip-hop DJ, specifically, multiply those hurdles into 10! The genre has a history of sexism. Look at how women are portrayed — ‘video vixens’ aren’t anything more than mere props.” Over the last decade, however, Majumdar found that “people will ultimately let you define yourself, if you don’t let them define you”. Even so, she agrees that there is pressure on female DJs to conform to either a tomboyish or hyper-sexualised image. “Personally, I embrace my femininity and sexuality, but I’m also very conscious about not using it to sell myself.”

Defiantly confident with the skill and know-how to back it up, she is known for being a positive person. “Seeing other women excelling fires me up to go forth and do my bit for girl power.” When the subject shifts to relationships, she confesses that she meets two types of men: those who are intimidated and those who are impressed by her achievements. Choosing to quote her favourite author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she smiles, “The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.”

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