Collective Gain: Ahadadream and Darama in conversation
Of course both were producing and DJing long before the rest of the underground electronic scene caught wave of the wealth of South Asian artists making waves in the UK and beyond.
Under his alias Ahadadream, Ahad has been making stripped back “club bangers” and drum dub edits for several years. When his own productions or his percussive, aren’t shaking dance floors all over, he’s putting on parties that focus on spotlighting South Asian DJs.
No ID is the first – a London-based event series – while he also has a major hand in running and organising Dialled In, a festival which highlights some of the most exciting South Asian talent in the UK.
His activities don’t stop there though. Ahad’s also one of the minds behind More Time Records, a label that’s housed music from South African, Trinidadian and Ghanaian producers, and most recently from Darama.
Influenced by his Punjabi heritage, London producer and Daytimers collective member Darama fuses these traditional percussive elements with UK-centric club sounds, namely Bass, UK funky, Garage and Grime, to create something fresh and future facing. If you’ve heard any of the artists at the forefront of the UK South Asian scene playing on the airwaves or on platforms like Mixmag and Boiler Room, it’s likely you’ve heard a Darama dub or club edit somewhere in there, and the pure frenzy that follows after they’re dropped.
Whether big or small, collaboration has played a central role in every step the South Asian scene has taken, from the launch of Daytimers to *that Boiler Room* through to the second iteration of Dialled In last weekend. This collaborative approach continues for Ahad and Darama on the latter’s most recent release: Chaal, which sees the light of day on Ahad’s label. The EP, like Darama’s previous ventures, channels influences from his heritage into weighty bass, UK Funky and Garage experiments that are custom made for the club. He even has his family pitching in to play traditional instruments on one of the tracks.
Off the back of the release the pair to sit down for a chat which weaves through early pathways into electronic music, their early involvement in Daytimers and what’s needed to take the South Asian scene to the next level…
Ahad: I always think it’s interesting to hear about people’s entry points into music. So what got you into music, and more specifically electronic music?
Darama: I guess my introduction to music came a bit later than some. When I was at school most people were listening to chart music or R&B. Most of the kids were just interested in whatever new R&B track they could download from Lime Wire. So I wasn’t really actively listening, I guess.
Then I went to university in Manchester, which obviously has such a rich club scene. I started going to parties, Warehouse Project etc, and really got into it from there. During that time Grime was having a bit of a resurgence and, being from East London where the sound originated and hearing it in and around school, I hadn’t actually clocked that it wasn’t a big thing in other parts of the country. So around 2014 when that was picking up again, I was rediscovering a lot of stuff that I used to listen to.
After I left university I found out that a bunch of my uncles had been producers and DJs when they’d been at uni, and had just never told me. So I started digging through their old records. A lot of jungle, Garage and South Asian stuff and that was kind of my re-entry point…
Darama: What about yourself?
Ahad: Kind of similar actually. When I was 17 I was going to indie festivals, Reading etc. I mean, I moved here from Pakistan when I was 13 and had a bit of a cultural identity shock because I liked rock music when I moved here, but the kids were like, nah that’s dead man.. haha. When I went to uni it was around the height of Dubstep. Then, I think, a couple of years later I started going to the Butterz raves down at Cable. That was a big influence on me. On those nights they would have instrumental Grime, alongside UK Funky; artists like Champion and Flava D playing Garage.
That was really formative for me. So since then I’ve just been going to nights focussed around that music… Producing my own stuff came a bit later.
Ahad: How did you start producing?
Darama: So basically, from being up North, one of the scenes that I got into was the whole Bassline scene. This was just after I finished Uni. Flava D was popping and I think Butterz were doing quite a few bits around that time. Others like Holy Goof too.
I remember joining the Lengoland facebook group, a community of bass artists and producers. At that point I didn’t even have any equipment, but I would watch, read and listen. People would post little ideas they were working on, and I would think ok, well this doesn’t look so hard, so I started to have a go.
Ahad: Have you got any of those old Lengoland tunes on the your hard drive still? haha
Darama: I do actually… Under an old alias called Forward Sound. Me and a mate. Just old aggy bassline tunes essentially. To be honest I feel like some of my solo tunes now still have a bit of that feel, ‘Blue Frog’ from the new ‘Chaal’ EP is definitely one.
Darama: I wanted to ask how you got into running nights? Because I feel that being a promoter is like a whole different level of stress and you must need to have a certain level of motivation to want to do it…
Ahad: Basically when I went to Uni in Guilford, they had a Bass Music Society that would put on events, and a Dance Music Society, but they didn’t have anything that covered what I was listening to really. Even before that though I’d already thrown a night with some friends… A 90s themed party, that went really well. So I’d cut my teeth in the promoter game. Ha!
So the first official night I put on, I booked Madam X. After that we had Dismantle, Funky Stepz, DJ Q, Barely Legal… And this was all covered out of my own pocket. So when I moved to London, I started putting those same nights on in this little bar in Shoreditch. There we had Murlo, Flava D… a bunch of sick artists. I was getting really great curation experience doing this. From there we moved to Plan B and I remember we had Novelist come and play when he was seventeen.
I was always trying to spot who was hot and coming through. As with Novelist, I was like I have to book him… And it was a thrill ya know, getting someone just as they were about to pop off. I still get that buzz now.
