Men Of The Year 2016: Nucleya
It all started with the launch of the album Bass Rani. The Indian EDM scene has always been somewhat bland. While EDM, House and Techno lovers act like puritans and like to stick to genre-specific music, the rest of India happily dance to remixed versions of Bollywood tracks, downloading hour-long OST mashups and playing them on loop. Even though homegrown DJs like Sahej Bakshi and Anish Sood and various other indie musicians broke into the scene, no one was roaring like Nucleya. Heck, even Nucleya wasn’t bringing down the roof before Bass Rani.
Today, every club, bar, religious procession and wedding demands tracks by Nucleya. One must credit his astute and creative manager, Tej Brar, who channels Nucleya aka Udyan Sagar’s passion and art in the right direction, keeping him perpetually relevant. Has anyone ever launched an EDM album live from a Ganpati visarjan procession, on the final day of the festival? This “crazy” is also reflected in his music. Bass Rani is a crackling ode to the streets of this country, celebrating the noise, grime and cacophony of the great Indian circus. From street sounds, regional vocals, dhol-taasha, brass bands to radio announcements and Hindi rap, Bass Rani is a kaleidoscopic experience and unapologetically democratic. It stripped EDM of the posh urban connotation it had in the country and turned it into readily available “music you want to dance to with your friends when you are drunk out of your minds”. Honestly, that is the kind of music most of us are usually searching for.
“I just make music that I like and am personally proud of,” says Udyan. “It’s not a fixed formula. I can twist and turn it in many different ways while still having that Nucleya touch to it.” And how was his career planned out? “The plan was to get my music heard, by as many people possible. Which is why we give out all of the music for free. And yes, we definitely wanted it to be a hit with everyone, because who wouldn’t want that?”
And a hit it was. I was at the launch procession for Bass Rani, and there was not enough room to turn around. A massive crush of people were squeezed together — excited teenagers from local slums, lathered with gulaal, prissy kids from fancy international schools, office goers, old, young — sweating and swearing and dancing. The fact that his music is free and readily available everywhere makes Nucleya the go-to artist for anyone who wants to have a good time. The other factor is that, however posh we might be, Indians, at the end of the day, can’t resist a good desi jam. We are unabashedly Indian, deep inside. Nucleya is able to appeal to that uninhibited instinct.
“Bass Rani was supposed to be very different, in fact,” Udyan smiles. “A month before the album came out, I sat with my manager, Tej [Brar], and played the songs to him. He discarded more than half of them and said that I could do much better. So, I went back and worked on it all over again and we finally put out the album in September. Tej’s intuition was one of the most important factors in the whole process.” Bass Rani not only won commercial and critical acclaim, Nucleya became the toast of every single live performance in the country. You name a gig, Nucleya was heading it. From NH7 Weekenders to opening for major international acts like Major Lazer and Diplo, in 2016, Nucleya has become a Dubstep and EDM powerhouse in the country — something unforeseen in India.
Most importantly, Udyan has been able to create a distinctive sound, something his contemporaries have not yet been able to achieve. This year, he released a follow up album, Raja Baja, launching it with a free-for-all concert at the NSCI Dome at Mumbai; the city ran out of invite bands three weeks before the gig. As an album, Raja Baja is not as eclectic as Bass Rani. It is a sort of extension to the sounds that Udyan discovered with Bass Rani, and while you notice a certain richness in its sound, it borders on navel-gazing. The Nucleya brand is about quirky street sounds married with heart-pumping EDM, and his audience is forever hungry for crazier experiments. Will they accept him if he stops expanding and instead chooses to evolve? Let’s see what 2017 has in store for him.