Darama: Yeah because I was thinking that you’re always platforming new and rising artists. Is that where that comes from, trying to be first to the party when it comes to spotting talent?
Ahad: Yeah, I just think that’s where its exciting. And anyway, when someone’s really popped off they are immediately too expensive to book, right? Plus everyone is trying to book them. So I’m already like OK so who’s next…
Like the night we put on the other night. It was sick vibes all night. Ya know, up and coming names, although various levels of experiences of course, but for instance we had Sensei Lo who was playing her first gig since moving to the UK from Nigeria. Which was special to me. You were celebrating the launch of your EP. It was a special night. And London has so much young talent right now, especially artists that are making stuff outside of just straight house or techno.
Ahad: You ever thought about putting on a night?
Darama: I have put a couple on, when I was based in Leeds, after leaving Manchester. I’d be really keen to try it again, maybe down here in London. I feel there are so many more opportunities down here compared to up north, particularly with the smaller venues. I’ve got a few ideas. I really like nights with attention to detail. You know, things that make it just a bit more memorable, decor etc.
Ahad: So I know that Lockdown saw you dive fully into your productions more seriously, but it also saw the formation of Daytimers. Tell us about the early beginnings and how you all linked up together…
Darama: I think I actually just got a DM on instagram from Provhat saying ‘hey, we’re starting this thing” he sent me over a little pack.
Ahad: How did he find you?
Darama: I think Kiran (yourboykiran) first heard a track when you played an Edit of mine on your Asian Residency show. Provhat got in touch and I was on some of the early calls. It just seemed like it was a group of people who all thought the same way, but at the time I never thought it was gonna become what it has.
Ahad: So what was discussed on those first calls?
Darama: Mainly it was some background as to why it was called Daytimers. I had no idea about those original raves. I’m not sure about yourself, did you know? And then we were told what it was gonna be about and if any of us wanted to get involved. They discussed the first release, which was the first compilation.
It’s much more organised now, ha ha. At the time it was just like if somebody had an idea we’d put it out there, do it and see what happened.
Ahad: That time was really exciting too. Like what we discussed earlier, working with new talent and building something together.
Darama: Is that similar to how More Time started then? With you and Sam (Interface) coming up with the idea?
Ahad: So Sam messaged me on Soundcloud, because he’d heard my ‘Lady Saw Drum Dub’, and he told me that he loved my tunes but he thought he could help me with the mixdowns on my tracks. So we hooked up in his studio and I was like, this is so what I needed, coz I’d always struggled a little with that. Sam told me he was starting a label and was keen to release some of my tunes, and through chatting we realised that we had complimentary skill sets. I was more organised than him, haha, and good with admin and marketing etc… He would look after the sound and together we’d A&R and came up with the brand.
It was an organic start really and we’ve always geared it towards working with up and coming artists.
Ahad: So I would say that our sounds have got similarities, and a couple of others like DJ Plead and Moktah have incorporated South Asian and Swana percussion and are making great music. Do you think this could develop into its own sound?
Darama: I hope so. I feel that’s the way I got inspired to to make what I’m making right now. I was certainly inspired from hearing your music and thinking that I hadn’t heard anything like that. It connected with me. I think if more people, when we were younger, could’ve heard music that was influenced by their heritage then, at least for me anyway, its inspiring and affirming to hear.
I feel like for people from that area of the world that live in the UK, it would be nice to have our own little musical pocket and a sound to call our own, to build from. And ya know, the music itself just SLAPS man. Ha ha…
Ahad: Haha, yeah definitely. The drums and grooves are just made for the clubs. So what’s your musical dream then, ya know, like in ten years where do you wanna be with your music?
Darama: I guess its just building on our last point. I’d like to have made a contribution to something that builds to become its own thing, ya know? I’ve been reading this book called ‘Bass, Mids and Tops’, about the Soundsystem culture, and reading some of the interviews in there has been really inspiring. On the gig front I’d obviously love to play at Warehouse Project, because that would be a full circle moment for me.
What about yourself? What do you feel needs to happen to take the South Asian scene to the next level?
Ahad: I would say it’s about sustaining it, keeping it healthy. Maintaining the same energy as we’re seeing now. The support for one another. We’ve heard from some of the original Daytimers about some of the issues that perhaps lead to the scene dying off, and we wanna try to avoid that. It has to be sustainable. We don’t want it being cool for one summer and then gone.
Musically I feel we’re right at the infancy of it. We’re bound to see more sub-genres forming as artists experiment, and we should be encouraging those artists, ya know, to explore different sounds. The more we can keep on exploring, and collaborating, the more cool shit will come from it.
Darama: Yeah agreed. It’s been a big adrenaline rush, the past year, seeing everything that’s happened over a short space of time. Also through speaking to those from the older generation, we have to be conscious of previous issues to ensure that its not just a flash-in-the-pan moment.
Ahad: I feel we’re all quite sceptical, which makes us very protective of each other, but I believe that’s what makes the collective so strong. If we continue to look out for one another and not just pursue it for personal gain, then I’m sure everything will grow and nurture.
Ahadadream photo credit: @avlien / Darama photo credit: Yushy